Colorado and the Reality of Flooding

The “Principal of Compensation” is always controlling when a parcel of land’s boundary line is actually a moving body of water such as a stream or river. When a title company insures a legal description and one of the boundary lines becomes a river channel or a stream, the title commitment will alert the purchaser that the property is subject to the “principal of compensation” as an exception to the title disclosed under Schedule B-2 of the title commitment. Sometimes the course may run along the bank, shore, side or edge. Sometimes the course may run to the center or thread of the flow. If the stream was considered navigable at the time of statehood, the bed of the stream or river is owned by the state. Every state defines navigability differently. This is part of the reason there is such disagreement between Colorado ranchers, farmers and recreational “floaters.”

A parcel of land may be subject to the following:

1.  Accretion (gain of land deposits) by water flow

2.  Reliction (gain of land deposits) by water receding

3.  Erosion (loss of land by water encroaching

4.  Avulsion (loss of land by sudden change in course)

These principals may be applied to some parcels since the current “oversaturation of Colorado” and our latest ruinous deluge has occurred.

A.) As of Monday, September 16, 2013 Colorado’s Front Range has suffered a human toll of six people and 1253 unaccounted for (now 8 as of September 17,2013)

B.) Emergency management officials said 17,494 homes were damaged and 1502 homes destroyed

C.) 11,700 people were ordered evacuated

D.) Boulder County picked up almost nine times its average September monthly rainfall in about four days

E.) 654 lane miles have been covered

These facts were reported on the Denver Post’s front page on September 16, 2013 and USA Today further stated: “Colorado is no stranger to devastating and deadly flash floods, due to a lethal combination of geography and meteorology.”

Colorado’s narrow canyons and steep mountains help funnel raging torrents of water down into heavily populated foothills. But all areas of Colorado have experienced this type of flooding, not just the foothills west and north of Denver. However, Boulder is considered to be Colorado’s city of most risk in terms of potential flood damage. During July of 1976 the “Big Thompson” flood killed at least 144 people north of Boulder as reported by Doyle Rice, USA Today on September 15, 2013.

Colorado is a semi-arid region which receives less than 15 inches of rainfall per year! Colorado’s desert geology can become easily saturated when a deluge of water occurs.

Colorado is a head water state (with the continental divide). Water has one ambition and that is to run away. In the case of extreme rainfall, water rushes from higher elevations to lower elevations. Due to the intense population growth along the Front Range foothills, the impact of extreme rainfall in a short period of time will result in severe loss of life and property.


“The western plains of Colorado are the same as the deserts of Africa” – Zebulon Pike, explorer “The American West is semi-desert with a desert heart” – Walter Prescott Webb, historian

“As long as we maintain a civilization in a semi-desert, with a desert heart, the yearning to civilize more of it will always be there” – Marc Reisner, author

Global warming will likely reduce our river flows in Colorado but will also contribute to more severe storms and droughts. Colorado’s streams are classified in three types: perennial, intermittent and ephemeral. In perennial streams, water flows in a well-defined channel. However, many streams flow less that 50% of the time (intermittent) and ephemeral streams only flow a short time after extreme storms. These later two classifications can easily overrun its banks and cause massive damage. Our rivers are also classified into three categories including:

1.) Braided river channel (network of small braid bars)

2.) Meandering river channel (shifts position by depositing and eroding soil)

3.) Straight river channel (flows within well defined channel)

Overland flows occur when precipitation exceeds infiltration. When Colorado’s overflowing streams converge into our braided and meandering river channels, overland flooding occurs, depositing organic and inorganic matter and course materials outside of its banks. Colorado’s wild fires contribute to flood damage as the soil and foliage do not retain the moisture well and thus create more overland flow!

The fear of dams becoming breached and causing additional damage is common when flooding occurs. In Colorado, there are more than 3600 dams above ground level impounding more than 100 acre feet with a high water surface of more than 20 acres and a minimum of 10 vertical feet in height whether on stream or off stream. There are 1800 dams which act as erosion control, livestock water tanks, gravel pit storage. Reservoirs are built for flood protection and storage. Efforts in flood control and flood preparedness has been immense in Colorado. But when Colorado’s geography and extreme precipitation converge, man still remains subject to the whims of Mother Nature.


About thenoelteam

As a Broker with RE/MAX Alliance, I work energetically for my clients whether they are a buyer or seller. I help you achieve your goal of owning a home or getting the best price for your home in the shortest time possible. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in communications and finance, I was licensed in 1977 and since then I have sold over 3600 properties amounting to over $1 billion in sales. I currently rank in the top 10 in home sales for Colorado. I offer the same quality of service and superior communication to all clients, ranging from starter homes to multi-million dollar estates, commercial and income properties, relocations and foreclosures My goal is to provide you with the best representation possible whether you are buying or selling. Over the years, one of the things that I've discovered is that there is a difference in the way individual Realtors do business. For me, I have always felt that honesty and personal integrity are the foundations upon which a successful business and career are built and sustained. I have an extensive background and knowledge base in real estate, including financing, which has enabled me to provide outstanding, quality advice and service not found with many agents today. My commitment to communication creates a positive relationship between my client and myself that results in a successful property sale or purchase. My passion for real estate, commitment to my clients and personal integrity has helped me to achieve success placing me in the top 1% of all brokers in nationwide. In my career, I have earned a number of awards and received considerable recognition for my success but the most significant recognition comes from the fact that over 75% of my business comes from past clients. My success is a true measure of my client satisfaction.
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