Bound by the River: Working to Keep Western Slope water on the West Slope


On Colorado’s Western Slope, water is
everything. From high atop the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Valley and beyond, these waters have shaped our history. They form the backbone of our rural economies, and they have sustained generations of hard-working families. Since 1937 the
Colorado River District has safeguarded Western Slope water for agriculture, for
recreation, for industry and for the environment We were formed 82 years ago to give
voice and protection to the needs of the river and the people and the communities
that depend on it. We run a cow-calf operation for the
ranch, and we supplement our income through running a fly-fishing guided
outfitter. The water is what matters to all of us, and what we all need. The river
is in a tug-of-war state between consumptive use and non-consumptive
needs for irrigation diversion projects associated with agriculture. We need cool
clean water. Trout fishermen downstream need cool clean water. The River
District acts as an intermediary between all of those needs. The river is
what binds us all whether you’re a rancher in Moffat County or a boater in
Summit County, you depend upon the Colorado River and getting people to
recognize their common interest and the leverage we have when we speak with one
voice is what the Colorado River District does. People just don’t realize how valuable the River District is. By bringing us
together we all of a sudden understood this was our River and what was good for
one of us was good for both of us. It’s an opportunity that the West Slope has
to have a strong voice, and if the people of the West Slope don’t recognize that
the Colorado River and all its tributaries that we love and that
brought us here is going to go away too. we’re either in it together or we’re
going down one at a time. You take the environmental needs for the
river and you realize what’s important for the environment – those same exact
things are important for ag. They’re important for industry, and they’re very important for recreation. 10% of our gross domestic product is
outdoor recreation. People that like to paddle on rivers also like to eat
Palisade peaches and live here. Tthe River District is doing a great job changing
the framework to be one of collaboration on the West Slope water is the lifeblood
of this community our water and our ability to serve agricultural producers
and industrial consumers, the municipalities – we all depend on having
water in the river and no one wants to see a dry river. Without water – you take
that out of the picture – you have nothing. Without the River District the West
Slope would be a very different place we’d have less water in our rivers. We’d
have less agriculture, less of an economic engine that is recreation. I
can’t survive as an ag business if I don’t have my water. The role of the
River District is to work with entities around our basin in a cohesive way to
accomplish the local goals as well as the western Colorado goals, as far as
protecting our natural resource and making sure that water is used correctly. The River District has managed over the
years to fight the Front Range and the trans-mountain diverters. We’re able to
bring a voice to the table and present that united front that is so
important in keeping water in our rivers flowing westward The next generation is here. my
grandsons are growing up here. We’ve got to make sure that they have the same
chance that my daughter did who is now here, and that I had from my dad. The whole West Slope to me is a natural resource based economy, and water is
number one in that natural resource. How do we manage that so that the next
generation has the same joy that we have? For more than 80 years one entity has
been working to keep West Slope water on the Western Slope. These are
your rivers. This is your water, and this is your Colorado River district

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