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In this issue of Headwaters, Water Education Colorado explores water administration in Colorado. In a water-scarce environment, enforcing the law of "first in time, first in right" can get sticky. The men (and women!) who allocate Colorado's most precious resource work long days to make sure it gets done properly, dealing with changing technology, angry water rights owners and environmental protection along the way. Read featured articles below, or view the magazine online here.


Summer 2009 Web Extras!!

Scott Hummer

 View photos and listen to Water Commissioners Brent Schantz and Scott Hummer describe their work.

Story by Jerd Smith | Photos by Kevin Moloney

Early on a bright April morning winter still sits lightly on Silverthorne, Colorado. A white jacket of snow covers the Continental Divide and solid ice blankets Lake Dillon, Denver Water's largest water storage reservoir. Beneath the stillness of the ice, water, as always, is moving into the mouth of the Roberts Tunnel, destined to travel 60-some miles down the east side of the Front Range to 1.2 million Denver Water customers.

Read more: All in a Day's Work: Water commissioners

By Jerd Smith

Erin Light oversees the remote, lush Yampa River Basin, one of the last places in the American West where almost anyone can take water without a water right. Because of increasing use, however, the river is slowly being integrated into the state's regulatory system, and Light, the first and only female division engineer in the state, is charged with bringing the wild-charging Yampa in line.

Read more: The Yampa's First Lady

By Joshua Zaffos | Photo by Kevin Moloney

Growing up on his family's ranch along the Rio Grande River near Alamosa, Ken Knox got an early education in the contentious field of groundwater use. The San Luis Valley is a high-altitude desert that averages just 7 inches of precipitation a year, so every drop of water—from the sky or the ground—is precious. Knox recalls neighbors fighting over rights to one-quarter of a cubic foot per second of water, equal to about 180 acre feet per year. The argument landed in court, and by the time it was resolved, the only way the families could pay off their legal bills was to sell their land.

Read more: Water Underground: Optimizing use of an unseen resource

By Jerd Smith

In 1881, Colorado's first State Engineer, Eugene Stimson, rode 30 miles each way on horseback between the Big Thompson River and the Cache La Poudre checking gauges he had set in the rivers. He carried a tent and a portable drafting table.

Read more: A Stream of En-Gaugement: Water measurement's ongoing evolution

By George Sibley

‘It's a work in progress.’

That's how water commissioner Richard Rozman describes Colorado's ongoing efforts to fit a river's instream flow rights into a legal system originally designed to govern the removal of water from rivers.

Read more: Right to Remain: Non-consumptive water rights pose a worthwhile administrative challenge

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