(1)There is established in each water division the position of water judge of the district courts of all counties situated entirely or partly within the division. Said district courts collectively acting through the water judge have exclusive jurisdiction of water matters within the division, and no judge other than the one designated as a water judge shall act with respect to water matters in that division. Water matters shall include only those matters which this article and any other law shall specify to be heard by the water judge of the district courts. Water matters include determinations of rights to nontributary groundwater outside of designated groundwater basins. Judgments and decrees entered prior to July 1, 1985, in accordance with the procedures of sections 37-92-302 to 37-92-305 with respect to such groundwater shall be given full effect and enforced according to the terms of such decrees.
(2)On or before January 10 of each year, the supreme court shall designate or redesignate a water judge for each division to hear all pending and new water matters in that division for the year in which the designation is made, and any vacancy that occurs during such year shall be filled by designation of the supreme court. The services of the water judge shall be in addition to his regular duties as a district judge but shall take priority over such regular duties, and the schedules of the judges in the various divisions shall be arranged and adjusted so that the water judge shall be free to hear water matters. If it becomes necessary during any year for the proper handling of water matters in any division, the supreme court shall designate one or more additional water judges of the district courts in that division, and the term “water judge”, as used in this article, refers to all water judges acting in a division. The water judge for a particular division shall be selected from among the judges of the district courts of the counties situated entirely or partly within the division; except that the chief justice may make temporary assignments of other judges.
(3)The water judge of a division shall normally sit in the county where the water clerk is located, but, at the discretion of the judge for convenience of parties, he may sit in other counties in the state, and he shall conduct hearings in other counties as specified in section 37-92-304 (4). Should the functions of the water judge require separate or additional facilities, the same shall be provided for by the state from funds appropriated to the supreme court.
(4)For the purpose of making investigations required by section 37-92-302 (4) and rulings required by section 37-92-303, the water judge of each division shall appoint such referees as may be necessary for that division. The term “referee”, as used in this article, refers to all referees acting in a particular division.
(5)Each water referee authorized by this section shall be appointed by the water judge of the water division from a list of not less than three qualified persons to be submitted to the water judge by the executive director of the department of natural resources; but, in any water division, the water judge may elect to perform the functions which by this article would otherwise be vested in the water referee. When and if an extraordinary work load exists in any water division, additional referees may be appointed.
(6)Persons appointed as water referees shall possess such training and experience as to qualify them to render expert opinions and decisions on the complex matters of water rights and administration. The persons may, as the situation requires, be either full-time, part-time, or contractual court employees of the state of Colorado. All expenses in connection with the performance of the functions of water referees, including salaries and other compensation, office space, and clerical and technical assistance shall be paid from funds appropriated to the supreme court. Each water referee shall execute such oath of office as may be prescribed by the supreme court.
(7)The water judge of each division by order shall refer promptly to a referee of that division all applications filed pursuant to section 37-92-302, and the water clerk of that division shall transmit promptly to such referee the order of referral and the duplicate application and thereafter shall transmit promptly to such referee duplicates of any statements of opposition that are filed.
Section 37-92-203 — Water judges - jurisdiction,
https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/images/olls/crs2023-title-37.pdf (accessed Oct. 20, 2023).