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Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Path to a Secure Water Future

Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is official

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement is effective, as of Sept. 26, 2013, with signatures of all 18 partners complete.

The agreement ushers in a new era of cooperation between Denver Water and West Slope water providers, local governments and several ski areas. The overall goal of the agreement is to protect watersheds in the Colorado River Basin while allowing Denver Water to develop future water supplies.

The agreement is the result of more than five years of negotiations and creates a spirit of cooperation instead of litigation over water resources.

What happens next:

  • Denver Water begins to meet dozens of obligations outlined in the agreement, including upcoming payments of $1.95 million to Grand County and $2 million to Summit County.
  • Denver Water will continue to pursue a new water right permitting its water to be used for environmental flows in Grand County.
  • West Slope parties agree not to oppose any permits for the Moffat Project.

Background

A secure and sustainable water future for Colorado is essential. It is vital for those who live in our cities and towns, for a healthy economy, for farmers and ranchers across the state, for wildlife and the aquatic life in our rivers and streams, and for those who enjoy the wonderful recreational opportunities our state offers. In short, it is essential to all that makes Colorado special. 

Yet, competition for our water resources continues to increase. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Colorado River Basin, where conflicts between these competing interests have existed for generations.

A different approach is possible. It is an approach that provides proper balance among competing interests, a shared vision for better river health, reliable supply for all water users, and a future of cooperation, not conflict. It is precisely that approach that this agreement — among more than 40 water providers, local governments and the ski industry — embodies.

The visionary agreement provides for:

  1. Resolution of historic conflicts and a holistic approach to resolving Colorado water disputes.
  2. Cooperative, long-term efforts to improve the health of the Colorado River mainstem and its tributaries.
  3. Additional water supply for those who live, work and play on the West Slope and for customers of Denver Water.

A Historic Collaboration

Never in the history of Colorado have so many varied interests agreed on a shared vision for a secure and sustainable water future. There are 18 signatories to the agreement, but more than 40 partners, including:

  • Denver Water
  • Colorado River Water Conservation District
  • Middle Park Water Conservancy District
  • Board of County Commissioners of Eagle County
  • Board of County Commissioners of Grand County
  • Board of County Commissioners of Summit County
  • Clinton Reservoir Company
  • Eagle Park Reservoir Company
  • Eagle River Water and Sanitation District
  • Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority
  • Grand Valley Water Users Association
  • Orchard Mesa Irrigation District
  • Ute Water Conservancy District
  • Palisade Irrigation District
  • Mesa County Irrigation District
  • Grand Valley Irrigation Company
  • Snake River Water District
  • Town of Breckenridge
  • Town of Dillon 
  • Town of Frisco
  • Town of Silverthorne
  • Vail Summit Resorts (Breckenridge)
  • City of Glenwood Springs
  • City of Rifle
  • Granby Sanitation District
  • Grand County Mutual Ditch and Reservoir Company
  • Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1
  • Tabernash Meadows Water and Sanitation District
  • Town of Fraser
  • Town of Granby
  • Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District
  • Winter Park Recreational Association
  • Winter Park Water and Sanitation District
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Copper Mountain Metro District
  • Copper Mountain Resort
  • Dillon Valley Metro District
  • Frisco Sanitation District
  • Vail Summit Resorts (Keystone)
  • Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District
  • East Dillon Water District
  • Hamilton Creek Metropolitan District
  • Mesa Cortina Water and Sanitation District

Benefit Highlights

For Colorado

  • Ushers in a new era of cooperation by providing that any new water project by Denver Water in the Colorado River Basin will be developed only in cooperation with those entities impacted by the development.
  • Solidifies this era of cooperation by establishing a “Learning by Doing” process by which a broad-based management team with representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, the Colorado River District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and others will use water and funding provided by Denver Water and others, and the flexibility in Denver Water’s system to manage flows for the benefit of the environment in Grand County.
  • Provides protections for river flows and water quality along the entire reach of the main stem of the Colorado River.
  • Reinforces the priority and increases the amount of conservation and reuse within Denver Water’s service area.
  • Improves the health of Colorado’s rivers and streams by dedicating  funds to pay for watershed, water treatment and aquatic habitat  improvements in the Colorado River Basin.

For Cities, Counties and Other Entities in the Colorado River basin

  • Additional water for towns, districts and ski areas in Grand and Summit counties to serve the needs of their residents and to improve the health of our rivers and streams.
  • An agreement to operate key Denver Water facilities, such as Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, and Williams Fork Reservoir and the Moffat Collection System in Grand County, in a way that better addresses the needs and concerns of neighboring communities and enhances the river environment.
  • Enhanced recreational opportunities by providing additional water to certain ski areas.
  • Greater certainty in the continued availability of water in the middle and lower Colorado River by ensuring that when the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon is not operating, the parties will operate their facilities as if the plant was operational to help maintain the historic flows in the Colorado River.

For Denver Water

  • Greater certainty in developing a secure water future for its customers by resolving long-standing disputes over its service territory, its ability to use West Slope water, its ability to develop future water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, and other legal issues.
  • Additional water and enhanced system reliability for customers of Denver Water, representing nearly 25 percent of the state’s population, by moving forward the Moffat Collection System Project.
  • Agreement by all partners to not oppose Denver’s storage of its Blue River and Moffat Project water on the Front Range.
  • Clarification of the conditions under which Denver Water will be able to provide water outside its service territory.