Not your average pledge drive: A revival on the river

Denver Water and Greenway Foundation team up to provide more water for fishing, farmers and fun on the South Platte.

By Steve Snyder

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead announces a pledge drive for storage space in the Chatfield environmental pool at a Greenway Foundation event.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead announces a pledge drive to add storage space in the Chatfield environmental pool at The Greenway Foundation’s Reception on the River event.

Denver, Colorado: the city by the river.

OK, nobody has ever actually said that. Denver isn’t known as “a river town,” like some other U.S. cities.

But Denver does have a storied history with one river in particular — the South Platte River. After all, it’s where the city was founded. Since then, the South Platte has been an important water source, a unique recreational amenity and occasionally, a devastating force of nature.

But the South Platte also has had its share of environmental and water quality challenges. So when Denver Water saw an opportunity to improve the overall environment of the river, particularly through the Denver Metro area, we jumped at the chance.

“Having a healthy, vibrant river running through our city offers so many benefits,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “It helps the environment, encourages recreation and ultimately supports agricultural interests downstream. We all benefit from a healthy South Platte River.”

That’s the goal of an agreement between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. As part of the mitigation portion of the Chatfield Reallocation Project — a project allowing the flood-control reservoir to store additional water supply — the two agencies will create an environmental pool of water at Chatfield, to increase the South Platte’s flows through Metro Denver.

They have designated 1,600 acre-feet of reservoir storage for the pool, but there is room for more. And Denver Water wants to make that pool even bigger, in a partnership with The Greenway Foundation.

“We’re doing a pledge drive of sorts,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager at Denver Water. “We have committed nearly $2 million to purchase 250 acre-feet of storage space in Chatfield — if The Greenway Foundation can raise the funds necessary to match that amount.

“If the fundraising is successful, it would create an additional 500 acre-feet of storage in the environmental pool to benefit the South Platte flows,” he added.

The South Platte River running through Confluence Park in Denver.

The South Platte River running through Confluence Park in Denver.

The additional acre-feet would provide three major benefits:

  • Water released through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s fish hatchery at Chatfield Reservoir would help grow fish for stocking purposes.
  • Timing of releases would increase river flows, benefitting fish and recreation.
  • Water would eventually be reused by agriculture downstream of Denver.

“This is a unique opportunity to secure water to benefit the South Platte River in our city,” said Lochhead. “This opportunity won’t come again, so we need others to join our efforts.”

The price for purchasing an acre-foot of storage in the environmental pool is $7,500. Interested parties should visit the Greenway Foundation’s website.

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