THE CONFLUENCE OF RIVER SCIENCE AND WATER LAW: A CASE FOR STREAM RESTORATION IN COLORADO
MetadataShow full item record
Stream restoration is a valuable tool for protecting water supplies and infrastructure, restoring water quality and habitat, and recovering from drought, fire, or floods. Tension exists between proponents of projects that aim to restore the natural function of a stream (e.g. channel complexity, overbank flooding, riparian vegetation, and beaver activity) and downstream water-rights holders who are entitled to efficient deliveries of water. Stream restoration offers shared benefits to local economies, public safety, and environmental health and welfare, but the value of these benefits is not fully recognized under Colorado’s water law. Conversely, water rights owners need assurance that restoration activities will not diminish their legal right to divert water for beneficial use. Colorado’s water laws have been adapted to meet the evolving needs of its people through incremental changes, such as the statutory exemptions for household wells, stormwater detention ponds, gravel pits, and recently adopted legislation to allow Minor Stream Restoration Activities to occur without water administration. A workable and durable policy solution that allows for the restoration of a stream’s natural processes with sufficient limits and guidelines to protect water rights will require thoughtful, evidence-based conversation across interests.