Colorado's 2009 Acequia Recognition Law: Punching a Hole in Prior's Hegemony?
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Professor Peña will discuss the background to and implications of Colorado's HB 09-1233, "On the Recognition of Acequias," a new water law signed by Governor Ritter in April 2009. The Recognition law acknowledges that "The first nonnative Americans to settle in Colorado were Hispanics from colonial Mexico, who brought with them their ancient irrigation practices based on a community ditch called an “acequia”, pursuant to which water was treated as a community resource and allocated based upon equity and need rather than priority of appropriation." The new law further asserts that: "Notwithstanding the constitutional establishment of the prior appropriation system, communities that were historically served by an acequia have used informal methods to continue to allocate water based upon equity in addition to priority and to treat water as a community resource." While this sounds like the start of a radical departure from prior appropriation, and the law acknowledges and embraces the Hispano ethics of water as a place-based asset rather than a commodity, the actual provisions affecting acequia water governance impose the same standards and norms for water right and duty as those defined under the more narrow Constitutional requirements of the appropriative rights doctrine. Professor Peña will also discuss contemporary threats to acequia functioning and the current efforts to make acequias referral agencies in land use and zoning decisions. Supplemental Reading: Conflicting Norms in the Struggle for Communitary Governance in the Acequias of the Upper Rio Grande Watershed by Gregory A. Hicks and Devon G. Pena: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/16402
- The Water Center 
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