Upstream view of the river from the cement walkway

By Elise Schmelzer

A small hydroelectric power plant on the banks of the Colorado River has inspired a unique coalition in a state where water scarcity and politics often pit environmentalists, growers and recreationists against each other.

Yet those groups recently set aside their competing interests in western Colorado, banding together to safeguard the water rights tied to the squat brown building tucked just off Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. It still generates power, but its true value has been in the water that flows through it — which just might be the key to the river’s future.

The Shoshone Power Plant is connected to the oldest major water right on the drying and overused Colorado River, which means the plant gets first dibs on water to send through its system when there isn’t enough to go around.