Designated Basins

About the Designated Basins

Designated Groundwater Basins (Designated Basins) are areas in the eastern plains of Colorado with very little surface water where users rely primarily on groundwater as their source of water supply.  Designated groundwater rights are administered separately from water rights outside of the Designated Basins.  

The Colorado Ground Water Commission (containing nine members appointed by the Governor and three ex officio members) is the regulatory and adjudicatory body authorized by the General Assembly to administer groundwater resources within the Designated Basins.  The Ground Water Commission has established eight Designated Groundwater Basins and thirteen Ground Water Management Districts within the Designated Basins areas.  The Ground Water Management Districts (GWMD) are authorized to adopt additional rules and regulations to help administer groundwater within their districts.  A map showing the Designated Basins and the Ground Water Management Districts is accessible in the links section below, as well as links to the rules and contact information for each GWMD.

Responsibility of the Division of Water Resources (Within Designated Basins)

The State Engineer (the Director of the Division of Water Resources) is ex officio Executive Director of the Ground Water Commission, and staff of the State Engineer’s office acts as staff for the Ground Water Commission. Evaluation of applications for water rights and well permits, and administration of designated groundwater within the Designated Basins, is performed by staff of the Division of Water Resources under the authority and direction of the State Engineer and the Ground Water Commission.

Designated Basins, within Denver Basin

A landowner, or a party to which the water right underling the land has been conveyed, may claim a right to an allocation of groundwater from the Denver Basin bedrock aquifers underlying the land.  The Ground Water Commission has authority to issue a determination of a right to an allocation of groundwater in a Denver Basin aquifer.  A separate determination is required for each aquifer.  

Upon issuance of a determination the owner of the right may apply for a large capacity well permit to withdraw water determined to be available from the Denver Basin aquifers.  A determination is required before a large capacity permit may be issued; a determination is not required before a small capacity well permit may be issued.  Additional information on the Denver Basin aquifers and a map of the Denver Basin areas can be found on the Denver Basin webpage.

Designated Basins, Outside Denver Basin

The Ground Water Commission has the authority to issue large capacity well permits for the withdrawal of designated groundwater from aquifers other than the Denver Basin aquifers, including permits for new appropriations of designated groundwater and permits to replace existing wells.  Availability of permits for new appropriations is limited as many of the aquifers are over-appropriated and new appropriations are not available.  The Ground Water Commission’s Designated Basin Rules, accessible via the links section below, identify which aquifers are over-appropriated.  

Large capacity well permits consist of all permits that do not qualify as small capacity wells under section 37-90-105, Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.)

Small Capacity Well Permitting (Within the Designated Basins)

Small capacity wells within the Designated Basins, consisting of those domestic, livestock watering, commercial, monitoring and observation, and fire fighting wells that qualify under section 37-90-105, C.R.S., are permitted and administered by the State Engineer.

Important Links


Important Documents