"A Colorado City Has Been Battling for Decades to Use Its Own Water"

"Lawsuits, protests and fierce disputes over who controls water in the parched American West have held up a crucial pipeline."

"Jack Ethredge could see the future. It was 1985, and Mr. Ethredge, then the city manager of Thornton, Colo., understood that sooner or later, the Denver suburb would need more water.

The population was booming, businesses were flocking to the Mountain West, and Thornton had no major lakes or rivers of its own, nor any meaningful amount of groundwater to draw upon, a fluke of geology and geography. The city had drilled a dozen or so wells over the years, but the groundwater’s limited supply and high mineral content meant it wasn’t fit for drinking.

So at Mr. Ethredge’s behest, Thornton went shopping. The City Council bought about 17,000 acres of farmland 60 miles to the north, near Fort Collins, along with the associated water rights. When the time was right, Thornton would divert the water from the Cache la Poudre River that irrigated that farmland, put it in a pipeline and send it downstate."

David Gelles reports for the New York Times with photographs by Haiyun Jiang September 5, 2023.

Source: NYTimes, 09/07/2023