The overall Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Water Section goal is to optimize water use for wildlife utilizing the following water management programs.
CPW Water Rights Management
The CPW has, over the course of the agency’s history, acquired vast land and water holdings that we use to protect and manage the state’s wildlife resources. Some of the water rights that the CPW owns are overtly apparent to the public; for example, there are water rights associated with CPW properties with recreational reservoirs and there are water rights associated with all of the CPW’s fish hatcheries. Other water rights holdings are not as easily recognized by casual observation; for example, the CPW owns many State Wildlife Areas where the management focus might be waterfowl production, upland bird management, or big game hunting opportunities. Many of these State Wildlife Areas also have water rights associated with them. The CPW uses these water rights to enhance wildlife habitat by irrigating food plots, maintaining wetlands, winter range, or wildlife watering features.
Water Resource Stewardship
Since water rights are a property right in Colorado, the staff of the Water Resources Unit has a fiduciary responsibility to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and to the citizenry to protect, develop and maintain the value of the CPW’s water right portfolio. Protection of these assets occurs in many arenas, the most common of which is in the state’s water courts. Development and value maintenance are actions that cross into several sections and units within the CPW. These actions include water use record keeping, measurement, maintaining historic practices and adapting historic practices to changing wildlife management priorities.
Water quality protection and management is an essential component in the preservation, protection, and management of aquatic wildlife. The CPW has been a consistent and long-standing participant in matters before the state’s Water Quality Control Commission where we seek to give the state’s aquatic ecosystems a voice in water quality decisions. CPW enters these processes with data and expertise to ensure that biology and science are afforded equal weight in water quality management and protection.