Aug 18, 2012 2:33 PM by Matt Stafford

Celebrating 50 years of bringing water to southern Colorado

The debate over distribution of water flowing from the Rocky Mountains is one that probably won't end anytime soon.

Five decades ago this week President John Kennedy was in Pueblo to sign off on a new project for the water flowing down the Arkansas River.

Today people are celebrating 50 years of that plan, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It's a water diversion system that directs the flow from higher elevations in the Rocky Mountains to go through hydro-electric systems, fill Pueblo Reservoir, and then distribute through southern Colorado communities. Right now the Fryingpan-Arkansas is where more than 700 thousand people in southern Colorado get their water, and it irrigates more that 260 thousand acres.

At Saturday's 50 year celebration current political leaders spoke of the vision that the region's leaders at the time had when formulating the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

"We are the beneficiary of their vision," explains Bill Long; president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. "Today it's our responsibility to look to the future and to provide the same sort of opportunities that those folks did for us. Our children and grandchildren of the Lower Arkansas Valley absolutely will benefit from the Arkansas Valley Conduit."

That conduit system is still being worked out. It's being designed to get water to more communities in southeastern Colorado. Right now they're in the process of doing environmental studies. Organizers hope to have a decision on the project in the next year. It could cost more than 300 million dollars, and the goal is to finish it in the next ten years.


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