Permanently protecting flows in the Upper Colorado River Basin

MISSION:

The Shoshone Water Right Preservation Coalition & Campaign represents a diverse group of stakeholders working toward permanent protection of the historic Shoshone Water Right – the largest and most senior non-consumptive water right on the Colorado River. Commanding up to 1.02 million acre-feet of water per year, preserving Shoshone flows in perpetuity is a generational investment in Colorado’s water security with myriad benefits upstream and downstream for Colorado’s environment, economy, communities, and water users across the state.

Shoshone Water Right Preservation is the durable solution Colorado needs to ensure future generations thrive in a hotter, drier future.

SHOSHONE WATER RIGHT PRESERVATION: A UNIFYING COALITION FOR COLORADO

In December 2023, the Colorado River District and Xcel Energy finalized a historic Purchase & Sale Agreement (PSA) for the water right tied to hydroelectric power production at the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon. The $98.5 million agreement is a fundamental first step toward permanent protection of the most senior (1902), non-consumptive water right on the upper Colorado River – one that commands critical flows both upstream and downstream of the hydroelectric plant.

This effort has a long history of interest and support. For more than 20 years, the Colorado River District and 19 other western Colorado governments and water entities have been working together to find a way to permanently preserve the Shoshone flows.

The Shoshone Water Right Preservation Coalition is an inclusive, transparent, and diverse group of stakeholders committed to permanent protection of Shoshone’s essential flows and the upstream and downstream benefits the flows provide to all Colorado citizens. Permanently protecting these flows means Colorado’s communities and businesses receive decisive water security while preserving key environmental, recreational, and economic benefits for water users upstream, downstream, and across the state.

ECOLOGICAL BENEFITS

The Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant will remain in service, producing 15 megawatts of renewable electricity for about 15,000 customers, and continuing Xcel Energy’s leading efforts in clean energy production. After leaving the hydro plant and returning to the river, Shoshone flows provide critical ecological benefits for all Coloradans in the face of ongoing drought and uncertain future water supplies:

ECONOMIC BENEFITS

Preserving the instream flow of the Shoshone water right is a permanent and priceless investment in the health and vitality of the Colorado River and all who depend on it. The State’s robust recreational economy relies heavily on the Colorado River mainstem. Commercial river outfitters, farmers, ranchers, and recreationists rely on these flows to keep Colorado’s foundational economies afloat.

1 2019 Business for Water Stewardship Report (https://businessforwater.org/co-rivers-key-to-economy); Total economic output calculated with the multiplier effect. 

2 From the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, 2019.