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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.

All in a Day's Work: Water commissioners

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

The Yampa's First Lady

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

Water Underground: Optimizing use of an unseen resource

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

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

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

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

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

Compacts Resources

Guide to Interstate Compacts explore how our water-sharing compact agreements were first created, how they succeed and fail, and how they have fostered enduring relationships among bordering states. Read or purchase the Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Interstate Compacts.

2ndeditioncoversmallCompact Articles Over time WEco has published a variety of articles on different compacts. Browse the selected articles below to learn more about:

Water History Resources

Guide to Colorado's Water Heritage Explore how water shaped Colorado history, culture and identity. Read the water heritage guide.

water heritage guide

Guide to Colorado's Environmental Era Continue the journey through time to explore more recent years and see how the environmental movement has shaped Colorado's culture, communities and landscapes. Read, download, or purchase the environmental era guide.

Join Water Education Colorado

Become a Member or Make a Donation

Support for Water Education Colorado is tax-deductible and provides numerous benefits, including discounts on publications and event registrations. Your membership supports development of new publications, outreach efforts across the state, and critical operational needs.

CO River Report & Webinar


On April 14, CFWE, in partnership with CoBank, hosted a webinar "Managing the Colorado River in the 21st Century." Access a recording of the webinar here or download a PDF of the presentations here.


A report on the Colorado River Basin released in partnership between CFWE and CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division is available to read and download here

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