Water is the basis for all life. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the dry climates of the American west. With an average annual precipitation of only 15.47 inches, Colorado ranks as one of the driest states in the country. Naturally, this precious resource and the rights associated with it shaped the development and preservation our lands and associated ecosystems from their territorial days through to modern times. These rights are so important that they are memorialized in the Colorado Constitution.
Colorado law places water into two general categories: Surface water and ground water. These categories determine whether your water issue will be overseen by the applicable water court or by the Groundwater Colorado Groundwater Commission. Additionally, there are different categories of groundwater that will determine how your rights are determined and managed: 1) tributary groundwater, 2) designated ground water, 3) non-tributary ground water, and 4) Denver Basin ground water.
In Colorado, a person or entity seeking to create, transfer, or change a water right or support/oppose any of these actions may find that their situation, like the water itself, is fluid. In other words, there are many factors at play and things to consider – historical consumptive uses, return flows, instream conditions, exchange agreements, well permits, augmentation plans, title opinions, environmental issues, etc.
At Columbine Law Group our attorneys can help navigate you through Colorado water law and set your course toward a successful and cost-effective resolution of your issue. If you would like to discuss our availability to assist you with a specific issue, please contact us at (720) 787-7870.
 Precipitation totals, https://nationalmap.gov/small_scale/printable/images/pdf/precip/pageprecip_co3.pdf; see also https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/us-maps/.
 CO Const. Art. XVI, §§ 5 and 6.
 This list is not exhaustive. Many other issues could arise when dealing with water law.
Section 858 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts states: Liability for Use of Groundwater,
(1) A proprietor of land or his grantee who withdraws groundwater from the land and uses it for a beneficial purpose is not subject to liability for interference with the use of water by another, unless
(a) the withdrawal of groundwater unreasonably causes harm to a proprietor of neighboring land through lowering the water table or reducing artesian pressure,
(b) the withdrawal of groundwater exceeds the proprietor’s reasonable share of the annual supply or total store of groundwater, or
(c) the withdrawal of the groundwater has a direct and substantial effect upon a watercourse or lake and unreasonably causes harm to a person entitled to the use of its water.
(2) The determination of liability under clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Subsection (1) is governed by the principles stated in §§ 850 to 857.
The allocation of water depends on each state’s laws with little federal law considered. Each state has its own regulatory system for surface waters and groundwaters. Whether the Riparian Doctrine, Prior Appropriation Doctrine (Colorado follows this doctrine), or a hybrid system depends largely on the area of the United States in which water use is being considered. Regardless, states often may not fall clearly within a particular doctrine, and may use components of two or more systems. Other rules surrounding water law issues include Absolute Dominion Rule, Correlative Rights Doctrine, or the Reasonable Use Doctrine.
Our Water Law Team
Johna Varty specializes in:
- Water law
- Environmental law
- Family law
- Employment law
Johna graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2013 with a certificate in Natural Resources and Environmental Law. During law school, she was a member of the Editorial Board of the Water Law Review, publishing numerous scholarly writings related to water and environmental issues. Since graduating, Johna practiced oil and gas law for a couple years and then transitioned to a general law firm. She has experience in almost every area of civil law from business formation, contracts, and divorce to parenting plans, bankruptcy, and water permits.
Throughout her practice, she has learned that compassion and taking care of the whole client is often what is most important to a client. As an attorney, she loves that her representation can be a tool for a client towards building a better life for themselves. Towards that end, Johna takes immense pride in being both a zealous advocate for her clients and an educator who teaches her clients the framework they must operate in to be successful.
In her free time, Johna thoroughly enjoy many of the activities the Colorado outdoors have to offer. Her favorite hobby is rock climbing, but it would not be surprising to find her participating in triathlons, road cycling, ice climbing, snow shoeing or hiking with her adorable rescue dog, Peter Pickles Fuzzybottom.
Cale Kennamer specializes in:
- Water Law
- Business Law
- Estate Planning
Cale grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast, where he was fortunate enough to have a unique upbringing. Cale’s mother was an artist, photographer, English teacher, and a gymnastics and ballet instructor. His father was lawyer, a farmer, and an athlete. All of this rubbed off on Cale who grew up in the rice fields and the gym with his dad and tagging along with his mother on various art projects she would be working on while pursuing her masters degree in art. Cale also helped his mother rehabilitate orphaned raccoons through the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition.
Losing both of his parents at a young age (mother at 19 and father at 25) after having such close relationships with both of them taught Cale to truly value people and relationships and take no time for granted. These experiences strengthened his resolve and molded a compassion that he strives to deliver to each of his clients. One of his goals as an attorney is to apply these values to work everyday so that he can help people who are going through tough experiences and need someone on their side.
Outside of work, Cale enjoys learning about and experiencing nature and the outdoors. Cale is a member two zoos and is an avid animal lover. He has always spent as much time outside as possible. So, it was natural for Cale to fall in love with Colorado’s natural beauty. He traded the ocean for the mountains and moved here to live in and care for one of the most beautiful places in the country and its citizens. As a “transplant” he deems it extremely important to demonstrate his dedication to contribute Colorado and its people in a meaningful way, which his work at Columbine Law Group gives him the opportunity to do.
Cale spends as much of his free time as possible exercising or doing some type of outdoor recreation. Camping, backpacking, skiing, paddling, fly fishing – you name it, Cale wants to do it. He loves traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures.
Cale also loves baseball. He was lucky enough to have the opportunity to walk on the baseball team at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. Someday, in some function, he would love to get involved in athletics again.
Cale spent his law school years in Oklahoma City, OK where he attended Oklahoma City University School of Law. During this time, he interned at the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office and did an environmental internship at Conservation Law Foundation in Providence, RI. Cale also worked with his father to prepare SEC filings for a renewable energy startup seeking to construct solid waste recycling facilities across the country. Most recently, he worked at a large personal injury firm in Denver, CO.
Cale is very excited to bring this unique mix of experiences and his impassioned perspective to Columbine Law Group and looks forward to being a member a dynamic practice.
Cale is dual licensed in Colorado and Texas.