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Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead to step down

Lochhead to stay in role until Board of Water Commissioners hires successor.

Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead on Dec. 8 announced his plans to leave the utility once the Denver Board of Water Commissioners completes the process of bringing on a successor, which is expected to take place over the first half of 2023. 

“It is with deep, mixed emotions that I’ve made the decision to step away from Denver Water after 12 years of service to this amazing community and organization,” said Lochhead. “After giving it a great amount of thought, I feel now is the right time, based on where we are as an organization. 

“Denver Water is well positioned for the future, having successfully managed multiple initiatives through the pandemic. We recently renewed our Strategic Plan and are successfully implementing a 10-year, $2.3 billion system investment plan.” 

Jim Lochhead along the banks of the Colorado River. The Denver Water CEO/Manager since 2010 announced in December 2022 his plans to step down after his successor is brought on board. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The Denver Board of Water Commissioners will begin working with an executive search firm to immediately begin the process of replacing Lochhead. 

“The accomplishments of Denver Water under Jim’s leadership since 2010 have been truly remarkable,” said Denver Board of Water President Craig Jones. “He strengthened our operational efficiencies, while leading a new era of cooperation for water in the West, ensuring a reliable water system and securing future water supplies for the Denver metropolitan area. 

“The selection of a CEO is one of the most important decisions a board can make. We appreciate Jim’s work to put the organization in a strong position for a seamless transition along with his willingness to continue leading the utility so we can make our decision carefully and thoughtfully, without disruption to our critical community mission.” 

Lochhead’s collaborative and visionary approach was a catalyst for many major initiatives, including the signing of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, the WISE agreement, the From Forests to Faucets program, the Lead Reduction Program, the High Line Canal transformation, and a recent water conservation pledge among 30 municipal water utilities throughout the Colorado River Basin. 

Group of water leaders at the Eagle County signing of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement in 2012. Jim Lochhead, front row, fourth from the left. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Lochhead oversaw the largest capital development program in Denver Water’s history, with over $2.3 billion of investment in renewing the system. Major projects to ensure a resilient, clean and efficient future water supply were completed or started under his direction, including Denver Water’s Operations Complex Redevelopment Project, the new Northwater Treatment Plant, Gross Reservoir Expansion Project, and a new water quality lab at CSU Spur. 

Lochhead set a culture of continuous improvement, efficiency, transparency and accountability, with a focus on developing leadership throughout the organization. Operational initiatives resulted in the utility’s triple-A credit rating based on strong financials, operations and planning, as well as numerous sustainability awards and industry-wide recognition for utility management. 

“I’m proud to extend my sincere thanks to Jim Lochhead for his decades of dedication to public service, and for the past 12 years of leadership at Denver Water,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “Jim has been a true champion for Denver and the West, with our best interests always at his core. His storied career in public service as a national expert on water and natural resources has benefited all of us. His collaborative partnerships have been greatly appreciated and allowed for progress on many historic challenges on local, regional, and national water issues.”

Prior to Denver Water, Lochhead was in private law practice, handling natural resource issues throughout the United States and internationally. He was also executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Lochhead served as the Colorado governor’s representative on interstate Colorado River operations. 

In 2014, Lochhead received the Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” award from the Colorado Water Congress, presented annually to a Coloradan demonstrating courage, dedication, knowledge and leadership in the development, protection and preservation of Colorado water. 

In 2015, Lochhead received the President’s Award from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, given to a person with a history of doing meaningful work in the field of water. Lochhead has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from the University of Colorado and a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law. 

Lochhead is the current Chair of the board of the Water Foundation and serves on the boards of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and the Water Utility Climate Alliance. He previously served on the boards of the Water Research Foundation, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Nature Conservancy and Great Outdoors Colorado. 

Denver Water proudly serves high-quality water and promotes its efficient use to 1.5 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918, the utility is a public agency funded by water rates, new tap fees and the sale of hydropower, not taxes. It is Colorado’s oldest and largest water utility. Subscribe to TAP to hydrate your mind, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager since 2010, announced in December 2022 he will step down after the Denver Board of Water Commissioners completes the process of bringing on a successor, expected in the first half of 2023. Photo credit: Denver Water.