Water in the West has been a complicated issue for more than 150 years; and modern Western water law began here in Greeley. To this day, water availability and security are at the forefront of the city’s future planning.
With continued drought and the effects of forest fires on our drinking water, finding inventive ways to save this precious resource has become a critical issue throughout the West. Greeley water officials are leading the way.
“Greeley is a place built upon ‘liquid gold,’ with water leaders who consistently pay it forward by ‘planning for others as they have planned for you,’” according to “Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water.”
Since 1958, the city’s Water and Sewer Board has taken its charge seriously to “build, maintain, operate and acquire additional water.” This independent board has made Greeley a statewide leader in water resource planning and management. One can easily see the results of those longstanding efforts that continue to this day, with the city’s numerous storage reservoirs, substantial water rights and commitment to conservation that have been built over a century.
That charge didn’t end with Greeley’s water pioneers. Today’s water leaders take that call seriously, making decisions for Greeley’s future, which in turn makes Greeley enviable for its robust and diverse water resources.
Terry Ranch is the most recent example of preparing for Greeley’s water future. Regional water supplies are finite, and with state demographer expectations that the city will double in size by 2065, securing enough water gets more challenging every year. The city’s previous plans to enlarge one of its reservoirs met with multiple permitting obstacles for 15 years without any guarantee it would ever happen.
Terry Ranch is a vast, underground pocket of water, sealed from outside pollutants and tributaries, of 1.2 million acre-feet of water. The city conducted nine months of testing to ensure the water is safe. The city can treat Terry Ranch water to meet the Greeley residents’ high standards and state and federal drinking water regulations. The plan is to use Terry Ranch water as future drought protection.
The Colorado Water Plan has identified aquifer storage and recovery as a critical source of future water storage. The benefits include storing treated water that will not be subject to evaporation or pollution by outside sources. The practice has been in use across the U.S., including in the Denver metro area, for decades.
As more people move to Colorado, drought conditions continue and water rights prices exponentially increase, it behooves all community leaders to prepare thoughtfully for the future. In Greeley, residents can count on their water leadership to do just that.