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Colorado Supreme Court makes it final

Falcon area developers’ hopes for the continued ability to take groundwater from the eastern part of the county without restriction were dashed last month.On Aug. 2, the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Cherokee, Meridian Ranch, Meridian Service, Woodmen Hills and Paintbrush Hills metropolitan districts. Their appeal disputed the ability of the Upper Black Squirrel Groundwater Management District to make rules regarding the movement of groundwater within the UBS district, which includes the Falcon area.The rules require that groundwater in the district be used on the land from which it was pumped. They were upheld by District Court Judge Larry Schwartz in December 2008, and appealed by the metropolitan districts to the Colorado Supreme Court.The UBS district put the rules in place to stop groundwater from being piped from areas like Ellicott, in support of development closer to Colorado Springs like Falcon.”Those rules were put in place because the movement and export of water is hugely detrimental [to the Denver Basin],” said Dave Doran, president of the UBS district board.”The Denver basin is not forever. If they [developers] dry up areas of the basin just to keep providing for other areas, the people living in those areas face dwindling resources.”We were just saying ‘if you own the land, you have the right to the water but you need to use that water on that land.'”The UBS district put the rules in place in 2003. The court’s decision means the rules are retroactive to the date they were put in place, he said.The UBS district’s board will go back and look at all the groundwater arrangements that were agreed to after the rules were put in place. “A lot of stuff got approved that was a violation of the rules,” Doran said. “I’m not sure how we handle that going forward. Each case is probably unique.”Larry Bishop, manager of the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District, said he thinks the court’s decision won’t have any effect on Woodmen Hills.”My thoughts are that nothing changes as far as Woodmen Hills is concerned,” he said.Now that the ability of the UBS district to make rules is settled, Doran said he hopes water providers in the area will get together and focus on a real solution to the area’s water problems, such as recharging the basin with surface water.”We need to figure out a big regional approach to solve all of our long-term planning. We need to have the ability to store two Pueblo reservoirs underneath us,” Doran said. “That’s how you solve the problem.”Bishop said he’s optimistic that everyone in the basin can work together to protect the water supply.”The water providers in Falcon need to get together with the UBS district and start working on the issues. Recharge is the only way to go at this stage of the game, but the devil’s always in the details,” he said.Commissioner Amy Lathen said she won’t be able to assess the impact of the court’s decision until it comes through the county attorney’s office and is applied to land use issues that come before the county commissioners.Doran said the court’s decision will have a statewide effect.”We’ve gotten calls from all sorts of groundwater management districts,” he said.Doran said fighting for seven years for the UBS district’s ability to make rules was difficult but worth the effort.”We’re trying to protect the water of everyone who relies on the basin’s aquifers,” he said. “Everybody wants reliable water, and everybody’s house is their life’s total investment.”

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