City Manager's Blog

Water Collaboration is Our Legacy

“To your tents gentlemen.  Guns and Ammo.”

Poudre River Near Greeley Winter PictureIt is said those were the words of the Union Colonists as they awoke one morning to notice that their ditch was dry.  Their belief was the neighbors to the northwest, in Fort Collins, were stealing their water.

We are fortunate that cooler heads prevailed and instead of bloodshed, ink was put to paper and Colorado Water Law, first in time – first in right, was created.  That same law governs today.  A very positive legacy for NoCo!! I would submit that this law demonstrates that the Poudre River flows on the power of relationships.  What appeared, initially to be toxic, ultimately became collaborative and the result is a blessing to many.

This collaboration has happened many times in water since that time.  The development of the Colorado Big Thompson Project (CBT) would be one such example.  When we collaborate.  When we co-create solutions to the challenges we jointly face the river flows properly.  When we compete, when we focus just on our own water needs, the river dries negatively impacting many. 

As we approach decision points on pipelines that will transport water to Thornton, I fear that the debate sounds too much like “To your tents gentlemen.  Guns and Ammo.”  When I listen to the dialogue concerning the NISP and Chimney Hollow Reservoir projects, I fear I hear some of that language as well.  The same tone has been heard as Greeley and Fort Collins plan for their water future in the proposed expansion of the Milton Seaman and Halligan Reservoirs. 

I would submit that water is NoCo’s most important piece of infrastructure.  We need it to support our collective municipal, agricultural, industrial, environmental and recreational interests.  If we compete the river runs dry.   If we collaborate, we can meet these collective interests.  Envision a water future that includes:

  1. Interconnected water infrastructure (treatment plants, pipes, ditches, reservoirs) to enhance reliability, improve emergency responses, create economies of scale and foster more opportunities to share resources; and
  2. Municipalities buy and dry of their own unsustainable urban landscapes and install native landscapes.  The water saved is used to sustain agriculture that not only feeds the region and the world but also serves as community separators and open space; and
  3. Utility providers and water conservation district’s coordinate to protect and preserve flows along the entire stretch of the Poudre River all the way to the confluence with the South Platte (Note: NoCo communities, along with Thornton, just signed phase two of a River Flows agreement to achieve this goal)

In conclusion, I’d like to amend my prior statement that water is the most important piece of NoCo’s infrastructure. WE are.  It’s about people.  As we collaborate, we become a Civic Infrastructure that is more than capable of using water wisely.  I ask you to consider, what our legacy is going to be?  Are we going to use verbal guns and ammo or will we take steps of relational excellence together and leave another blessing to current and future residents? I hope that you will join me in choosing collaboration and that you might have other ideas of what a collaborative water future holds for NoCo.


Roy H. Otto, City Manager

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