Supporting Local Agriculture by Providing a Low-cost Supplemental Source of Irrigation Water

The City of Boulder owns water rights from several sources to provide flexibility and stability when it comes to the city’s current and future water supply. From these sources, the city’s Utilities Department may choose to lease surplus water on an annual basis.

Water Leasing Program

The city’s Utilities Department manages the water leasing program. One of the ways the city manages the year-to-year variation in water supply is through its agricultural water leasing program.

In average or above-average supply years, the leasing program allocates the city's surplus water supply to qualified applicants for a single year. Agricultural water users can apply online for a water lease.

Interested water users must submit an online application each year. The water lease application opens annually at 12 a.m. on the first Monday in April. Any applications received prior to this time will not be considered.

Leasing Process

The water leasing program is managed by the city’s Utilities Department. The online lease application process opens annually on the first Monday in April. at 12 a.m.

  1. Interested applicants must submit an online application each year to be considered for the City of Boulder’s annual surplus water leasing program.
  2. You can submit multiple applications if:
    1. You want water from multiple sources.
    2. You are applying on behalf of different ditch companies or organizations.
    3. Your cumulative desired volume from one source is more than 1500 af.
  3. City staff will evaluate reservoir capacities, stream conditions, and water allocations for shareholders.
  4. City staff will notify successful applicants of surplus water availability no later than July 31. The city will notify these initial recipients using the contact information provided in their online applications.
  5. After notice of water availability, these recipients will have two business days to confirm their intent to lease. If the recipient does not respond within two days, the city will allocate the water to the next applicant in priority.
  6. After the recipient confirms their intent to lease, the city will send them a lease agreement and invoice. The recipient must return a signed agreement and submit payment to the city within 10 business days. If the recipient does not respond within 10 business days, the city will allocate the water to the next applicant in priority.
  7. Once they city receives a signed lease agreement and payment, the city will make arrangements to deliver the water to the lessees.

Submit a Water Lease Request

Leasing Colorado-Big Thompson water

  • The online application opens annually at 12 a.m. on the first Monday in April.
  • You will receive an email with your application details and expected timelines.
  • For current leasing rates or more information about the agricultural leasing program, contact Emily McMurtrey at 303-413-7823 or mcmurtreye@bouldercolorado.gov.

Leasing ditch water for use on land

Irrigation ditches are manmade channels that deliver water from natural sources to homes, farms, businesses, industries, and other uses. Most irrigation ditches divert water from natural creeks and rivers and deliver it to other areas.

  • Even though a property may have a ditch running through it, landowners may only use the water if
    • they own shares in the ditch company;
    • lease water for use on lands under the ditch; or
    • have some other contractual right to the delivery of water with the ditch company.
  • Shares can be purchased from the previous property owner, from other shareholders, or directly from the ditch company when available.
  • Once the shares have been purchased, the landowner should work closely with ditch company staff to facilitate the delivery of water.
  • For questions or issues regarding irrigation ditches, please contact Emily McMurtrey at 303-413-7823 or mcmurtreye@bouldercolorado.gov.

Other water leases

  • City of Boulder does not lease augmentation water. Augmentation water requires fully consumable water rights and typically requires a long-term commitment to meet the lessee’s needs. Due to water rights limitations and administrative burden, the city is currently unable to offer augmentation leases.
  • For information about water leases for uses other than agriculture or irrigation, contact Kim Hutton at 303-441-3115 or huttonk@bouldercolorado.gov.

Terms & Conditions

  • To preserve City of Boulder agricultural leases as a low-cost, supplemental program, water will not be leased to any individual or entity that leases its native, CBT, or supplemental water to others that could otherwise be used for irrigation.
  • If requested, lessee must provide documentation that water leased from the city was not used to replace water leased by lessee.
  • Lessee must be aware of and follow the use terms and conditions as specified by the governing entity of each water source.
  • Lessee must be aware of and follow the terms and conditions specified by the ditch company carrying the leased water.
  • Leased water may not be subleased, transferred, used in different ways or at different locations than those defined in the lease agreement.
  • Once the payment has been processed, no refund will be given on returned or unused water.

Colorado-Big Thompson (CBT) water may be leased for agriculture or irrigation use within the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water) boundary. The city will determine how much CBT water to lease no later than June 30 and may lease more CBT water later in the year.

Requests for CBT water must be received by June 1 in order to be considered in the first round of leasing. Leases during the first round are on a first come-first-serve basis, limited to 1,500 acre-feet, with priority given to lessees within District 6.

If not all available water is allocated during the first round, or more CBT is made available later in the year, subsequent leasing rounds will occur. During these subsequent rounds, leases will be available to lease requests made before and after June 1, limited to 1,000 acre-feet and with priority given to users within District 6.

Lessees should be aware that Northern Water charges a Rule 11 fee based on delivery location. The city shall notify lessees at the time of the lease what the approximate Rule 11 fee will be. The fee is invoiced by and paid directly to Northern Water.