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Water Rights

Water rights in Colorado are unique, complex, and are not guaranteed with property ownership like in some other states. Instead, under our state’s prior appropriation doctrine, the right to divert water for beneficial use is allocated “first in time, first in right.” Under this principle, priorities to water rights are recognized and satisfied in accordance with their age or seniority. When there is not enough water to satisfy all water rights on a given stream, senior water rights are entitled to be fully satisfied before more junior rights may be exercised. For a more detailed description of the general principles of Colorado water law, click here.

Experienced water lawyers can help water users navigate the nuances of Colorado water law to achieve their goals. This includes farmers, ranchers, businesses, developers, municipalities, and private property owners, who depend on water lawyers to secure and defend their rights to this precious and limited natural resource.  Additionally, real estate purchasers benefit from consulting with a water lawyer during the due diligence phase of transactions in order to confirm the water rights associated with the property and identify options to develop a legal water supply for the property after purchase.

Few attorneys in Colorado truly understand the intricacies and nuances of the state’s water law -– including how water law interacts with real estate and business transactions — to the extent of JVAM’s water attorneys. Collectively, JVAM attorneys have decades of experience in this specialized area of law and have prosecuted hundreds of water court cases, have written and presented on the subject, and understand micro issues such as the availability of physical water on specific tributaries in Colorado. JVAM attorneys also have a breadth of experience in real estate, business, and civil litigation, which provides added value to their clients by spotting and solving water rights issues in concert with real estate, business and litigation situations.

JVAM water attorneys:

  • Adjudicate applications for new water rights, changes of water rights, plans for augmentations, and exchanges in water court.
  • Navigate the nuances of Colorado’s seven water-court and drainage-basin jurisdictions, each which has unique issues and considerations (i.e., Colorado, Yampa/White, Gunnison, San Juan/Dolores, Rio Grande, South Platte, and Arkansas).
  • Assist individuals, businesses, and governmental entities in acquiring, maintaining, developing, and protecting their rights to use water.
  • Evaluate water rights as part of real estate acquisitions and transactions.
  • Advise ditch companies, municipal water suppliers, and other entities regarding water rights, operations, and related matters.
  • Design new water supplies for residential, municipal, agricultural, industrial, and other uses.
  • Litigate ditch, easement, and water rights title disputes.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with water consultants and engineers throughout the state.
  • Monitor and oppose water claims that might adversely affect a client’s water rights.
  • Obtain well permits and draft well-sharing, ditch-operation agreements, and easement agreements.


With several locations across Colorado, JVAM builds and protects companies, estates and livelihoods. Let us be your partner in achieving your goals.


With several locations across Western Colorado, JVAM builds and protect companies, estates and livelihoods. Let us be your partner in achieving your goals.


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