Jacques Adnet would have been safe if he’d simply left the beaver dam behind his house on South Beaver Creek, west of Monument.
But he didn’t like the snake-infested swamp it created.
Anyway, he liked the idea of a small pond. So, in 1979, the Air Force engineer cleared the swamp and reinforced the dam with dirt and gravel and put a narrow concrete cap atop it.
The result was a pond, about five feet deep, that he swam in on hot summer days. Year round, he watched the wildlife it attracted. And he admired the fish that lived in it.
Adnet’s pond is the small one in the middle of the photo below, captured from FlashEarth.
Adnet probably would have been OK if he’d built a swimming pool and filled it with tap water. But he allowed creek water to fill his pond. Turns out, 30 years later, that was a mistake.
Water cops using satellite photos, like GoogleEarth and FlashEarth, spotted his pond among a string of ponds up and down the creek. Here’s a look at Adnet’s neighborhood and the region from the El Paso County Assessor’s web site.
They looked at state records and found Adnet had never filed for a water right and wasn’t paying any utility to replace the water his pond held or that evaporated from it during a year.
He was warned to drain the pond, file for a water right and establish a reimbursement through an area water district or face a possible fine.
Sadly, earlier this month he drained the pond.
Adnet is not alone. In fact, there are thousands of small ponds across the Pikes Peak region illegally using surface or well water. And the water cops intend to catch them all.
They say they have no choice. In 1985, Kansas sued Colorado alleging Colorado was illegally diverting water from the Arkansas River, violating a decades-old compact written to protect senior water rights in Kansas.
In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sunflower State. Colorado was ordered to pay Kansas $34 million in compensation for the lost water. In addition, Colorado was ordered to stop the illegal diversions. That meant metering or capping wells and draining ponds that divert water owned by folks downstream.
Folks like Adnet do have options. They can hire a water attorney and go to the state water court to obtain a water right. Then they just file an augmentation plan for replacing the creek water or well water they use. That usually involves paying a water company to replace the water in the stream. And it isn’t cheap.
Here’s a story I wrote, published Sept. 7, 2009, about water rights.