ach of the arid western states, including Colorado, has adopted and enforces an appropriative water rights system. At its most basic level, that system functions under the principle of “first in time is first in right”. This means whoever first claims the water for beneficial purposes has the right to utilize the water over subsequent claims.

All of the arid western states employs a regimen – either judicial or administrative – which authorizes the use of water, monitors that usage through various state agencies, and penalizes violations of the conditions of the underlying permit or decree.