August, 2020

05aug12:00 pm1:15 pmWater With Your Lunch: The Calls that Command the Colorado River


Event Details

In the fight over Colorado River water molecules, water rights dictate which direction some of the river flows: west on its natural route from the Continental Divide, or east through tunnels to the Front Range.

The next program in the Colorado River District’s “Water With Your Lunch” Zoom webinar series will explore the importance of Shoshone and the Roller Dam to all West Slope water users. Join us from noon to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5. Panelists for the discussion include Andy Mueller, general manager for the Colorado River District; Mark Harris, manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association in Grand Junction, operators of the Roller Dam; Faye Hartman, Conservation Director, Colorado River Basin Program at American Rivers and Jim Pokrandt, community affairs director of the Colorado River District.

On the main stem of the Colorado, the most heavily diverted of the river’s basins, two historic structures have much to say about providing water security for Western Colorado. One is the Shoshone Hydropower Plant in Glenwood Canyon. The other is the Grand Valley Diversion Dam in Debeque Canyon, sometimes known as the Roller Dam for its engineering design.

You can register for the seminar at If you’re busy during the live event, register anyway to receive a recording that can be viewed at your leisure.

The Shoshone Hydropower Plant holds the oldest, major water right on the mainstem of the river, 1,250 cubic feet a second dated 1902. It is a nonconsumptive water right, meaning the flows into the power plant continue downstream after they spin the plant’s turbines. When river flows ebb after the spring runoff, Shoshone contributes the majority of the Colorado River’s water in Glenwood Canyon. In turn, those flows provide for year-round recreational opportunities and the economic benefits that come with them, on the mainstem of Colorado.

The Roller Dam is where most of a suite of old water rights called the “Cameo call,” are diverted. Some are as old as the late 1800s, some from the early 1900s. Some of this call is diverted farther downstream at the Grand Valley Irrigation Co. intake at Palisade. Much of this water today serves both the abundant agriculture in the Grand Valley, but also municipal use for outdoor lawn irrigation as neighborhoods have been built on top of farmland.

While both structures divert water for modern use, these flows benefit the entire stretch of the river from the headwaters to the Grand Valley. Along the way, the extra water molecules serve wildlife, the ecosystem, recreation and municipal water plants. The more the molecules in each case, the better that resource is.

In each case, both structures command the river, pulling water downstream that might otherwise be diverted to the Front Range through transmountain diversion tunnels. Shoshone and Cameo water rights are filled before these diversions under the prior appropriation system. When either or both rights are calling, junior diverters have to cease or replace the water they take out of priority, keeping our West Slope water flowing east to west.


(Wednesday) 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm MST


Virtually with Zoom


Colorado River District970-945-8522 201 Centennial Drive, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Contact Us

We want to hear from you!

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search