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Colorado water initiatives causing controversy in the state

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June 15, 2012

Colorado

DENVER, Colorado: Two Colorado initiatives are causing plenty of debates, and it hasn't even made the official ballot.

The Colorado Water Law Amendment may appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would alter state water laws if enacted by voters. According to reports, the measure's effects would result in the replacement of an appropriation doctrine in the state constitution with a public trust doctrine. The initiative was filed twice, titled Initiative 3 and 45.[1]

One measure, Initiative 3 would implement the public trust doctrine to water in the state. This means that it would state that unappropriated water in natural streams is public property that is to be used by state residents.[2]

The second proposal, Initiative 45 would put limits on "diversions" to protect the state residents' interest in water.[2]

Richard Hamilton, a main proponent in the campaign to place the measure on the ballot compared the initiatives to someone borrowing another person's car, "If I can borrow your car, and in a couple of weeks from now you say, ‘Hey, Richard, I want my car back,’ and I say, ‘Oh, no, I’m using it,’ what the hell does that have to do with it? That’s Colorado water law. And when you finally convince me to bring the car back to find that I’ve run it into five cars on Interstate 25 and now it’s all messed up...How’s it fair that I first take your car, I won’t return it, and then scream about using my own property, and now I return it and it looks like a wreck?[3]

Opponents have other ideas about the measure. According to a resolution by the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, "The adoption of either of these initiatives would result in takings of private and public water rights that Coloradans rely on for beneficial uses for health and human safety as well as economic benefit."

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