The Integrated Water Management Plan

is a locally-driven problem-solving process that addresses the increasing likelihood of water scarcity and works for water security for all uses on the western slope.

Beginning in the summer of 2018, the Middle Colorado Watershed Council and Mt. Sopris, Bookcliff and South Side Conservation Districts have stepped up on behalf of the communities in the Middle Colorado River Watershed to spearhead development of the Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP).  The fully stated goal of the IWMP is to to improve security for all water uses in the Middle Colorado River by understanding and protecting existing uses, meeting shortages, and maintaining healthy riverine ecosystems in the face of increased future demand and climate uncertainty. Water users, water rights holders, community members and vested stakeholders, like you, are invited to join in developing the plan. 

Local input will be critical in defining water needs, constraints and issues, and opportunities for optimizing land and water management within the watershed. We need your input through completion of the short surveys below!

Consider the positive impact of your involvement -- and here’s how to get involved

  • Be part of a locally-driven, collaborative process that identifies the collective water needs of our communities in the middle Colorado River, from Glenwood to De Beque.

  • Learn about the unique water needs of different interests in our watershed, including agriculture, municipal, industrial, environment and recreation.

  • Participate in problem-solving discussions to protect our local water resources – sustaining what we have now knowing that we must learn to do more with less as our region becomes more arid while water demands increase.

  • Help craft projects and processes that lead to water security for as many interests as possible.

  • Assist in developing a water management plan that positions our region for receiving future grants and loans for real world implementation.

Meet the Technical Team of Consultants working on the Project by reading HERE.

Wendy Ryan, Colorado River Engineering - Rifle, CO

Seth Mason, Lotic Hydrological - Carbondale, CO

Mark Beardsley, EcoMetrics - Buena Vista, CO

Quinn Donnelly, River Restoration - Basalt, CO

AJ Keith, Stillwater Sciences - Boulder, CO

Scott Schreiber, Wright Water Engineers - Glenwood Springs, CO


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Values, needs, and expectations associated with rivers and water use are expanding as economies and demographics in the Middle Colorado River evolve. The Middle Colorado River and its tributaries support the communities of Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle, Parachute/Battlement Mesa, and De Beque. Each of these communities rely on Colorado River water in a variety of ways. Integrated planning offers the opportunity for our communities and their various economic sectors to come together to identify the collective water needs necessary to continue to improve and grow. Some of the issues we face and intend to evaluate include:

  • Population growth. Garfield County (which encompasses most of the watershed) population was recently estimated at roughly 60,000 people. The County is expected to surpass 80,000 people somewhere between 2025 and 2030, and top 100,000 people between 2035 and 2040 according to a growth forecast from the State Demographers Office. More people demand more water.

  • Aridification. This term describes a period of transition to an increasingly water scarce environment that may becoming the new normal condition for our region. Future predictions spell out temperature‐induced runoff declines of 35% or more by the end of the century. Locally, we need to figure out efficiencies and how to do more with less water.

  • Colorado River interstate agreements. Water use in Colorado is ultimately governed by two interstate agreements on the Colorado River. Colorado is allocated a certain amount of use and if it fails to uphold its obligations under the agreements to other states, water use could be curtailed. The two agreements are the Colorado River Compact of 1922 and the Upper Colorado River Compact of 1948.

  • Agricultural water shortages and aging infrastructure. The south side of the Colorado River faces chronic shortages in available water to irrigate crops and raise livestock. As water becomes more scarce, the agricultural water gap is extending to all regions of the Middle Colorado River. In a time of reduced available water, plant water needs are increasing due to rising temperatures.

  • Impaired waterways. Native fish populations are on the decline in the watershed due to habitat and flow limitations. Waterways are becoming dominated by non-native, invasive vegetation that drive out the native vegetation preferred by wildlife. Water quality issues have been identified in various locations but require further study into pollutant sources and remediation solutions.

  • Demands for recreational uses. As our local communities are undergoing economic diversification, all appear to be turning to the stream and river corridors as prime opportunities for recreational development. Sufficient flows at key times of year along with environmentally-sensitive developed river access will be in demand as this sector of use increases.

  • Public lands. Beetle kill, forest fires, access roads and aridification are intersecting to impact the quality of the watershed.

Please take five minutes to fill out this survey and give your important input in to the plan.

An overview of the middle Colorado River watershed and its Conservation Districts.

An overview of the middle Colorado River watershed and its Conservation Districts.