By Sharon Udasin 

A sprawling water district that serves residents, ranchers and recreators on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains is preparing to invest a mammoth $98.5 million on a tiny hydropower plant in a bipartisan, multi-sectorial effort to help secure the Colorado River’s future.

In the coming weeks, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) is expected to sign into law a comprehensive water conservation bill that would include a $20 million state contribution through the Colorado Water Conservation Board to the overall purchase of the water rights associated with the Shoshone Generating Station.

This sum would cover a significant share of the total purchase and sale agreement signed in December by the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which represents 15 counties on the Western Slope, with the Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

The deal has earned vast support from voices that would not usually come together as a united front: the farmers, whitewater rafters and environmental advocates who may have diverse motivations, but whose efforts could safeguard the river for its 40 million users downstream.