Thornton has plenty of water — it’s just in the wrong place. And that’s a very Colorado story.

As drought and unbridled population expansion stretch state water demand beyond the supply, Thornton’s plan-ahead vision is blocked at every turn.

Michael Booth
The Colorado Sun
A view of Water Storage and Supply Company Reservoir #3 north of Fort Collins. About 80% of the water falls in the Western Slope while 80% of the state population live on the eastern side of the Continental Divide relying on the water.
Valerie Mosley/Special to the Colorado Sun

TED’S PLACE — Thornton needs water. Developers are scrapping homebuilding projects out of fears that the city can’t guarantee them a water tap in the next few years. Thornton has water.

It’s waiting here at a headgate where the Cache la Poudre’s pristine high Rockies snowmelt is siphoned off into a farm ditch and reservoir network, 70 miles north of Thornton in western Larimer County. Thornton secretly started buying the water off farmland far from home in 1986, and now owns about 19,000 acres — and the accompanying water shares — across Larimer and Weld counties.

Thornton needs a way to get its priceless water.

Weld County is fine with 50 miles of pipeline to convey the good stuff south toward the Denver suburbs.

Asked by Thornton to host the first six miles of that pipeline, Larimer County is a “no.” Sue them? Thornton tried. Hard “no.”

Put your water down the Poudre River, some helpful environmental groups are telling Thornton. Colorado has been draining and abusing the Poudre for more than a century, they point out. The river could use a revival, they say, and at the other end, Thornton gets its water.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.