Glenwood Canyon river and train

By Bobbie Daniel and Scott McInnis

On Dec. 19, 2023, at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, a historic event took place that will define the future of Mesa County: Xcel Energy and the Colorado River District signed a purchase and sale agreement to transfer ownership of the Shoshone water rights to allow for the permanent protection of the most senior, non-consumptive water right on the Colorado River.

In an era where the unpredictability of Mother Nature is increasingly apparent, the Shoshone Hydropower Plant’s assurance of water flow and stability is an essential lifeline for many communities across the state, especially Mesa County. With a 1902 priority date, these water rights protect Mesa County, helping to ensure water security for current and future generations of water users. Growing populations, reduced streamflow, and aging infrastructure put pressure on the river. By adding in-stream flow as a beneficial use to the Shoshone water rights and ensuring ownership of that right is held by our communities, this deal will keep the river flowing well and flowing west.