Practice Areas

Water Rights

At HPK, we assist our clients in a wide variety of transactional, permitting, and litigation matters to meet their water needs.  Our legal expertise includes the purchase and sale of water rights; adjudicating new water rights; changing the use of existing water rights; and securing approval of exchanges, plans for augmentation, and other flexible tools that maximize our clients’ ability to use their water supplies.

Often, water demands can be met by adjudicating new water rights or by purchasing or leasing water from other sources.  Examples of projects in which we have assisted our clients in these efforts include:

  • Adjudicating water rights for ditches, pipelines, and reservoirs to provide water for municipal providers, landowners and businesses

  • Adjudicating water rights for ponds, fishery improvements, and irrigation on ranches and recreational properties

  • Acquiring and adjudicating water rights for commercial water bottling and brewing facilities and other industrial operations

  • Acquiring water rights to assist in mine development and reclamation

  • Adjudicating and acquiring water rights for golf courses and ski areas

  • Securing approval of temporary substitute water supply plans from the Colorado State Engineer

  • Permitting and adjudicating rights to tributary, nontributary and designated basin ground water

In other instances, a client’s water needs can be met by developing augmentation or exchange plans, or by changing existing water rights to allow new uses.  Examples of our experience in these areas include:

  • Changing historical irrigation water rights to allow other uses in municipal systems, as well as for residential or recreational properties

  • Developing and adjudicating augmentation plans to allow new or existing water rights to be used when they would otherwise be curtailed without proper water replacement to senior water users

  • Adjudicating exchange plans allowing the substitution of water in streams to replace out-of-priority depletions to senior water users

  • Adjudicating augmentation plans allowing the creation of new ponds and water features for recreation and fisheries

Once adjudicated, we assist our clients in maximizing the use of their water rights and protecting them from competing interests.  We have assisted our clients in:

  • Developing long-range water supply and management plans to maximize the beneficial use of existing water rights

  • Securing permits for water facilities from federal, state, and local regulatory and land management agencies

  • Negotiating ditch easements or instituting quiet title actions in order to convey water to its place of use

  • Opposing water right applications that would injure our clients’ water rights or restrict their use

  • Litigating disputes over interference with the use of water rights and easements for conveyance and distribution facilities

Our practice also involves transactions involving water and water rights, including:

  • Investigating title to water rights

  • Conducting due diligence of the historic and potential future use of water rights in connection with real estate and business acquisitions and investments

  • Documenting purchases, sales, leases, and security interests in water and water rights

  • Negotiating and drafting agreements allowing our clients to benefit from cooperative management of water rights

  • Preparing closing documents for water right transactions and transfers of ditch company shares

  • Negotiating intergovernmental water service agreements; and

  • Forming water authorities and creating other intergovernmental agreements for the development and use of water

We have participated in a variety of other matters involving water resources, including long-range planning studies, legislative proposals, and evaluation of mechanisms for water users in Colorado to fully utilize water apportioned to the State under interstate compacts and judicial decrees.

We regularly practice in the Colorado water courts, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeals, as well as before the Colorado and Wyoming State Engineers and other state and federal administrative agencies.

Through these and other mechanisms, the attorneys at HPK have spent decades assisting governmental, for-profit and nonprofit entities, and individuals in securing and protecting their water rights.

Water Quality

Water quality is increasingly intertwined with water rights and water supply.  Municipalities, industries and individuals generally require a clean source of water for domestic use and numerous other purposes.  Those same entities and individuals must also comply with federal and state regulatory requirements once that water is released following its use.  Local requirements and ancillary environmental issues, impacts to riparian vegetation, wetlands, and aquatic life might also need to be addressed for both water quality and quantity.

At HPK, we represent our clients in identifying the legal issues associated with obtaining and using water of a quality necessary to meet our clients’ needs, as well as helping our clients to meet regulatory requirements after that water has been used.  As such, we represent clients in rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings before the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and other agencies with water quality responsibilities.  In our local government practice, we represent cities, counties and other local governments in crafting regulations and policies to protect the quality of the water within their jurisdiction.  Examples of our experience in these areas include:

  • Investigating water quality issues in connection with possible purchases of water rights or entering into contracts for water delivery

  • Working with state regulatory agencies to obtain permits for point source discharges as well as Clean Water Act section 401 water quality certifications

  • Assisting clients with local water quality requirements and land use regulations

  • Representing clients in rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings before the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission

  • Negotiating settlements with regulatory agencies in administrative enforcement actions

  • Working with agencies to obtain Clean Water Act section 404 permits and regulatory determinations for activities involving wetlands

  • Assisting clients with stormwater issues and in negotiating settlements for alleged stormwater permitting violations

  • Assisting clients with compliance efforts associated with the Safe Drinking Water Act and state drinking water regulations

  • Dealing with regulatory agencies on designations of Clean Water Act section 303(d) impaired waters and Total Maximum Daily Load allocations

The attorneys at HPK are available to help our clients understand the water quality issues that may impact their activities, and to assist in dealing with the regulatory requirements that may be imposed on those activities.

Real Estate Law

The crucial issues that are involved in water law and water rights are almost invariably tied, in one way or another, to issues of accountability in ownership and the lawfully responsible use of the land, from federally owned open forests and fields to state, municipal, and private property. Offering decades of dedicated legal expertise in real estate, our firm continues to represent clients in matters ranging from real estate contracts to share transfers and more. Our litigation practice includes advocacy in state courts throughout Colorado, the United States District Court, and appellate practice before the Colorado Supreme Court and United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. From counties and cities to private entities, our firm has helped with many different aspects of real estate legal services to include:

  • Real estate sales and acquisitions, conveyances, contracts, deeds, easements, title work, closings

  • Ditch and utility rights of way

  • Zoning and land-use planning

  • Subdivisions and subdivision water supplies

  • Investigating title to water rights at the clerk and recorder’s office and at ditch company offices, and preparation of legal title opinions

  • Preparing closing documents and share transfers for ditch company shares

Public & Private Lands

The use and development of land and water rights in the West often requires the approval of federal, state, and local land management and permitting agencies.  Special use permits for the construction of reservoirs, pipelines, and roads on federal land, Clean Water Act section 404 permits for water storage and diversions, and county 1041 permits for land use changes are examples of the requirements commonly imposed on new projects.  Easements are often needed across private land for roads, pipelines, and transmission lines.  As rural land uses change, disputes can arise among neighbors as to historical access routes and property boundaries.  Land exchanges, fence line agreements, and other real estate transactions can be beneficial in order to allow landowners to make productive use of their respective properties.

The attorneys at HPK assist the firm’s clients by working with federal, state, and local agencies to obtain permits allowing the use of public and private lands and the development of water resource projects.  These matters often involve the application of water quality, wetland, and other environmental regulations. The firm represents several cities and counties in connection with land use approvals associated with water projects and other land use changes.  We assist private and public landowners in the negotiation and documentation of land exchanges with governmental land management agencies.  We also represent our clients in administrative proceedings before state and federal adjudicatory bodies, and in litigation in state and federal courts involving disputes over public lands.  Examples of our experience in these areas include:

  • Administrative proceedings concerning water project permitting, grazing permits, and land use planning on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands

  • Master planning and permitting of ski resort operations by the U.S. Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, and state and local agencies

  • Land exchange transactions and related litigation with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in Colorado, Wyoming

  • Permitting of transmission and communication facilities on federal, state and local lands in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah

  • Negotiation and permitting of land and water development on lands administered by the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners; and

  • Local government land use planning and permitting

We also assist our clients with private land use transactions and disputes, including easements for road access and water facilities, boundary questions, conservation easements, and land ownership adjustments.  These matters include the analysis and resolution of claims for access across private and public land under R.S. 2477 and the determination of the permissible scope of prescriptive and express access easements.

Ready to talk solutions?

Contact Us