AW Intervenes in Colorado River Water Rights Case

posted June 13, 2014
by Nathan Fey

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Glenwood Springs, Colorado -

The Colorado River flows through scenic Glenwood Canyon and the City of Glenwood Springs, and provides some of the best whitewater boating opportunities in the State of Colorado, including the first man-made whitewater feature spanning the Colorado.  The river and the recreation opportunities it provides is central to the local tourism economy.  Upstream fo Glenwood Springs,  the Colorado River is diverted to Denver and Colorado's east-slope cities and farms, and future projects threaten to take even more water out of the river.

To protect streamflows, the City of Glenwood Springs filed a water rights application for recreational use (a Recreational In-Channel Diversion or RICD) with the Division 5 Water Court on December 31, 2013. The Application seeks boating flows between April 1st and September 30th of each year - the presumptive RICD season under Colorado Law § 37-92-103(10.3). 

Specifically, Glenwood's application seeks:

 -at least 1,250 c.f.s. from April 1- September 30,

- 2,500 c.f.s. from April 30th through July 23rd,

- “event” flows of 4,000 c.f.s. for up to five days each year, between April 30th and July 23rd.  

In order to secure the water right,  the Application includes three structures that will be placed with intent to efficiently control river flow in its natural channel - similar to the world-class wave in West Glenwood (pictured). The first two structures, Horseshoe Bend and No Name, are located approximately one and three miles, respectively, upstream of Glenwood in the Canyon.  The third structure, Two Rivers, is located in Glenwood immediately above the confluence of the Colorado River with the Roaring Fork River.

Numerous agencies filed statements of opposition with the court, including major Front Range water utilities (Denver Water, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities).  Each of these Front Range entities diverts water out of the Colorado River Basin upstream of the proposed RICD.  Although the RICD would not interfere with these utilities’ decreed water right, the RICD could limit the ability of these entities to change or exchange their water rights in the Colorado River Basin. In addition, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, Inc., Grand County, the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the Town of Gypsum, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, the United States Department of the Interior, the Ute Water Conservancy District, and West Divide Water Conservancy District are challenging the  Recreational In-Channel Diversion water right application sought by the City of Glenwood Springs.

American Whitewater filed a motion to interevene in support of the City's application on April 30, 2015.  We are supporting this important RICD application in water court as part of our campaign to protect healthy flows for one of the West’s most special waterways. Our objective is to secure court approval of some or all of the City of Glenwood Springs proposed recreational water right.  Prior to AW's involvement, the case lacked a conservation or recreational boating party.  Because the City is accountable to its diverse constituencies, potentially including the interests of water diverters, our involvement seeks to influence the City to not enter into a compromise that is detrimental to boating opportunities in the Colorado River.  We are ensuring that the courts recognize recreational water rights as equal to any other water rights within Colorado's water rights priority system.

Western Resource Advocates is representing American Whitewater in the case.  This joint intevention sends a strong statement to the court and to the opposing parties that whitewater boaters care about this application and the state’s recreational water rights system.

Colorado Stewardship Director
Nathan Fey
1601 Longs Peak Ave.
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-859-8601


Associated Projects

  • Gore Canyon Whitewater Park (CO)
    AW is working with Grand County, CO to establish a new whitewater park on the Upper Colorado River. We have worked to identify the best location, and build support for the proposed project.
  • Upper Colorado River (CO)
    American Whitewater is working with various stakeholders to develop a resource management plan for the BLM, as an alternative to "Wild and Scenic River" management.

Associated Rivers

Colorado [CO]
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Associated Gauges

Disclaimer Data Sources

Colorado-04. State Bridge to Burns (AW#44066)

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Colorado-05. Burns to Dotsero (AW#44070)

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Colorado-05. Burns to Dotsero (AW#44070)

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