San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District
In 1972, the State Engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources issued rules and regulations requiring non-irrigation wells in the Rio Grande Basin be augmented, meaning the water that is consumed by the well is replaced to the hydrologic system impacted by the well pumping. This requirement was enacted because Basin is over appropriated, which means there is a greater demand for water than there is water available. New wells cause depletions to the Rio Grande and Closed Basin, which are injurious to existing water users. As such, the District releases water to physically replace the well depletions and mitigate impacts to other water users.
The District’s augmentation program includes both transmountin water rights and water rights that originate in the Basin. The water rights owned by the District were originally surface water rights, which were acquired from farmers or ranchers. The beneficial use of these water rights was changed in Colorado Water Court to be legally used for the District’s augmentation program.
The District’s augmentation program is important to the residents of the San Luis Valley because it ensures the Rio Grande is not impacted by well pumping, protecting water rights holders and the ability of Colorado to meet its delivery obligations under the Rio Grande Compact.