Revision of Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD) from November 30, 2006 - 4:13pm


Serving La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta County, San Juan, San Miguel, Dolores and parts of Montrose, Hinsdale and Mineral counties

SWWCD Map The Southwestern Water Conservation District was created by the State of Colorado legislature through House Bill #795 which was approved by the General Assembly on April 16, 1941. The purpose of the district is many fold. These include: surveying existing water resources and basin rivers, taking actions necessary to "secure and insure an adequate supply of water - present and future", constructing water reservoirs, entering into contracts with other water agencies (such as the Bureau of Reclamation), organizing special assessment districts (known as conservancy districts), providing for instream flows for fisheries and other legal responsibilities needed by the district to fulfill its purposes.

The SWCD Board of Directors is appointed by the county commissioners from each of the southwestern Colorado counties in the San Juan and Dolores river basins. There are currently eight members of the board and each serve a three-year term. This board oversees the district, sets budgets and determines the actions that the water district takes.

Throughout the history of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, a number of significant accomplishments have occurred. The water district has conducted a number of surveys of irrigable lands, domestic water needs and measurements of southwestern river flows. This information has been used to determine the necessary water needs for southwestern Colorado. As a result, several water storage reservoirs have been built to meet the water needs in this area of Colorado.

  • On the Florida River, Lemon Reservoir was completed in the 1960's to provide irrigation water for the Florida Mesa in La Plata County.
  • On the Mancos River, Jackson Gulch Reservoir provides irrigation and domestic water for the Mancos Valley area.
  • On the Dolores River, McPhee Reservoir provides irrigation and domestic water to the towns of Cortez, Dove Creek, the Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribe and large areas of irrigated lands.

McPhee Reservoir The district has worked closely with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in monitoring stream flows in the region. An accurate history of water flows and river depths provides water users and reservoir operators the necessary information to manage the stable water supply in the San Juan and Dolores river basins. In addition, a number of "Sno-Tel" snow measurement stations are in operation to determine the water content in the mountain snowpack. This information will assist water managers and users predicting summer runoff, irrigation water quantities and domestic water supplies. SWCD has assisted many southwestern Colorado communities in developing their domestic water resources.

The Southwestern Water Conservation District has been an advocate for water resource conservation and development both in the region and before the U.S. Congress. Since federal legislation and congressional appropriations have a significant impact on the water resources and their development in southwest Colorado, the water district has been a consistent voice for the interests of the counties, cities and residents that are within the district boundaries.

One of the purposes of the District is to organize special assessment districts (water conservancy districts) for the purposes of storing, managing and allocating water for various rivers in southwest Colorado. Examples of the conservancy districts that have been formed include the Mancos Water Conservancy District (Jackson Gulch Reservoir), the Dolores Water Conservancy District (McPhee Reservoir), and the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (Ridges Basin Reservoir). These conservancy districts secure funds, resources and operating expertise to manage the water resources within their specific river basins.

Other District supported projects have included water quality research in the Silverton area, assistance in funding a groundwater study for La Plata County, being an active participant in the 1988 Indian Water Rights Settlement agreement with the Colorado Ute Tribes and assisting in the San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program on the lower San Juan River.

The water district is funded through a 1/2 mill levy (property tax assessment for property owners) throughout the district on real property in the six counties and parts of three counties included in the Southwestern Water Conservation District. The budget is approved in a public meeting held by the district directors on an annual basis.

The District offices are located at 841 Second Avenue in Durango, Colorado.

For more information call the District offices at (303) 247-1302 or send an e-mail.