Colorado Water History

A guide to finding and using historical information about water in Colorado and beyond


Colorado is the Headwaters State. Four major rivers begin in its Rocky Mountains: the Colorado, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas, and the Platte. Because all of these flow out of Colorado to other equally arid states, competition for this limited supply occurs both within the state and across its borders.

The development and use of water, and the politics and law that accompany it--not to mention people and organizations with diverse needs that use it--have created a complex history. That history touches on agriculture, engineering, wildlife, recreation, and much more.

Researching Colorado's complex water history can be daunting! The resources presented in this guide will help you navigate water history from Colorado's headwaters to the state's borders--and beyond.

This guide is brought to you by the Water Resources Archive, the best place in the state to begin learning about the history of Colorado's most precious resource.

What's New at the Water Resources Archive

March 2024 - New finding aid: Department of Earth Resources Collection

March 2024 - CSU's The Audit podcast (episode 20) on "The Story of Water"

February 2024 - New issue: Preserving the Source e-newsletter

January 2024 - Updated finding aid: Records of Wright Water Engineers

November 2023 - H2O Talk podcast (season 2, episode 10) features "The Water Archivist"

Historical Highlight

Statement of Prucius Putnam

In 1917 at age 74, Prucius W. Putnam recollected his earlier days in the South Platte Watershed. Such statements were collected by Colorado water lawyer Delph Carpenter and led to the South Platte Compact of 1923.

Find more images and historical information in the Water Resources Archive.

Your Archivist

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Patricia Rettig
Archives & Special Collections
Morgan Library
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1019
Subjects: Water

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