Colorado River District Spotlights Projects Protecting West Slope Water

As part of its Annual Water Seminar, the District highlighted key water projects benefiting all West Slope water users  

The Colorado River District works across the West Slope to improve infrastructure and restore rivers as part of its work to protect water supplies for all stakeholders. 

At the District’s virtual Annual Water Seminar: Zooming in on West Slope Water on Tuesdayspeakers highlighted three projects that advance the District’s mission to protect western Colorado’s water security. 

The Elkhead Reservoir expansion near Hayden and Craig, completed in 2006, provides water for irrigators and the power industry while ensuring water is available to maintain river flow for endangered fish in the lower Yampa River, a supply heavily tapped this dry season. The District and its partner Tri-State Generation and Transmission also released water this year to alleviate exceptionally dry conditions and help ranchers finish irrigating their crops.

The Lower Gunnison Project near Montrose, Delta and Hotchkiss is a multi-benefit project spearheaded by the District. It modernizes irrigation delivery systemshelping agricultural water users minimize losses, stretch supplies and increase efficiencies. When combined with enhanced reservoir operations, the project increases agricultural production, enhances streamflow and increases water quality by reducing salt and selenium concentrations, thus improving river habitat. 

Finally, the District’s partners at Trout Unlimited and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District described the Windy Gap connectivity channel project in Grand County. The project, which is currently underfunded by $2.5 millionwill modify the existing Windy Gap Reservoir to re-create a Colorado River channel and floodplain nearby, improving fish habitat and boosting recreational opportunities. This project is possible due to the leadership of the River District and its partners in negotiating the Windy Gap Firming Project Inter-Governmental Agreement in 2011which included this and a number of other river enhancements. 

“These projects are really designed to not only address agricultural needs but to address a whole host of natural resource concerns, while at the same time firming up our overall water security on the Western Slope,” said Colorado River District Deputy Chief Engineer Dave Kanzer. “That’s really important.”   

“Understanding your West Slope water is critical to understanding why and what we have to do to protect it,” said Andy Mueller, General Manager of the Colorado River District. “We hope you’ll join us by watching our upcoming seminar webinars or tuning in to one we’ve already hosted.”  

A recording of this webinar, alongside the River District’s previous seminar webinar addressing the basics of Colorado later law, is available online at 

Two more webinars are planned as part of the Annual Seminar, which will focus on the impact of rising temperatures on Western Colorado’s water supplies and the results of a study that examines how spending patterns could change should a demand management program be implemented in Colorado. To register to see upcoming webinars, visit