New Colo. Law Offers Landowners Tax Credit for Water

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) called Colorado's new conservation law "a national model for protecting the iconic and vulnerable waterways of the west."

The bill creates a new, refundable income tax credit for farmers and ranchers who donate their water to protect rivers and streams in the state.

"By enacting this legislation, Colorado is taking the lead in crafting and implementing incentives to encourage conservation," said Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain Regional director for EDF and a former vice chair of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee in the Colorado Senate. "This law gives Colorado's farmers and ranchers the opportunity to build partnerships with the state and the conservation community to protect critical stream reaches and avoid the often-draconian implications of more Endangered Species Act listings."

Under current law, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) can receive donations of water rights to protect stream flows and benefit the environment. The legislation authorizes the Colorado Water Conservation Board to award tax credit certificates to donors of water rights that the board deems worthy of such consideration. The board negotiates the tax credit values with the water right donor.

"Giving Colorado's family farmers more options in deciding how to benefit from their property will help our agricultural communities," said Kent Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. "As good land stewards, family farmers will look favorably upon this program as an alternative to selling their rights to water developers who often export the water to urban and suburban parts of the state."

A broad coalition of groups supported the legislation, including Environmental Defense Fund, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Water Trust, Trout Unlimited, and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

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