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Colorado's Water History

learn some highlights of a complex history, in just a few minutes!
by Patricia Rettig on 1 October 2012

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Transcript of Colorado's Water History

Colorado has 8 major watersheds... ...and 4 major aquifers. These factors--and many more--are vitally important to Colorado's water history. In 1852, Hispanic settlers dug the People's Ditch in the San Luis Valley. This is the earliest recognized water right in Colorado. Watershed Events in Colorado's Water History In 1876, Colorado was admitted to the Union as the 38th state. The law of prior appropriation was included in the state constitution. In 1882, the state Supreme Court reaffirmed the doctrine as the basis for water rights in Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court decided the first KANSAS v. COLORADO case in 1907, six years after litigation began. This marked the beginning of ongoing litigation over interstate water conflicts. Let's explore Colorado's water history! Colorado's population has grown from half a million people in 1900 to 5 million people in 2010. This increasing competition for water has caused much discussion, conflict, and cooperation. Colorado and six other states negotiated the Colorado River Compact in 1922. This was the first interstate river compact, conceived by Greeley water lawyer Delph Carpenter as a way to reduce interstate water litigation. The Uncompahgre Project was the first Bureau of Reclamation project in Colorado. It was authorized in 1903, just a year after the Bureau was created. Much of the Project's construction was completed by 1912. Colorado's Office of the State Engineer was created in 1881. This made Colorado the first state to have public officials administer private water use, and the first to have a dedicated water management office. 1937 saw the passage of legislation enabling the creation of water conservancy districts and water conservation districts, as well as the birth of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. This set of firsts enabled the start of the Colorado-Big Thompson trans-mountain diversion project the same year. Wayne Aspinall began his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1949, serving until 1973. In the 1950s, he was a major sponsor of the Colorado River Storage Project. On July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson River flooded below Estes Park. The flash flood killed 143 people and caused over $35 million worth of damage. In 1988, Congress ratified the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement, which ensured the water rights of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes. The protection of Native American water rights stems from the 1908 Supreme Court case WINTERS v. UNITED STATES, which said that a tribe's water rights dated back to the establishment of a reservation and could not be lost through non-use. Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and the Department of the Interior began serious negotiations about implementing the Endangered Species Act along the Platte River in 1994. The process yielded a Cooperative Agreement in 1997, but conflicts, discussions, and compromises continued until 2006. In 2005, the Colorado legislature passed House Bill 05-1177, the "Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act." This created basin roundtables and an Interbasin Compact Committee, with the overall purpose of collaboratively resolving water supply challenges. The Colorado Ground Water Management Act of 1965 created the Ground Water Commission and designated ground water basins. This coordinated surface and ground water law administration under the Division of Water Resources. For more information, surf over to: Water Resources Archive (WRA), Suite 202 in Morgan Library, Colorado State University http://lib.colostate.edu/archives/water/ Colorado Water 2012
http://www.water2012.org/ Colorado Division of Water Resources http://water.state.co.us/
Colorado Water Conservation Board http://cwcb.state.co.us/ Hopefully this has "wet" your appetite for further exploration! Water history flows onward... Image Credits: CSU Water Resources Archive:
Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family
Groundwater Data Collection
David McComb Big Thompson Flood Collection
Ival V. Goslin Water Resources Collection
Papers of Arthur L. Littleworth
Digital Photographs of Bill Green
University Historic Photograph Collection, CSU
Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado Division of Water Resources
National Park Service
Daniel Dalet / www.d-maps.com
PRISM Group and Oregon Climate Service, Oregon State University
Pueblo Chieftain
www.lifeboat.com Water history is a combination of natural history, geography, social and political history – people, place, and climate – and the interactions between facets of each. ...fed mainly by mountain snowpack... Colorado Foundation for Water Education
http://www.cfwe.org/ Colorado Water Institute
http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/ Arkansas River Purgatoire River South Platte River Arikaree River Yampa River White River Colorado River Gunnison River Dolores River Animas River Rio Grande Piedra River Cimarron River Prezi created by A. E. Barkley, edited by P. J. Rettig
September 2012 Recurring Drought 1930s
early 1950s
late 1970s
early 2000s
early 2010s Prezi created by Patricia J. Rettig and Alan Barkley, Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University, September 2012 The Echo Park Dam controversy of the early 1950s pitted conservationist groups against western Congressional representatives. The dam was proposed as part of the Colorado River Storage Project, but was removed from the legislation before its passage in 1956.
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