December 25, 2023 — It s been years in the making.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District and a coalition of Western Slope groups have agreed to purchase water rights from Xcel Energy for $99 million. The rights, dating back to 1902 and 1929, allow for up to 1 million acre feet of water annually to support the Shoshone Hydropower Plant.
Under the agreement, the coalition will allow continued power production by leasing the water back to Xcel Energy while maintaining the rights. This water is crucial not just for power but also for supporting endangered fish near Grand Junction, diluting pollutants for municipal water providers, and ensuring irrigation for agriculture. The diverse benefits range from environmental protection to sustaining the booming recreation economy.
The coalition, consisting of 19 government and water entities, now faces the task of raising nearly $99 million for the rights and transaction costs. The river district has committed $20 million for the project, with additional funding sought from state and federal sources.
The district aims to eventually convert the rights to instream flow rights to maintain water levels when the plant isn’t operating. This approach reflects the coalition’s commitment to a sustainable future for the Colorado River.
The northern edge of the western section of the southern branch of Grand Mesa. It is looking Northwest, towards Grand Junction, Colorado. This photo was taken on September 24, 2011 and is available under the Creative Commons License on Wikimedia.