Peter Nichols practices water law, environmental law, and land and water conservation law. Peter has particular expertise in the federal Clean Water Act and water rights, conservation easements involving water rights, and the temporary use of agricultural irrigation water rights to meet municipal and other needs.

Peter serves as special water quality counsel for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, special counsel for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, and as special counsel for the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Co., Inc., on water leasing for municipal use. He formerly served as general counsel for the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District.

He has handled water rights and environmental matters for numerous municipalities, including Englewood, Woodland Park, Monte Vista, Del Norte, Saguache, Center, Crestone, Antonito, and Ouray, energy companies, such as Puckett Land Company and Thermo Power, industrial entities, such as Emerson Electric/Micro Motion, mining companies Bule Mountain Energy, Gold Links Mining and the Revenue Virginius Mine, as well individual farmers, and ranchers, among others.

Recent and present conservation clients of Peter’s include Colorado Open Lands, The Conservation Fund, Colorado West Land Trust, Aspen Valley Land Trust, Pitkin County, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, San Isabel Land Trust, Colorado Headwaters Land Trust, Ogallala Land & Water Conservancy (NM), Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), and the Colorado Water Trust.

He co-founded the Acequia Project at CU Law, which pairs practicing attorneys with law students to provide pro bono legal services to descendants of Colorado’s first immigrants.

Peter served as special assistant attorney general for nearly two decades to Colorado and New Mexico in national litigation involving the Clean Water Act, e.g., Miccosukee Tribe of Indians v. So. Florida Water Mgmt. Dist., 541 US 95 (2004). He also represented western municipal water providers in these matters, including the National Water Resources Association, Western Urban Water Coalition, Denver Water, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, City of Boulder, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, East Bay Municipal Water District, Salt Lake & Sandy Metropolitan Water District, Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Truckee Meadows Water Authority, among others.

Peter is an avid climber, skier, mountain biker, and cyclist, as well as a former (and still occasional) international mountaineering guide. His decades-long connection to Himalayan communities has led to pro bono service as general counsel to the dZi Foundation and United Sherpas of Colorado, as well as on the advisory council of The Partners Nepal (Ktm).












1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


2ndCircuit U.S. Court of Appeals


U.S. Supreme Court 


9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals


 U.S. District Court of Colorado


Professional Associations

American Bar Association

Colorado Bar Association

9th Judicial District Bar Association

Colorado Water Congress, Board of Directors (1987-1999), President (1997-1998)


Honors & Awards 

AV Preeminent Rating, Martindale-Hubbell peer review ratings system (2012 – present)

Presidents Award, National Water Resources Association (2004)

Outstanding Natural Resources Scholar, University of Colorado School of Law (2001)


Special Assistant Attorney General, State of Colorado (2005 – 2018)

Special Assistant Attorney General, State of New Mexico (2005 – 2018)

Colorado Interbasin Compact Commission, gubernatorial appointments (2008 – 2018)

Colorado River Commission, Advisor to Colorado Commissioner (2012 – 2014)

Getches Wilkinson Natural Resources Law Center, University of Colorado School of Law, Board (2015 – 2017 ) Advisory Board (2010 – ), Chair (2015 – 2017)

Colorado Water Trust, Executive Director (2001 – 2002), Board of Directors (2003 – 2011), Emeritus (2011- 2015)

Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, gubernatorial appointments (1993 – 1999), Chair (1997 – 1998)

Colorado Water Congress, Board of Directors (1987 – 2002), President (1997 – 1998)

Colorado Environment 2000, gubernatorial appointment (1989 – 1990)

Garfield County, Colorado, Planning and Zoning Commission (1987 – 1993

Reported Cases

Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unltd., Inc. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency¸ 846 F.3d 492 (2nd Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 s.ct. 1164 (U.S. 2018)

Grand Valley Water Users Ass’n v. Busk-Ivanhoe, Inc., 386 P.3d 452 (Colo. 2016)

ONRC Action v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 798 F.3d 933 (9th Circuit 2015)

Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unltd., Inc. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency¸ 8 F. Supp. 3d 500 (S.D.N.Y. 2014)

Mesa County Land Conservancy, Inc. v. Allen, 318 P.3d 46 (Colo.App.2012), cert. denied (Colo. 2013).

Cherokee Metro. Dist. v. Meridian Service Metro. Dist.,266 P.3d 401 (Colo. 2011).

Centennial Water and Sanitation Dist. v. City and County of Broomfield, 256 P.3d 677 (Colo. 2011).

Cherokee Metro. Dist. v. Upper Black Squirrel Creek Designated Ground Water Management Dist, 247 P.3d 567 (Colo. 2011).

Friends of the Everglades v. South Fla. S. Water Mgmt. Dist, 570 F.3d 1210 (11th Cir. 2009), denied en banc, 605 F.3d 962 (11th Cir. 2010), cert denied 131 S. Ct. 645 (U.S. 2010).

Meridian Ranch Metro. Dist. v. Colorado Ground Water Comm’n, 240 P.3d 382 (Colo. App. 2009), cert denied (2009).

Friends of the Everglades v. South Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist., 2006 WL 3635465 (S. Fla. Dist. Ct. 2007).

High Plains A&M, LLC v. Southeastern Colo. Water Conservancy Dist., 120 P.3d 710 (Colo. 2005).

South Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Miccosukee Tribe, 541 U.S. 95 (2004).


Teaching and Speaking

University of Colorado School of Law, Adjunct Professor of Water Resources (2019)

Continuing Legal Education, Seminars, and Conferences 

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Agricultural Water Sharing and Transfers

    • “The Increasing Importance of 401 Certifications,” CLE International: Environmental Permitting: Strategies & Trending Issues, Denver, Colorado (Feb. 27, 2017)
    • “Innovations in Managing Western Water: New Approaches for Balancing Environmental, Social, and Economic Outcomes”, University of Colorado School of Law, Getches-Wilkinson Center for Environment, Energy and Natural Resources, 2015 Martz Summer Conference, Boulder, Colorado (June 11, 2015)
    • Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, Denver, Colorado (June 17, 2014)
    • National Water Resources Association, Columbia River Gorge, Washington (July 30, 2013)
    • Charting New Waters, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, speaker/panelist, Denver, Colorado (Oct. 6, 2011)
    • Washington State Senate Committee on the Environment, Olympia, Washington (Jan. 2010)
    • Eastern Washington Council of Governments, Spokane, Washington (June 26, 2009)
    • Ditch and Reservoir Alliance, Durango, Colorado (Feb. 11, 2010);Pueblo, Colorado (Feb. 20, 2009)
    • CLE International: Denver, Colorado (Mar. 13, 2009); Denver, Colorado (Dec. 1, 2009), and Denver, Colorado (Dec. 10, 2007)
    • Denver University Water Law Review (Feb. 2008)
    • University of Colorado School of Law, Natural Resources Law Center, conference chair/speaker (Dec. 11, 2008)
    • Colorado General Assembly, Interim Water Committee, Denver, Colorado (June 18, 2008)
    • Denver Chamber of Commerce, Denver, Colorado (Oct. 9, 2007)
    • Gunnison River Basin Roundtable, Gunnison, Colorado (Sept. 8, 2008)
    • La Junta Farm and Ranch Forum, La Junta, Colorado (Nov. 27, 2007)
    • Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance (Sept. 2007)
    • Colorado Foundation on Water Education, Sterling, Colorado (Aug. 27, 2007)
    • Colorado General Assembly, Joint Senate and House Agriculture Committee, Denver, Colorado (Aug. 17, 2007)

Water Marketing, CLE International

    • “Flexible Water Markets Webinar”, (June 30, 2015)
    • Conference chair and speaker: Denver, Colorado (Dec. 10, 2009); Beaver Creek, Colorado (Dec. 10, 2010)
    • Speaker: Denver, Colorado (Dec. 9, 2011); Seattle, Washington (Sept. 23 & 24, 2010)

Water Rights in Western Conservation Easements

    • Land Trust Alliance, Seminar Chair, speaker, panelist, National Rally, Sacramento, California (Oct. 8, 2015); National Rally, New Orleans, Louisiana (September 17, 2013); National Rally, Portland, Oregon (Oct. 11, 2009); National Rally, Denver, Colorado (Oct. 2007); National Rally, Nashville, Tennessee (Oct. 2006)
    • Colorado Open Space Alliance, Telluride, Colorado (September 9, 2013)
    • Land Trust Alliance, Speaker: Southwest Regional Conference, Flagstaff, Arizona (2004); Southwest Regional Conference, Durango, Colorado (2005)
    • Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts’ Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado (Feb. 27, 2006); (March 17, 2015)
    • Colorado Bar Association, Water Law Section, Denver, Colorado (Feb. 14, 2006)
    • Colorado Bar Association, Agriculture and Rural Law Section, Steamboat Springs, Colorado (June 2004)
    • Colorado Chapter of the Appraisal Institute, Copper Mountain, Colorado (Aug. 27, 2004)
    • CLE International, Denver, Colorado (2003)

Water and Land Use

    • Colorado Open Space Alliance, Telluride, Colorado (September 9, 2013)
    • Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, Denver, Colorado (Mar. 2, 2012)
    • “Land Use Law” CLE International, Denver, Colorado (Dec. 1, 2011)
    • Western Water Workshop, Gunnison, Colorado (July 2011)
    • “The Pagosa Springs I and II Decisions”, Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference, Vail, Colorado (Aug. 2010)
    • Western States Water Council, Steering Committee, Denver, Colorado (Sept. 28-30, 2009)

Water and Growth

    • Roaring Fork Cultural Council, Carbondale, Colorado (Oct. 16, 2010)
    • Current Concepts for Western Slope Water Utilities, SGM, Carbondale, Colorado (Oct. 30, 2009)
    • University of Colorado – Colorado Springs (July 20, 2007)
    • American Water Resources Association (2003, 2005)
    • Mesa State University, Grand Junction, Colorado (Oct. 25, 2004)

The Colorado Water Trust

    • Oregon Law Institute, Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon (Apr. 21, 2006)

Instream Flow Strategic Planning for the Roaring Fork River Basin

    • Colorado Open Space Association, Aspen, Colorado (Sept. 21, 2009)

The Colorado River: Law and Policy Issues in Colorado

    • Conference chair and speaker, CLE International, Denver, Colorado (October 21, 2013)
    • Denver University School of Law, Addressing Supply & Demand Imbalances in the Colorado River Basin, Denver, Colorado (April 12, 2013)
    • Conference chair and speaker, CLE International, Denver, Colorado (Sept. 15, 2012)

The Clean Water Act and Water Transfers

    • ABA Environment, Energy, and Resources 24th Fall Conference, “Murky Waters: State Deference or Increasing Federalism”, Denver, Colorado (October 7th, 2016)
    • ABA Water Law Conference, Denver, Colorado (June 4th, 2015)
    • California Water Law Conference, San Francisco, California (November 4, 2014)
    • National Water Resources Association, Flagstaff, Arizona (July 29, 2014)
    • Western States Water Council, Helena, Montana (July 17, 2014)
    • Western States Water Council, Denver, Colorado (April 4, 2013)
    • CLE International – Phoenix, Arizona (Dec. 2, 2011); Las Vegas, Nevada (Aug. 27, 2009);Tucson, Arizona (May 2006)
    • Western States Water Council, South Lake Tahoe, Nevada (July 22, 2010)
    • Nevada Water Users Association, Reno, Nevada (May 13, 2010)
    • Council of Western Attorneys General, Colorado Springs, Colorado (Apr. 29, 2010)
    • Association of California Water Agencies: Annual Conference, San Diego, California (Dec. 13, 2009); Annual Conference, Monterey, California (May 2006); Water Quality Conference, Ontario (Oct. 27, 2004)
    • National Association of Attorneys General, Denver, Colorado (Oct. 15, 2008)
    • Idaho Water Users Association, Sun Valley, Idaho (June 16 2008)
    • Colorado Water Congress (Dec. 6, 2006)
    • Western Coalition of Arid States (June 2004)

Peter’s Blog

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