Regulation of Exempt Residential Well Permits
WATER RESOURCES REVIEW COMMITTEE
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11:46 AM -- State Engineer's Office Update on Regulation Geothermal Wells and Exempt Residential Well Permits
Kevin Rein, Assistant State Engineer, explained how geothermal resources are regulated in Colorado (Attachment K). Geothermal resources are subject to the prior appropriation system. If geothermal fluid is determined to be tributary, then it is a public resource and no property rights result from land ownership. Production of geothermal fluid from a well requires a permit from the State Engineer's Office. For geoexchange systems, there a provision in statute that allows for a blanket permit, rather than a requirement to obtain a permit for each site. In issuing a water well permit, the State Engineer must find that there is no material injury to a water right or a geothermal right, or that the applicant can offset any injury, or offer replacement water. He explained that injury includes any alteration of the quantity, temperature, or quality of another right. If the source is non-tributary ground water, then it is not administered in the priority system. He also explained that the state allows for geothermal management districts, although there have not been any formed. Mr. Rein answered questions from the committee concerning how temperature injury occurs. Mr. Rein also distributed a variety of informational handouts to the committee, including a "Guide to Colorado Well Permits" available at http://water.state.co.us/pubs/wellpermitguide.pdf, a booklet titled "Synopsis of Colorado Water Law" available through the Division of Water Resources, and the summer 2009 "Headwaters" magazine available through the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.
11:57 AM -- Dick Wolfe, State Engineer, provided an overview of exempt well permit regulations (Attachment L). Exempt wells are exempt from administration within the appropriation system. He explained that permits are not issued in areas where another existing water supply is available. The State Engineer's Office has been issuing permits for exempt wells since 1972, and Mr. Wolfe indicated that there are about 210,000 permitted exempt wells in Colorado today. Permits are not required for wells prior to 1972. He discussed some of the allowable uses under exempt and small capacity well permits. He clarified that small capacity wells are exempt wells in designated groundwater basins. Mr. Wolfe provided a synopsis of raincollection systems (Attachment M). He also discussed the types of parcels considered for residential well permits and described the evaluation methods for issuing permits. He answered questions from the committee concerning the number of exempt wells in the South Platte Basin and geothermal management districts.
The committee recessed for lunch.