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'Historic' Colorado Water Agreement Reached

A new proposed water agreement aims to heal the long-standing wounds between one powerful Front Range water agency and its counterparts in western Colorado.

The so-called Colorado River Cooperative Agreement announced Thursday near Winter Park is still tentative.  But Denver Water has agreed to a number of concessions that may bring greater environmental protections to the already stressed Colorado River basin; including at Glenwood Canyon and the Dillon Reservoir. 

"The west slope’s interests were very simple, to preserve what makes western Colorado wonderful and unique and that’s the ecosystem and the Colorado River is the key to that," said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District.

In return, Denver Water will move ahead with plans to expand a reservoir above Boulder to increase reliability to its more than 1.3 million customers. 

"We have an obligation to the rest of Colorado, including our neighbors on the front range, on the west slope and the environment to develop manage and use our water supplies responsibly and act with integrity," said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water.

Under Colorado’s complex water laws, Denver Water is legally entitled to the Colorado River water without all of the concessions in the agreement, and that’s why this proposal is being hailed as so historic. 

Conservation and anglers groups hope the trend will take off among other powerful water utilities along the arid Front Range, especially as the Army Corps of Engineers considers two expansion projects proposed by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.