Text Size

Site Search

Alt. Water Transfers

Cover HW Fall 2017

Water sharing and banking, coined "alternative transfer methods" or ATMs, could provide flexibility for stretched water supplies —but not without marked challenges. Read the Fall 2017 issue of Headwaters magazine and explore options to:

  • keep water in farming
  • help municipalities plan ahead
  • share between ag and environmental uses
  • bank water on the Colorado River

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Colorado river that could become the state's second wild and scenic protect river—Deep Creek:

Deep Creek 5 web

Water Education Colorado

Colorado's Newest Water Storage Project is Taking Shape

Animas-La Plata is Colorado's most recent federally-funded water storage project. In fact, ALP's Ridges Basin Dam, now under construction just south of Durango, is the only dam in the nation the Bureau of Reclamation is currently building ‘from the ground up.’

It took more than 30 difficult years to finalize ALP. The complicated timeline and bitter legal fights littering the project's history look remarkably like a maze—with plenty of false endings and wrong turns. A lot was at stake here: endangered fish, Indian tribal water rights, tie-ins to the Colorado River system (one of the most heavily used and politically-charged river basins in the world), local economic development, water quality concerns, and the list goes on.

The resulting scaled-down project began construction in 2002. Devoted primarily to tribal and municipal/industrial water use—with no water for agricultural irrigation—it reflects the divergent needs of the beneficiaries involved and the stakeholders concerned.

Then and Now

In 1968, Congress first authorized ALP under the Colorado River Storage Project Act. Original plans envisioned a massive project that would include multiple reservoirs, miles of canals and laterals, and huge pumping stations. A significant portion of the project was for agricultural irrigation: diverting water from the Animas River (with flows averaging 720,000 acre-feet annually) and moving some of that water to the drier La Plata River Valley to the west (with flows averaging 30,000 acre-feet annually), which is predominated by dry land farming.

The ALP project under construction today includes a 120,000 acre-foot Ridges Basin Reservoir and Ridges Basin Dam, Durango Pumping Plant to lift water from the Animas River through a 2.1-mile conduit up to the reservoir, and development of an almost 29-mile pipeline to supply municipal water to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

Water will be pumped from the Animas River, stored in the reservoir, and released via a series of drop structures back into the river for downstream deliveries to tribal and urban areas around the San Juan Basin in Colorado and New Mexico. Stored water may also be conveyed via pipeline to rural areas west of Durango; however funding for these structures is not part of the project. More than half the water is designated for use by two Colorado Indian tribes, the Ute Mountain Ute, and the Southern Utes. How they will use their water remains to be decided.

Social Media

Stay in touch and connect through:

FB-fLogo-Blue-broadcast-2 Twitter Logo White On Blue instagram    

Sign Up for our e-newsletter

learn more3learn more

 And view the latest issue of Headwaters Pulse, Water Education Colorado's monthly e-newsletter, here.


Click the icons below for videos about climate change, ranching and more; or audio from Water Education Colorado's Connecting the Drops radio series.

filmicon   headphonesicon

Your Water Colorado Blog

1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218