Colorado Water History

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

Colorado Groundwater: Topic Breakdown

Measuring groundwaterGroundwater is unseen yet has had a more significant role in Colorado history than most suspect. From agriculture and industry to public supply and domestic use, groundwater has helped support growth in the most arid regions of the state.

Though its use was once largely unregulated, groundwater supplies were gradually subsumed under the state's Prior Appropriation Doctrine over the course of the twentieth century. Today, Colorado's over-appropriated surface water resources and rapid population growth have caused water managers to turn their attention to groundwater as a way to meet the state's future water storage and supply needs.

On this page, find information about books and archival collections documenting Colorado groundwater history, along with a list of related organizations.

Photo: Measuring water, undated. From the Groundwater Data Collection.

Colorado Groundwater: Best Books

Citizen's Guide to Colorado Groundwater by Peter Barkmann et al. (2020)

Colorado Groundwater Atlas by Peter Barkmann et al. (2020)

Colorado Groundwater: Relevant Collections

Papers of Morton W. Bittinger
As a civil engineering professor at CSU from 1957 to 1967, Morton W. Bittinger (1927-2001) was in charge of groundwater research. The collection features articles concerning developments in groundwater analysis, management, and technology.

Records of the Colorado Water Resources Research Institute
The Colorado Water Resources Research Institute (now the Colorado Water Institute) was created in 1965 on the CSU campus to oversee water research in the state and disseminate information to citizens. The collection includes numerous project files and reports covering groundwater research efforts conducted by the Institute and related entities.

Federal Land Bank of Wichita Collection
The Federal Land Bank of Wichita was created, along with twelve other banks, by the United States government to provide long-term credit to farmers by the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 in response to the unique credit needs of farmers. The collection contains reports and maps on groundwater used to supply irrigated agriculture.

Records of GASP
The Groundwater Appropriators of the South Platte River Basin, Inc. (GASP) was a non-profit well-augmentation company, the first organization of its kind in Colorado. Founded in 1972, its purpose was to offset depletions to the South Platte River caused by pumping of the South Platte valley-fill aquifer. The collection features records of the organization's operations and membership as well as reports, maps, and graphs regarding groundwater use in the South Platte Valley.

Papers of Robert E. Glover
A civil engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and CSU, Robert Glover (1896-1984) conducted significant research on concrete cooling, dam construction, groundwater flow, and more. He developed many mathematical equations applicable to groundwater flow analysis, including the formula bearing his name. His collection includes his studies and analysis of groundwater hydraulics and his work on groundwater problems in Colorado.

Groundwater Data Collection
CSU's strength in groundwater research evolved naturally from the state's early residents needing information on irrigated agriculture. The collection is comprised of data, maps, charts, drafts, correspondence, photographs, reports, and reference materials that were produced by or collected for these groundwater studies over the years.

Irrigation Research Papers
In 1911, the Irrigation Investigations Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture was established in Fort Collins in conjunction with Colorado Agricultural College (now CSU). Scientists within the unit, including Ralph Parshall, Carl Rohwer, Victor M. Cone, and William E. Code, conducted irrigation-related research. Documents in the collection include groundwater research and reports.

Papers of Arthur L. Littleworth
California lawyer Arthur L. Littleworth (b.1923) served as Special Master on the Kansas v. Colorado case from 1987 until its conclusion in 2009. Littleworth wrote five reports during the course of the case, and this collection documents the case in its entirety, through trial transcripts, exhibits, pleadings, and more. Due to the nature of the case, most aspects of the Arkansas River and some of its reservoirs and tributaries are covered, including streamflow, groundwater wells, and the Arkansas River Compact.

Papers of Frank Milenski
Frank Milenski (1913-1998) was a farmer and irrigator in Colorado's Arkansas River Valley. He served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (1959-1966) and was on the board of directors of both the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Catlin Canal Company for several decades. Documents in the collection related to groundwater include legislation, articles, and studies, with a focus on the Arkansas River Valley.

Water Oral Histories Collection
This collection contains a variety of oral histories, including with Colorado groundwater experts Robert Longenbaugh, David Robbins, and Mike Shimmin.

Records of Wright Water Engineers, Inc.
A Colorado-based water resources consulting firm, Wright Water Engineers has undertaken projects concerning agricultural and irrigation engineering, water rights, and more. Their groundwater work can be found in several of the projects in the collection, primarily focused in the South Platte and Arkansas basins. Materials include data and studies.

Your Archivist

Patricia Rettig's picture
Patricia Rettig
Archives & Special Collections
Morgan Library
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1019

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