From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
One of the ballot measures would apply the public trust doctrine to water in Colorado, declaring that unappropriated water in natural streams is public property, dedicated to the use of the people of the state. The public trust ballot measure would also clarify once and for all the public’s right to access streams and rivers. The second measure would put limits on diversions to protect the public’s interest in water, potentially prohibiting diversions “that would irreparably harm the public ownership interest in water.”
Upon review, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that the two measures are “single subject” measures sufficient to be placed on the 2012 General election ballot. Backers of the measures now must gather the required number of certifiied signatures to get the measures on the November ballot.
The public trust doctrine is rooted in ancient Roman law established by Emperor Justinian, essentially declaring that the waters of the state are a public resource. Most frequently, it’s been applied to ensure access to beaches, but also extends to other natural resources. This principle became the law in England under the Magna Carta and later part of common law in in the U.S. The legal principle was later subverted in dry western states, as private users came to dominate the allocation and distribution of water…
The public trust doctrine proposed for Colorado would boldly challenge existing water law by declaring that “The public’s estate in water in Colorado has a legal authority superior to rules and terms of property and contract law.”
More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.