Water Rights - Colorado-Big Thompson Project: Making Colorado Water Rights Work


Water rights in Colorado can at times be complex and often confusing. Colorado’s water rights are governed by the Prior Appropriations Doctrine – basically stating first in time, first in right. But water is sometimes scarce and that becomes even more complicated when you consider that the continental divide splits the flow of water along the mountain range. Some of the water rights on the Eastern slope are actually dependent on projects that bring water over from the Western Slope. One such project is the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.


The Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT) is overseen by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (www.ncwcd.org) and basically began back in 1884 when E.S. Nettleton surveyed whether a diversion project from the Western Slope to the Front Range would be possible. In September of 1937 the District Court of Weld County created the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to oversee the C-BT Project after President Roosevelt signed an appropriations bill giving $900,000 towards the construction of the C-BT Project. The project was built between 1938 and 1957, and it still actively supplies water to several water rights holders on the Front Range even today.


The C-BT Project is currently the largest transmountain water diversion project in the state of Colorado. According to the NCWCD, the water diverted from the Western Slope goes through twelve reservoirs, 700 miles of transmission lines, 95 miles of canals, 35 miles of tunnel, provides 30 cities/towns with supplemental water and helps irrigate approximately 693,000 acres of farmland. Without the CB-T project, many of the water rights delegated on the Eastern Slope along the front range might not be fulfilled.


The transfer of water from the Western Slope to the Easter Slope not only helps to fulfill water rights, the water flow helps to generate electricity as it passes through five power plants. Many Front Range recreational enthusiasts take advantage of the C-BT water as well, as it is the water that is distributed between Boulder Reservoir, Carter Lake, and Horsetooth Reservoir and is a part of the South Platte River Basin.


If you are interested in buying, selling, or renting water rights in the South Platte River Basin in Colorado, contact Water Colorado today to find out more. Water Colorado is a water rights brokerage based out of Fort Collins, Colorado that specializes in buying, selling, and renting water rights and general water rights information.


The information found in this article was gathered from the information supplied on the NCWCD website.