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Water Right Requirements for Small Hydropower

Small hydropower generation is the most feasible when added to existing water delivery infrastructure and an existing, decreed water use. In this sense, the additional use of the water for hydropower generation would be considered an “incidental and non-consumptive use” and would not require a new water right, so long as the hydropower is only generated during the deliveries for the original and decreed water use. For example, if a small hydropower system is added to the water delivery infrastructure of a center pivot, the water used in irrigation could also be used to generate electricity without needing a new water right as long as the amount of water used does not exceed the amount of water decreed for irrigation. Unless a new water right is issued to divert more than the historical amount for irrigation, the amount of water diverted to irrigate, and incidentally to run a center pivot, must remain the same as before the small hydropower system was installed. It is important to note that relying on already-decreed water could affect the availability of power production, depending on the seniority of the water right. If new diversions are needed for the sole purpose of generating electricity, then a new water right would need to be obtained. If you are unsure if a new water right is needed, contact the Colorado Division of Water Resources to clarify.

Last updated: October 18, 2017 at 11:48 am