Water Rights Visibility


Present and illuminate the structure and commitments of the water rights on  segments of the Boulder Creek watershed.

(Content under Development)

campaign Context

There can be no confusion that any and all future protection and preservation programs for watersheds in the Western United States will depend upon a clear understanding of and proactive management of the water rights under the prior appropriation doctrine.

The over allocation of the Colorado river and the potential for a compact call under the 1922 Colorado River Compact is the most obvious issue.  A looming drought and contention among the compact participants (Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico) will soon present both the opportunity and the obligation to redefine our strategy and methods for managing a limited resource.

The foundation for the compact was based on an assumption that the average flow of the river was 16,400,000 acre feet per year.  That assumption was based on flows between 1905 and 1922, which in hindsight may have be abnormally wet years.  Current analysis suggests that the long term average flow my be nearer to 14,000,000 acre feet per year.  The original flawed assumption, combined with increasing population and emerging environmental demands is creating an intractable over allocation situation.  When the crisis occurs traditional doctrines and management techniques will not be able to come to a consensus resolution.


Closer to home there is a ‘whisper observation’ that South Boulder Creek may be the most over allocated waterway in the state of Colorado.  The issues of assumed baseline flow, conflicting water rights demands, looming droughts, increased population and large scale engineering efforts such as the Moffat Expansion project present a small version of the Colorado River challenges.

While  the creek may be hydrologically small and geographically constrained it is obvious that there are significant and conflicting urban, agricultural, recreational and environmental demands.   As the local stewards, advocates and waterkeepers in this watershed we have a vested interest in understanding and size, scope, interactions, history and intentions of all the water right holders for the creek.

information availablity

Boulder Waterkeeper is beginning an campaign to bring visibility and illumination to the aggregate set of water rights demands on South Boulder Creek.  The historical body of rights are well documented and publicly available at the Colorado Information Marketplace.



technical opportunity

Providing illumination and making the aggregate impact of all the water rights in a watershed is an essential (but not sufficient) first step towards understanding the challenges and identifying solutions to what may seem to be an insurmountable problem.

Boulder Waterkeeper is in the very early stages of attempting to build a ‘big data’ ‘visualization’ capability that will allow all the stakeholders and concerned individuals view and understand the total picture of the water rights allocations of South Boulder Creek.


Contact Boulder Waterkeeper at boulderwaterkeeper@gmail.com to offer advice, opinions or volunteer to work the campaign.