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Water in Colorado

Investigation 4.1: Interactive Map

Students will use an interactive map to generate questions to further research throughout the section. The purpose of this investigation is for students to become familiar with and comfortable with all the components of the interactive map and how it works. Students should explore the map by turning layers on and off and identify relationships between the different layers.

Interactive Water Map of Colorado

See Investigation

Investigation 4.2: Watersheds

Students will use butcher paper or wax paper to create a model of Colorado’s topography. Using their model, they will identify smaller watersheds and determine if their main divide was effective at creating two main watersheds like the Continental Divide does in Colorado. After modeling and reading more about it, students will illustrate a map indicating the flow of water in Colorado’s eight major watersheds.

See Student Sheet 7 for an example model.

Video: Battle River Watershed. (2013, Dec. 2). What Is A Watershed? (1:17).

Investigation 4.3: The Continental Divide

Students will estimate where the Continental Divide is on a map using existing rivers and other landmarks to navigate. They will then compare and contrast their line with the real Continental Divide. Students will have the opportunity to look at a series of illustrations to help them visualize where the divide is, conceptualize it as a ridge that sits atop a mountain range, and see how it and divisions between smaller watersheds affect water flow across Colorado.


Photo of Triple Divide Peak.


Topographical map of Triple Divide Peak.

Investigation 4.4: Water Rights and Water Law

Students will read about the unique water rights system that exists in Colorado, which prioritizes who gets water when. Students will use the jigsaw reading strategy to share information with each other and deepen their understanding of why the rules governing water in the arid West are different from other systems throughout the rest of the country.

Video: Denver Water. (2013, Sept. 30). Dillon Reservoir Celebrates 50 Years of Service. (4:06).

Some helpful resources to encourage student understanding of water in Colorado: