Water Measurement Rules Now in Effect for Yampa, White, Green, and North Platte River Basins

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(Steamboat Springs) - The Colorado Division of Water Resources announced that as of January 16, 2024, new rules governing the measurement of surface and groundwater diversions and storage are now in effect for Division 6. The division includes the Yampa, White, Green and North Platte River basins.

“The Division 6 Measurement Rules are the first set of rules covering surface water measurement in the State of Colorado and are a significant milestone for the Division of Water Resources,” said Erin Light, Division 6 Engineer. “The adoption of the rules will provide the Division of Water Resources greater leverage in assuring that the diversion and use of water is administerable and properly measured and recorded.”

For background, Colorado statutes include a requirement that owners of ditches and reservoirs install headgates where water is taken from the natural stream. These statutes also give the state and division engineer the authority to require owners and users of water rights to install measuring devices.

“Accurate measurement of diversions is critical to protect Colorado’s entitlement to water, including under the Colorado River Compact, and to ensure we are maximizing the beneficial use of the public’s water resource for consumptive and environmental purposes,” said Jason Ullmann, Deputy State Engineer.

The statutes, however, do not include any specifics regarding what is considered an acceptable headgate or measuring device. Historically, it has been administered by the Division of Water Resources (DWR) through issuing orders to owners for the installation of headgates or measuring devices.

“Over several years, Division 6 has issued hundreds of orders for the installation of operable headgates and measuring devices with varying degrees of success,” said Division Engineer Light. “I believe that these rules will help water users in Division 6 by providing clarity regarding what structures require measurement and what is considered an acceptable level of accuracy for the required measurement methods.”

The rules describe two types of measurement methods: measuring devices, which are physical devices (flumes, weirs, etc) that are placed in a diversion for measurement. Then there are alternative measurement methods, which are typically indirect methods of measuring flow rates without a physical device.

Water users are provided the following time periods to comply with the rules: 
Diversion structures with a capacity or water rights greater than or equal to 5.0 cfs - 12 months (January 16, 2025); 
Diversion structures with a capacity or water rights greater than or equal to 2.0 cfs and less than 5.0 cfs - 18 months (July 16, 2025); 
Diversion structures with a capacity or water rights less than 2.0 cfs - 24 months (January 16, 2026); 
Reservoirs with a capacity or water rights greater than or equal to 5.0 AF - 12 months  (January 16, 2025);
Reservoirs with a capacity or water rights less than 5.0 AF - 24 months (January 16 2026).

Water users unsure of their decreed water right or permitted well permit flow rates and volumes can use DWR’s online tools available through CDSS (https://dwr.state.co.us/Tools/) to find this information. Anyone who has questions regarding how these Rules apply to their diversion or how to install a measuring device on their system can contact the DWR’s Division 6 Lead Hydrographer at (970) 291-6551. The Rules are available on the DWR website as a Laserfiche imaged document.