Revision of Southwestern Water Conservation District from December 1, 2006 - 3:05pm


841 Second Avenue
POB 475
Durango, CO  81302
(970) 247-1302
(970) 259-8423 [Fax]

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The Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD or District) SWWCD Map was created by the State of Colorado legislature through House Bill #795 which was approved by the General Assembly on April 16, 1941. The District serves the southwest Colorado counties of Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan, and San Miguel, as well as portions of Hinsdale, Mineral, and Montrose. The District is funded through a mill levy on real property.

Throughout the history of the SWCD, a number of significant accomplishments have occurred. The 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 southwest 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 was built in the 1940's to provide irrigation and domestic water for the Mancos Valley area.
  • On the Dolores River, McPhee Reservoir was built in the 1980's to provide 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 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 SWCD 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 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. Conservancy districts that have been formed include the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District (Ridges Basin Reservoir), Dolores Water Conservancy District (McPhee Reservoir), Mancos Water Conservancy District (Jackson Gulch Reservoir), and the San Juan Water Conservancy District. 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 purpose of the Dstrict is many fold and includes 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, 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 serves a three-year term. This Board oversees the District, sets budgets and determines the actions that the water district takes.