Being the sixth populous area of Colorado one would imagine that the city of Thornton would have access to an abundance of water. They do, but unfortunately the water supply is located 70 miles north from the city in western Larimer County. This is due to the city back in the 1980s secretly buying water from farmlands further away crossing Larimer, Adams, and Weld counties. This vast distance is another factor that has contributed to the issue of water scarcity throughout Colorado that has worsened in recent years alongside increased drought conditions brought by the climate crisis.
According to in-depth reporting from the Colorado Sun, 80 percent of Colorado residents live east of the Continental Divide, while 80 percent of the water is on the west side. Environmentalists have suggested transporting water via the Cache la Poudre River but Thornton officials claim that the process would be too expensive as it would cost the city $1 billion to build a treatment plant and pipelines through the river to ensure there is clean water for residents. There is one pipeline project that has operated for years now making progress to bring back water across county lines to Thornton.
Thornton Water Project is the name of the pipeline project that operates with the goal to deliver a clean, safe and reliable drinking supply to the Thornton community preferably by 2025 but certainly before and beyond 2050. According to the website, the project’s goal serves two purposes for the city; improve the overall quality of water and meet community needs, and provide additional water to enhance the reliability of supplies to meet the demands of existing and future water customers. The website also provides information for Larimer and Weld county, general information about the project, its budget, major vendors & land purchases, and progress updates on construction of the pipeline.
According to a news update on the project, construction in Weld County will proceed as originally planned and designed. However, it has been stalled since Larimer County officials have not allowed any construction on the project within its boundaries. As of right now, officials on the project are reaching out to collaborate with stakeholders in Larimer County to find a solution that results in the continuation of the pipeline construction. While Thornton eagerly waits for new developments and hopes for the completion of the pipeline in the near future, the city has engaged in water conservation efforts which has apparently resulted in it having one of the lowest per-person water usage rates in Colorado.