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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Colorado Denver Basin and Designated Groundwater Basin Permits (19-CO-h)

The Denver Basin (i.e., the Dawson, Denver, Arapahoe, and Laramie-Fox Hills aquifers) is a geologic formation in which aquifers lie on top of each other in layers with confining layers separating the aquifers. The groundwater within the Denver Basin was deposited when the Denver Basin was formed and is not renewable. Part of the Denver Basin aquifer lies beneath the boundary of a designated groundwater basin.


For groundwater that is located within both the Denver Basin and the Designated Ground, the Colorado Ground Water Commission (CGWC) oversees the adjudication of water rights upon the basis of ownership of the overlying land and well permitting under C.R.S. 37-90-107, Application for Use of Groundwater and 2 C.C.R. 410 - Rules and Regulations for the Management and Control of Designated Ground Water.


Denver Basin and Designated Groundwater Basin Permits Process

19-CO-h.1 – Designated Groundwater Basin Water Rights Application

The Colorado Ground Water Commission (CGWC ) determines rights to designated groundwater in the Denver Basin. A developer or land owner desiring to obtain a determination of water rights in the Denver Basin and designated groundwater basin must submit an Application For Determination Of Water Right Within A Designated Groundwater Basin (Form GWS-53). The application must include a fee of sixty dollars for each aquifer and a request for approval of a replacement plan, if a replacement plan is required to replace any depletion to alluvial aquifers caused from the withdrawal of groundwater from the Denver Basin.

Application For Determination Of Water Right Within A Designated Groundwater Basin (Form GWS-53); C.R.S. 37-90-107(1), Application for Use of Groundwater.

19-CO-h.2 – Conduct Preliminary Evaluation

The CGWC conducts a preliminary evaluation of the Application for Determination of Water Rights within a designated groundwater basin to determine whether the CGWC should grant the application. C.R.S. 37-90-107(2), Application for Use of Groundwater.

19-CO-h.3 – Publish Notice of Application

The CGWC publishes the Application for Determination of Water Rights within a designated groundwater basin within thirty (30) days of the CGWC decision to give favorable consideration to the application. C.R.S. 37-90-107(2), Application for Use of Groundwater. The publication must take place in each affected county and appear in a newspaper of general circulation for two consecutive weeks. CRS 37-90-112(1).The publication must include the place in which interested persons may file objections and the final date by which the CGWC will accept written objections. CRS 37-90-112(1).

19-CO-h.4 to 19-CO-h.5 – Does Anyone Object to the Application?

If any person files an objection within the timeframe specified in the notice of application, the CGWC will set a hearing date and notify the applicants (developers) and objectors of the time and place for the hearing. If no one objects to the application, the CGWC determines whether to approve the application without a hearing. CRS 37-90-197, Application for Use of Groundwater|CRS 37-90-112(2); C.R.S. 37-90-107(4), Application for Use of Groundwater.

19-CO-h.6 – Hold Hearing

The CGWC holds a hearing in the designated groundwater basin and within the groundwater management district (if one exists) where the applicant (developer) proposes to withdrawal designated groundwater or at another place designated by the CGWC that is agreed to by the parties. C.R.S. 37-90-107(4), Application for Use of Groundwater.

19-CO-h.7 – Water Right Determination

The CGWC issues a Water Right Determination for the designated groundwater in the Denver Basin. Any CGWC water rights determination is considered final as to the amount of water granted (except the CGWC retains jurisdiction for subsequent adjustments to conform to actual local aquifer characteristics obtained during well drilling or through test holds). C.R.S. 37-90-107(7)(c)(C)(III), Application for Use of Groundwater. Under 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5 the CGWC uses the following criteria in the review and approval of applications to use designated groundwater:

  • The availability of water for appropriation;
  • The prevention of unreasonable impairment to the rights of other appropriators; and
  • The prevention of unreasonable waste.

2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.

Additionally, the CGWC will not approve an application to appropriate designated groundwater within one-half mile of an existing large capacity well unless a Waiver of Claim of Injury is obtained from the owner of the existing large capacity well or the Commission, after a hearing, finds that circumstances allow a permit despite the one-half mile limitation. 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.2.1.

The allowable withdrawal of designated groundwater in the Denver Basin must be limited to at least allow for a one-hundred year aquifer life. 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.3.2.1.

See 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.3 for specific average annual withdrawal requirements.

19-CO-h.8 to 19-CO-h.9 — Is a Denver Basin Aquifer Well Located in a Designated Groundwater Basin Required?

The developer needs a well permit to install a well to withdraw designated groundwater from the Denver Basin. If a well permit is not required, the developer should continue with project.

19-CO-h.10 – General Purpose Water Well Permit Application (Form GWS-45)

The CGWC oversees well permitting for a well to withdrawal-designated groundwater from the Denver Basin. Any person desiring a well permit to withdrawal designated groundwater from the Denver Basin must submit a Water Well Permit Application (Form GWS-45) to the CGWC along with a one hundred dollar fee. Water Well Permit Application (Form GWS-45). The Well Permit Application must include:

  • The name, mailing address, and telephone number of the applicant (developer);
  • The name of the owner of the land on which the well will be located;
  • The district court and case number of any applications or decrees for a determination of a right to the groundwater, which is sought to be withdrawn from the well;
  • The location of the proposed well by legal description;
  • The requested average annual amount of water in acre-feet per year;
  • The proposed maximum pumping rate in gallons per minute;
  • The proposed beneficial use of the water;
  • The proposed total depth of the well;
  • The source aquifer;
  • The listing of any other wells or water rights on the subject party;
  • The legal description and the number of acres of overlying land or an alternate description in areas of the state that are not surveyed; and
  • The name and license number of the Colorado licensed water well contractor or name of the private driller.

General Purpose Water Permit Application (GWS-45).

Additionally, the applicant (developer) must submit any geologic or hydrologic data available that support the application. General Purpose Water Permit Application (GWS-45).

19-CO-h.11 to 19-CO-h.12 – Is a Replacement Plan Required?

The application for a well permit must include a replacement plan if one is required under 2 C.C.R. 410-1 to replace any depletion to alluvial aquifers caused by withdrawing designated groundwater from the Denver Basin. The replacement plan must be adequate to prevent any material injury to the water rights of other groundwater appropriators. 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.6.

Under 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.6 the replacement plan must include:

  • A description of the source of the replacement water (the source must not be required for the fulfillment of vested water rights which are not a part of the plan);
  • A description of the proposed diversion, use, and depletion of the designated groundwater, which would result under the plan;
  • Proof that the plan will not cause material injury to the water rights of other appropriators;
  • Proof that the plan will not cause unreasonable impairment to water quality;
  • Proof that the plan can and will be operated and administered on an ongoing and reliable basis, which must include at least the following general conditions of approval:
1. Flow measurement devices are required on all wells involved in the plan unless the CGWC finds that such devices would be unnecessary or impractical;
2. Monitoring to insure that the estimates of consumptive use, return flows, and replacement water are accurate and that depletions are actually replaced;
3. Monitoring of groundwater quality to insure that the water quality of the receiving aquifer is not unreasonably impaired;
4. Providing a plan compliance report acceptable to the Commission;
5. Reporting the information required by the above and any other data required by the conditions of approval for the plan to the CGWC and groundwater management district on a schedule determined by the CGWC, but on no less than a yearly basis; and
6. Recording the terms and conditions of the plan with the county clerk and recorder.

2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.6.

19-CO-h.13 – Publish Notice of Application

The CGWC publishes the Water Well Permit Application and Replacement Plan within thirty (30) days of the CGWC decision to give favorable consideration to the application. C.R.S. 37-90-107(2), Application for Use of Groundwater. The publication must take place in each affected county and appear in a newspaper of general circulation for two consecutive weeks. CRS 37-90-112(1). The publication must include the place in which interested persons may file objections and the final date by which the CGWC will accept written objections. CRS 37-90-112(1).

19-CO-h.14 to 19-CO-h.15 – Does Anyone Object to the Application?

If any person files an objection within the timeframe specified in the notice of application, the CGWC will set a hearing date and notify the applicants and objectors of the time and place for the hearing. If no one objects to the application, the CGWC determines whether to approve the application without a hearing. CRS 37-90-112(2); C.R.S. 37-90-107(4), Application for Use of Groundwater.

19-CO-h.16 – Hold Hearing (If Applicable)

The CGWC holds a hearing in the designated groundwater basin and within the groundwater management district (if one exists) where the applicant (developer) proposes to withdrawal designated groundwater or at another place designated by the CGWC that is agreed to by the parties.

C.R.S. 37-90-107(4), Application for Use of Groundwater.

19-CO-h.17 to 19-CO-h.19 – Does the CGWC Approve the Application?

The CGWC has the exclusive authority to issue or deny well permits within the designated groundwater basin. C.R.S. 37-90-107 - Application for Use of Groundwater. If the CGWC decides to deny the application, the CGWC issues the developer/land owner a Letter of Denial. If the CGWC decides to approve the application, the CGWC issues the developer/landowner a Water Well Permit.

The CGWC will not issue a well permit for a large-capacity well if the well will be located within 600 feet of an existing large-capacity well in the same aquifer unless the owner of the existing well signs a Waiver of Claim of Injury or the CGWC, after a hearing, finds that the circumstances warrant a well permit. 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.3.7.

The CGWC will also review any replacement plans to determine whether the plans adequately meet the requirements of 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.6. If the plan is located in a groundwater management district, the CGWC must send them a copy for comment and consider any comments or recommendations received from the management district. 2 C.C.R. 410-1 Rule 5.6.

19-CO-h.20 — Well Construction and Test Report (Form GWS-31); Pump Installation and Test Report (Form GWS-32)

After the CGWC issues the Water Well Permit, the developer must complete the well construction within one year from the date issued. Division of Water Resources – Office of the State Engineer and the Ground Water Commission, Well Permit Information, Permits Approved Pursuant to CRS 37-90-107(7) (Denver Basin Aquifer Wells Located in Designated Groundwater Basins). The developer then must submit evidence of the well construction to the State Engineer. The developer must submit the Well Construction and Test Report (Form GWS-31), within sixty (60) days of completion of the work or within seven days after expiration of the permit, whichever is earlier, along with other information required as a condition on the well permit, including:

  • The permit number;
  • The name, mailing address, and phone number of the applicant (developer);
  • The well location;
  • The date completed;
  • The name and license number of the water well contractor; and
  • Other information, including, but not limited to, the results of specific yield tests that are required as a condition of approval on the permit.

Form GWS-31; Division of Water Resources – Office of the State Engineer and the Ground Water Commission, Well Permit Information, Permits Approved Pursuant to CRS 37-90-107(7) (Denver Basin Aquifer Wells Located in Designated Groundwater Basins).

Additionally, the licensed water well contractor and/or pump installer must submit to the State Engineer, the pump installation and test report information ( Form GWS-32) required by CRS 37-90-138 and 37-90-101 to 112, information required by the Rules and Regulations of the State Board of Examiners of Water Well Construction and Pump Installation Contractors, and any information required of the water well contractor or pump installer by the Water Well Permit. 2 C.C.R. 402-7 Rule 7(B).

If the developer will not construct the well prior to the expiration of the permit, the developer may submit a request for an extension to the State Engineer on or before the date of expiration. The Request for Extension must include:

  • The permit number;
  • The name, mailing address, and phone number of the applicant (developer);
  • The estimated completion date of the well;
  • A statement of good cause showing why the well has not been completed; and
  • A payment of $25.00.

2 C.C.R. 402-7 Rule 7(D); Division of Water Resources – Office of the State Engineer and the Ground Water Commission, Well Permit Information, Permits Approved Pursuant to CRS 37-90-107(7) (Denver Basin Aquifer Wells Located in Designated Groundwater Basins).

19-CO-h.21 — Notice of Commencement of Beneficial Use (Form GWS-19)

In addition, the developer must file a Notice of Beneficial Use (Form GWS-19) with the State Engineer, within thirty (30) days after the well is first put to use. Division of Water Resources – Office of the State Engineer and the Ground Water Commission, Well Permit Information, Permits Approved Pursuant to CRS 37-90-107(7) (Denver Basin Aquifer Wells Located in Designated Groundwater Basins).




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