Colorado statutes provide for two basic types of water replacement plans: Plans for Augmentation and Substitute Water Supply Plans. Both types of plans document the water requirements for a plan, the water impacts to senior water rights holders that can be caused by the plan, and a supply of replacement water that the applicant will provide to the river or stream to offset those impacts. Plans for Augmentation, commonly referred to as "aug plan", are approved by a judge after having been submitted to court. The court provides a period of several months for objectors to submit statements of opposition to the plan. An objector provides a legal argument against the court application, or engineering, to show that senior water rights holders may be injured if the plan for augmentation is approved. Attorneys for the applicant and the objectors typically negotiate the issues to the satisfaction of all parties; thereby, avoiding a trial. If all parties stipulate agreement to negotiated changes in the plan, the judge will sign the plan for augmentation. Less frequently, the parties can not come to agreement, and a trial will follow with experts for each party presenting arguments to the judge for his ultimate decision.
Substitute Water Supply Plans are very similar to plans for augmentation in that they are used to quantify river depletions and injury to senior water rights holders for new uses of water and provide for replacement water to offset this injury. The fundamental difference between a plan for augmentation and a substitute water supply plan is that the State Engineer evaluates and either approves or denies the plan. Objectors are allowed to provide comments to the State Engineer, but a decision is made without having a trial. These plans are considered temporary and ultimately require judicial approval as a plan for augmentation if they are implemented for more than five years.
A water user who needs a plan for augmentation should obtain the services of an experienced water rights attorney and water resources engineer to design the plan and take the plan through water court. An attorney is not required to submit a substitute water supply plan to the State Engineer; however, a water resources engineer is typically required to perform the engineering and depletions analysis.
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