Water Rights


Water is the most valuable natural resource in the western United States.  At Petros & White, LLC, we assist our clients in a wide variety of transactional, permitting, and litigation matters to meet their water needs.  Our legal expertise includes the purchase and sale of water rights; adjudicating new water rights; changing the use of existing water rights; and securing approval of exchanges, plans for augmentation, and other flexible tools that maximize our clients’ ability to use their water supplies.

Often, water demands can be met by adjudicating new water rights or by purchasing or leasing water from other sources.  Examples of projects in which we have assisted our clients in these efforts include:

  • Adjudicating water rights for ditches, pipelines, and reservoirs to provide water for municipal providers, landowners and businesses;
  • Adjudicating water rights for ponds, fishery improvements, and irrigation on ranches and recreational properties;
  • Acquiring and adjudicating water rights for commercial water bottling and brewing facilities and other industrial operations;
  • Acquiring water rights to assist in mine development and reclamation;
  • Adjudicating and acquiring water rights for golf courses and ski areas;
  • Securing approval of temporary substitute water supply plans from the Colorado State Engineer; and
  • Permitting and adjudicating rights to tributary, nontributary and designated basin ground water.

In other instances, a client’s water needs can be met by developing augmentation or exchange plans, or by changing existing water rights to allow new uses.  Examples of our experience in these areas include:

  • Changing historical irrigation water rights to allow other uses in municipal systems, as well as for residential or recreational properties;
  • Developing and adjudicating augmentation plans to allow new or existing water rights to be used when they would otherwise be curtailed without proper water replacement to senior water users;
  • Adjudicating exchange plans allowing the substitution of water in streams to replace out-of-priority depletions to senior water users; and
  • Adjudicating augmentation plans allowing the creation of new ponds and water features for recreation and fisheries.

Once adjudicated, we assist our clients in maximizing the use of their water rights and protecting them from competing interests.  We have assisted our clients in:

  • Developing long-range water supply and management plans to maximize the beneficial use of existing water rights;
  • Securing permits for water facilities from federal, state, and local regulatory and land management agencies;
  • Negotiating ditch easements or instituting quiet title actions in order to convey water to its place of use;
  • Opposing water right applications that would injure our clients’ water rights or restrict their use; and
  • Litigating disputes over interference with the use of water rights and easements for conveyance and distribution facilities.

Our practice also involves transactions involving water and water rights, including:

  • Investigating title to water rights;
  • Conducting due diligence of the historic and potential future use of water rights in connection with real estate and business acquisitions and investments;
  • Documenting purchases, sales, leases, and security interests in water and water rights;
  • Negotiating and drafting agreements allowing our clients to benefit from cooperative management of water rights; and
  • Forming water authorities and creating other intergovernmental agreements for the development and use of water.

We have participated in a variety of other matters involving water resources, including long-range planning studies, legislative proposals, and evaluation of mechanisms for water users in Colorado to fully utilize water apportioned to the State under interstate compacts and judicial decrees.

We regularly practice in the Colorado water courts, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeals, as well as before the Colorado and Wyoming State Engineers and other state and federal administrative agencies.

Through these and other mechanisms, the attorneys at Petros & White, LLC have spent decades assisting governmental, for-profit and nonprofit entities, and individuals in securing and protecting their water rights.