Groundbreaking State Law Tested in Colorado Headwaters Stream
The infamous use-it-or lose-it rule is arguably the biggest barrier to water conservation and river-flow restoration in the western United States. It basically says that if anyone holding water rights does not put them to full use, the unused portion can be taken away and allocated to serve the needs of another water user....
Perversely, the use-it-or-lose-it principle gives water rights holders an incentive to waste water so that they don’t risk losing any of their increasingly valuable water rights.
Bit by bit, however, new state laws and innovative projects are chipping away at this outdated rule, and keeping rivers flowing for fish, wildlife and local communities. A groundbreaking 2013 Colorado law provides new flexibility that allows water rights owners to allocate water to a river during times of critical low flow.
Sandra Postel of National Geographic's Freshwater Initiative and Todd Reeve of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation wrote about our project on Willow Creek for National Geographic's Water Currents: Insights into the World of Freshwater blog.