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Hats off to our CEO — 2014 Water Leader of the Year

Denver Water leader named recipient of prestigious Wayne N. Aspinall Award.

This story was first shared on Denver Water’s Mile High Water Talk blog in 2014. It has been updated slightly.

Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO/Manager since 2010, along the banks of the Colorado River. Photo credit: Denver Water.

In the 1982 fall issue of Colorado Water Rights, a publication of the Colorado Water Congress, Wayne N. Aspinall, a lawyer and Colorado member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949–1973, set a vision for water leaders to “begin thinking about constructive changes in the administration of water rights that might result in broader benefits to the people of the State from more efficient water resource management.”

This is roughly the same time that Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead began his journey of representing water in Colorado — and he has been following the vision set by Aspinall ever since. 

So, it was no surprise that the Colorado Water Congress awarded Lochhead the prestigious 2014 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award

Jim Lochhead announces his intention to step down from Denver Water in 2023. 

Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and 2011 Aspinall Award recipient, said: “Jim is very deserving of the Aspinall ‘Water Leader of the Year’ Award as he epitomizes the true intent of the award. He is a recognized and respected leader in the water community, not only in Colorado but throughout the Colorado River Basin and the West. Colorado is indebted to Jim for his exemplary service and innumerable contributions to the Colorado Water community.”

The Colorado Water Congress presents the Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award annually to an individual Coloradan who has long demonstrated courage, dedication, knowledge and strong leadership in the development, protection and preservation of Colorado water — those attributes possessed by Wayne N. Aspinall. 

This is exactly what the Denver Board of Water Commissioners set out to find during the search for the Denver Water’s next CEO/Manager in 2010. 

Jim Lochhead in his office at Denver Water shortly after joining the state’s largest water utility in 2010. Photo credit: Denver Water.

They needed a leader not only to oversee the work necessary to provide an adequate supply of water to the 1.3 million people the utility served (Denver Water today serves 1.5 million people), but also someone to champion regional cooperation in the water industry — and Lochhead was just the person for the job. 

When selected, Penfield Tate, then-president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners (who served on the board from 2005-2017), said, “We believe he has the necessary ability to maintain and build relationships with the myriad external stakeholders that work with Denver Water.” 

Commissioner Tate was absolutely correct, and Lochhead’s reputation and established relationships among the Colorado River Basin stakeholders led to him closing the deal for negotiations on the historic Colorado River Cooperative Agreement in 2013.

Eagle County officials and Jim Lochhead (center front row) signing the historic Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Lochhead’s storied career of dedication to and leadership for the protection and preservation of Colorado’s water ranges from many years representing water in the courtroom to serving as the executive director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Roy Romer. And, over his lifetime he has touched practically every part of the river, literally, as he has been in or on the Colorado River for virtually its entire length. 

To a man who’s dedicated his life to the Colorado River with a passion that extends much further than his profession, we say thank you and congratulations on this well-deserved and prestigious award.