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Obtaining a Water Right 
DWR > Surface Water > Water Rights > Obtaining a Water Right

In Colorado, the process for obtaining a water right is complex, often times requiring a water lawyer and/or water resource engineer to assist you in the process. The brochure titled "Non-Attorney's Guide to Colorado Water Courts" is provided to give you a general idea of the process. It is not intended to replace professional legal or engineering advice. In most cases it is recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney.

Upon filing your application with a court, it is then published in what is known as the "water court resume." This document provides notice to all users in the basin of your proposal. Your application will also be published in one or more newspapers deemed proper for legal publication. Each court varies somewhat in the publication procedures and in many instances you will have to write your own legal notice and will be billed for any and all publication costs. You should contact the court water clerk prior to filing to obtain specific information as to publication procedures. (See below for a  link to obtain addresses and phone numbers). Water court resumes are prepared and published once a month by the water clerk for each water division. Copies of these resumes can be viewed on the website for each water court. The water court websites can be accessed through the Water Court link on the Quick Links button on this page. Links to the resumes are located in the upper right corner of the home page for each water court. 

The published resume provides notice to persons who may have an interest in or concerns with your application.  Once the application is filed and published, parties who may have concerns regarding your application have until the last day of the second month after the month in which the application was filed to oppose the application and file a "Statement of Opposition" with the water court. For example, if your application is filed with the water court anywhere between April 1 and April 30, the resume listing your application will be published during May and parties have until the last business day in June to oppose that application. For applications filed with the court in May, parties would have until the last business day in July to oppose your application, and so on. 

Because claims in a water rights application may affect, in priority or otherwise, other water rights, you must file a statement of opposition or otherwise protest as provided by the applicable statutes if you own a water right that could be adversely affected by the claims in an application.  If you don’t oppose or protest an application, you will be barred from claiming injury to your water right as a result of the claims made in the application.     

For additional information, read the Guide to Well Permits, Water Rights, and Water Administration.

To obtain applications, forms online, and fees schedules, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch - Water Page link.

The water courts are District Courts that hear matters related solely to water. The Colorado Supreme Court appoints the water judges for each of these courts.  Following are the Addresses and Phone Numbers for Water Courts by Divisions.