Well Permits: The Importance of 35 Acres and Rural Real Estate


Considering buying rural real estate in Colorado? Well, there are a few things you may want to know before you finalize your rural real estate purchase… let’s start with 35, acres that is….


Why is a rural real estate purchase of 35 acres significant in Colorado? In 1972, the State of Colorado required that property owners in Colorado must own at least 35 acres in order to have a Domestic Well or Livestock Well permits for their property. The main purpose for the 35 acre requirement was to limit the depletion of surface water, so that it would sustain itself over time.


Domestic Well Permits allow the resident to irrigate up to 1 acre of water to the residence to be used in and out of the household. (It should be noted that having a permit does not guarantee a water right, nor does it guarantee a certain number of wells, as they vary from county to county).


What happens when you have less than 35 acres for your rural real estate purchase? The well permit that you are issued will be for “household use only.” Simply put, the water can only be used inside your home – no outside faucets are allowed! All additional water for livestock, crops, outdoor recreation, etc. must be hauled in or be taken from an extremely deep source.


Additional types of wells include:


Different permits are available depending on the intended use for the water, including:


  • Household-Use Only Well (exempt*): Issued for ordinary household use for a single-family dwelling and does not allow for outside or livestock watering.


  • Replacement Well (exempt*): This permit is for the purpose of replacing or deepening an existing well, which allows the uses for the original well to transfer to the new well.


  • Domestic and Livestock Well (exempt*): For land tracts of more than 35 acres where the well will be the only well on the tract or on land tracts less than 35 acres in locations where the well use will have minimal impact on surface water rights. Depending on the provisions of the permit, the well may be able to serve up to three single-family dwellings, irrigate one acre or less of lawn and garden, and provide water for the permit holder’s domestic animals and livestock.


  • Unregistered Existing Well (exempt*): Available for a well put into use before May 8, 1972 that must be registered in order to sell the property or redrill the well. The permit will allow for the historic uses of the well provided that the uses are no greater than those allowed for a domestic and livestock well permit.


  • Non-exempt Well: In over-appropriated areas of the state, non-exempt wells must have augmentation water available in order to prevent injury to senior water right holders. This augmentation water must replace the amount of water consumed through non-exempt uses. The most common non-exempt wells are for irrigation, commercial, municipal, and industrial purposes.


* An exempt well is exempt from water rights administration and doesn’t fall under Colorado’s water-use priority system. This means that as long as you use the well for its intended purpose, you don’t have to augment the water you use.


Well permit forms are available from the Colorado Division of Water Resources website at http://water.state.co.us/pubs/forms.asp#III. When you consider purchasing property with a well, there are questions you should ask to ensure you know what water rights you will be receiving with your purchase and the quality of the water those rights produce.


For more information on well rights in Colorado from Water Colorado visit the Colorado well rights page.


Additional resources for this article include: the Colorado Division of Water Resources and Colorado Water Well Information by Adobe Gold Properties.





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