Water rules trial begins Monday

ALAMOSA — A trial over groundwater rules and regulations for the Rio Grande Basin (San Luis Valley) will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, with Chief District/Water Judge Pattie Swift presiding.

The trial will be held in south Alamosa at the offices of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, 8805 Independence Way.

The trial, which is set for four weeks if necessary, will begin with opening arguments followed by the state presenting its case on behalf of the rules.

Originally scheduled for eight weeks, the trial has been shortened since some of the objections to the proposed rules have been resolved through stipulations. The trial is still scheduled until March 2.

Then State Engineer Dick Wolfe filed the rules with the court in the fall of 2015, with 30 parties subsequently filing statements of opposition, about half of which were actually in support of the rules.

The groundwater rules are geared towards protecting senior water rights, promoting sustainability and upholding the state’s Rio Grande Compact with downstream states. The rules require wells in the basin to make up for the injuries they have caused surface water rights or face the possibility of being shut down. The rules also specify the basin’s irrigation season.

The rules affect hundreds of well users throughout the Valley including farmers, ranchers, cities and towns.