Welcome to SWCD

The Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD) was created by the State of Colorado to protect, conserve, use and develop the water resources of the Southwestern basin for the welfare of the District, and to safeguard for Colorado all waters of the basin to which the state is entitled.  It is one of four Conservation Districts in the state.  Read More About Us Here!

What is the Colorado Water Plan?

In May 2013, Governor Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop Colorado’s Water Plan. Based on eight years of dialogue among local water leaders around the state (members of the Basin Roundtables), the plan is being designed to address statewide concerns about growing demands for our water supply, while still upholding Colorado values. The first draft of the plan was presented to the Governor on December 10, 2014, with the final version due to the Governor in late 2015.

To review the draft plan and submit your own comments for consideration, please visit the Colorado Water Plan website–>click on “Get Involved”–>click on “Submit General Input Form.”

For recent activity around the plan, download the September 2014 Water Plan Update.

For background about the plan, download this Colorado Water Plan Fact Sheet.

Colorado’s Water Plan: the Southwest Perspective

Southwest Colorado has a somewhat unique water situation, with the presence of two sovereign nations (the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe) and Colorado River interstate compact deliveries to New Mexico.

In cooperation with the Southwest Basins Roundtable, SWCD has produced a document of guiding principles to use in development of the state water plan: Southwest Colorado Statement of Importance. See also a factsheet on just the Southwest Colorado portion of the plan.

Click here to listen to a recent interview with Southwest Basins Roundtable Chairperson Mike Preston to get a local perspective on the state water plan. You can also read about the August hearing in the Durango Herald, at which members of the public gave their feedback on the plan.

SWCD Executive Director Bruce Whitehead published an op-ed in the Durango Herald inviting members of the community to participate actively in the local Roundtables and the statewide planning process because, as he puts it, “water is not only a life-giving resource, it is a way of life” in Colorado.

SWCD and River District Jointly Adopt Principles for Addressing Colorado River Drought Conditions

The two Water Conservation Districts that comprise the entire Colorado River basin in Colorado adopted implementation principles concerning how the current, extended drought conditions are addressed on the Colorado River’s storage system.

The Colorado River and Southwestern Water Conservation Districts met in a special joint meeting on September 18 in Montrose to address the ongoing drought conditions in the Colorado River basin and its effect on storage and operations of Lakes Powell and Mead. The two boards unanimously adopted a recommended priority for a contigency plan in response to extraordinarily low reservoir levels (click here to read more).

2015 Legislative Session

The 2015 Legislative Sesssion has not yet begun, but discussions around proposed legislation have. SWCD provides regular updates on water-related legislation, the first of which is below:

Interim Legislative Update #1 10-10-14

To review SWCD’s 2014 summaries on water-related legislation, click here.

Public Trust Initiatives

What is the Public Trust Doctrine?  Simply put, the public trust doctrine is the principle that certain resources are preserved for public use, and that the government is required to preserve them for the public’s reasonable use.  Sounds good on the surface, but what would the actual consequences be if the measures were passed?  As a scarce natural resource, Colorado’s water relies on a system of allocation, called prior appropriation, which has successfully allocated the State’s water for nearly 150 years.  Public Trust initiatives would overturn this system, and result in dramatic reallocation of public and private, human and financial resources.

All water interests in Colorado should become educated about the adverse impacts to our current water rights system and to the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation should public trust ballot initiatives succeed.

Go to the Colorado Water Congress website at www.cowaterstewardship.com for more information on public trust initiatives.

Interested in Small Scale Hydropower?

If you are interested in developing small hydro in southwestern Colorado, particularly ditch drops and pressurized irrigation (including center pivots) hydro projects, please visit the Colorado Small Hydropower Association website. At the workshop held in Durango on May 19, it was clear there are many agricultural hydropower opportunities in southwestern Colorado, thanks in part to new federal and state incentives. In 2013, federal small hydro permitting reform legislation became law, dramatically simplifying federal approval for small hydro.

View Presentations from the 2014 Weather Modification Workshop

If you missed the 2014 Weather Modification Workshop on May 15, you can view the presentations given by regional and local experts here.

19th Annual Children’s Water Festival the Biggest Yet!

More than 900 fifth grader attended this year’s Children’s Water Festival, an educational day orgainzed by the Water Information Program and sponsored by SWCD. The event–made possible by more than 100 volunteers–was held at Ft. Lewis College on May 7. Click here to see photos!

Miss out on the 32nd Annual Water Seminar?

Not to worry. Our speakers have generously agreed to share their slides. Click here to view the presentations given this year.

SWCD Board Meetings

All meetings are open to the public. Regular Board of Director Meetings are in February, April, June, August, October, and December.  In addition to regular board meetings, the Board meets via teleconference every other week during the Colorado Legislative Year (mid January – mid May) to review water-related legislation.

For a meeting schedule, click here.


Southwestern Water Conservation District actively supports water-related projects and programs throughout the District’s nine counties. Ongoing support is given to organizations whose work greatly impacts our water resources.  For information on our programs and funding opportunities, please click here.


Looking for information on local and state water resources?  Visit our Resource section for useful links.

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