Northern Water History

The seed for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District was planted during the 1930s, when Colorado was suffering through the Great Depression and a devastating drought. Entire fields of topsoil were literally blowing away, and one-third of the farms in Larimer County were put up for sale.

In the summer of 1933, the Greeley Chamber of Commerce organized the Grand Lake Committee to pursue surveying and funding a water diversion project that would become the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

The committee was the predecessor to the Northern Colorado Water Users Association, which formed in 1935 and proposed the C-BT Project to supply water to Northeastern Colorado farmers.

The NCWUA was comprised of civic leaders who recognized the need for “Big Tom,” as the C-BT was called. The project would divert water from the Colorado River headwaters west of the Continental Divide to Northeastern Colorado.

Legal Groundwork Set for Northern Water
In May, 1937, after months of discussion, the Colorado Legislature passed the Water Conservancy Act, laying the groundwork to create the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District the same year.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project construction took nearly two decades. It was completed in 1957.

Agricultural and Year-Round Water Supplies
When Northern Water was created in September, 1937, its main purpose was to provide supplemental irrigation water to Northeastern Colorado farmers.

Today, Northern Water also provides supplemental water year-round to Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Longmont, Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette, Broomfield, many smaller communities, rural and domestic water districts and local industries.

Signing the C-BT repayment contract
Northern Water and Reclamation signed the C-BT repayment contract in 1938. 

For a year-by-year historical account of the C-BT, see the Northern Water Timeline. 

For a more detailed history and photos of the C-BT Project and Northern Water, download the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and Northern Water brochure. 

Northern Water’s online videos have detailed historical accounts of Northern Water and the C-BT Project.