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Long before the city of Denver was established, the South Platte River and Cherry Creek were oases for people who traveled the dry Great Plains. These early travelers could do without many things, but not water. That's why pioneers, and the American Indians before them, camped along the banks of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. The first residents of the area drank water directly from the creek and river. Surface wells and buckets of water sufficed for a while as a delivery system, but they soon proved inadequate. Irrigation ditches were the next step forward.

Soon, water companies began offering service to settlers. By the late 1800s, several water companies had fought, collapsed or merged. In 1918, Denver residents voted to buy the Denver Union Water Company and form the municipal agency now known as Denver Water. In doing so, voters created an entity that would operate independently from city government, thereby keeping water service separate from local politics.

Today, Denver Water is the largest and oldest water utility in the state. Its service area covers more than 335 square miles, including the City and County of Denver and several suburban distributors. A system of reservoirs networked by tunnels and canals provides water to more than a million people. Three major treatment plants — Marston, Moffat and Foothills — maintain water quality under the watchful eye of the Denver Water Quality Control Laboratory.

100th Anniversary

In 1918, residents voted to establish Denver Water, paving the way for 100 years of stable water service.


Embark on a historical journey through Denver’s water past, a rich story full of innovation, engineering marvels and quirky tales.

Use Only What You Need

Denver Water’s signature orange box asking customers to Use Only What You Need became advertising legend in the metro area.