Evolution of transmountain water diversions in Colorado

D.K. Thaemert, Andrea H Faucett

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Trans-basin water diversions exist all along Colorado's Front Range, constructed to provide increased reliability of water supplies. Subsequent experience with
water yields has pointed out the advantages of trans-basin diversions both in firm yields and in the ability to repeatedly utilize imported water to exhaustion.
Four river systems (Rio Grande, Arkansas, Platte, and Colorado) originate within
Colorado. The first three of these rivers receive trans-basin diversion water from
the Colorado River basin, with some diversions between adjacent pairs of those
basins. Front Range urbanization has been facilitated by the availability of large,
reliable water supplies from trans-basin diversions. The relative ease of change-of-use, coupled with the ability to use supplies to exhaustion, have made transbasin diversion projects prime targets for land developers in search of water
supplies. Virtually all of the existing trans-basin projects have seen shifts of first-use yields from commodity-based industries to municipal water supplies. These
shifts have been accompanied by changes in seasonal usage patterns, and
increases in unit value of the water resource, thus favoring further investment in
trans-basin diversion infrastructure to improve both reliability and ease of
operation. Future trends would indicate increased conversion of trans-basin diversions to municipal supply as first use. Further water wars can also be expected as new projects are sought to respond to Front Range municipal thirst. Any improvements to existing projects would likely further physically stabilize the
source environment and improve operational characteristics. New proposals for
trans-basin diversions will face substantial challenges from compact restrictions
and environmental concerns in basins of origin. The net result will be growing
economic pressures for change of use and physical improvements to existing
trans-basin diversions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2001
Event2001 USCID Water Management Conference: Transbasin Water Transfers - Denver, United States
Duration: 27 Jun 200130 Jun 2001


Conference2001 USCID Water Management Conference
Abbreviated titleUSCID 2001 WMC
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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