Surface Water

The Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR), also referred to as the State Engineer’s Office, administers water rights, evaluates and oversees the well permitting process, inspects wells and dams, and oversees the work of field water commissioners who are in charge of physically allocating the water and enforcing compacts, water court decrees, and well permits. Through the 1969 Water Right Determination & Administration Act, the Colorado General Assembly created seven water divisions based on the major watersheds of the state. Each division has a water court which has jurisdiction over all water rights applications, reviews cases of reasonable diligence for conditional water rights, changes of water rights, exchanges and augmentation plans, and appeals from certain State Engineer or Division Engineer actions (i.e. substitute water supply plans). Water courts and DWR field offices for each division are headquartered in the following locations (WEC, 2015; State of Colorado, 2015):

Map of Colorado’s Water Divisions.
Colorado’s Water Divisions. State of Colorado (2015).

Division 1 in Greeley: South Platte, Laramie & Republican River Basins
Division 2 in Pueblo: Arkansas River Basin
Division 3 in Alamosa: Rio Grande River Basin
Division 4 in Montrose: Gunnison & San Miguel River Basins, & portions of the Dolores River
Division 5 in Glenwood Springs: Colorado River Basin (excluding the Gunnison River Basin)
Division 6 in Steamboat Springs: Yampa, White and North Platte River Basins
Division 7 in Durango: San Juan River Basin and portions of the Dolores River


The Colorado Ground Water Commission, with assistance from the DWR, is responsible for adjudicating groundwater rights and issuing large-capacity well permits in Designated Groundwater Basins in eastern Colorado. Designated Basins are areas on the eastern plains with very little surface water. The Colorado Ground Water Commission, DWR and local groundwater management districts allocate and administer the designated groundwater in a coordinated manner. There are eight Designated Groundwater Basins with 13 ground water management districts within these basins. Groundwater management districts are local districts with additional administrative authority (State of Colorado, 2015). The regional water court is responsible for issuing decrees for non-designated aquifers in the Denver Basin (WEC, 2015).

Map showing where the Designated Groundwater Basins are located in eastern Colorado.
Designated Groundwater Basins in eastern Colorado. State of Colorado (2015).

Colorado water rights additional resources and references.