A New Way of Doing Water Business: The Rio Grande Cooperative Project

By Christi Bode

So common and so fierce is the push-and-pull over water rights, it is the way residents define their communities and their relationship to the rest of the West. There have always been winners and losers; now that water scarcity is the new reality, collaboration is key in finding innovative ways to conduct water business that benefits all. Water for wildlife, for agriculture, for municipalities is too important to lose.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a major water rights holder in the San Luis Valley, and the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, owning the Rio Grande Reservoir, determined that their water could be shared more effectively for mutual benefit. Moving water around effectively in the upper Rio Grande has always been a complex exercise, especially during critical low-flow periods combined with dam safety issues. The Rio Grande Cooperative Project has been pivotal in repairing, restoring and sustaining the basin in a time where water storage is more critical than ever. This private-public partnership shows a spirit of flexibility and shared sacrifice. With the support of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the General Assembly, these coordinated efforts are possible through the repair of two critical reservoirs that optimizes the yield of basin water resources. It is creating secure storage and timely releases of water, which is essential to meeting diverse water right holdings in the basin as well as fulfilling compact obligations.

These stories reflect a rising tide of collaborative efforts in communities all over Colorado, as it takes big ideas to sustain us into the future. Here, their story is illustrated with the intent to inspire more meaningful and united action.


Rio Grande Cooperative Project from Christi Bode on Vimeo.


Christi Bode, photo credit: Dave Neligh Photography www.nelighphoto.com

Christi Bode, Denver-based film producer and photographer, finds her favorite stories in the some of the most unsuspecting places. From editorial assignments involving unicyclists on Independence Pass to documentary work in the headwaters of the Rio Grande, Bode is inspired by how people are shaped by their surrounding environment. Part documentarian, part producer – a contrast that lends her work a sharp point of view with an approachable feel full of context and story.

Christi always enjoys a good drive to the Middle of Nowhere that tends to evolve into Absolutely Somewhere. 

email:christi@moxiecranmedia.com website:www.moxiecranmedia.com IG: @christi_b

Read more about the Rio Grande Cooperative Project as well as other efforts and issues in the basin in the Headwaters magazine issue, Valley with a View. And find Christi’s previous blog posts:

From Runoff to Peak Flows: The Rio Grande
Then There’s the Water: The Rio Grande Basin

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