Papers of Water Legend and Rancher, W.D. Farr, Donated to Colorado State University Water Archive

Note to Editors: Reporters are invited to attend the Water Tables event from 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. The historic announcement and remarks by Dick Farr will begin at 5:30 p.m. Dick Farr, Patty Rettig, and Dan Tyler will all be in attendance at the event to answer interview questions as will other members of the water community involved with W.D. Farr.

Colorado State University Libraries will announce today that the papers of a water legend, the late W.D. Farr, will be donated to the CSU Water Resources Archive. The announcement will be made this evening (Feb. 9) at the annual Water Tables fundraiser at Morgan Library.  

Home to more than 40 collections of individuals and organizations, the archive preserves, organizes and makes available primary resource materials that document the history of water resource development throughout Colorado and the West. As a collection of the Water Resource Archive, the Farr materials, which document Farr’s remarkable contributions to water and agriculture, will be available to researchers, industry professionals, historians, students and residents.

"W.D. Farr is one of the true giants in Colorado history-and in the history of the modern American West," said Colorado State University President Larry Edward Penley. "Given CSU’s role as the center for research on water issues and resources in our state, it seems fitting that we would provide a home for this remarkable collection. We are deeply honored that the Farr papers will now be a permanent part of our Library’s Water Resources Archive, and we are proud that the legacy of W.D. Farr as a visionary and leader will be preserved for study by future generations."

Known to many as Mr. Water, Farr, a Greeley native, was a key figure in the development of water resources and agriculture in Northern Colorado. In the 1930s, Farr worked with his father lobbying for support of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which would bring water from the head of the Colorado River across the Continental Divide and to the Front Range. The project, completed in 1947, provided an important economic stimulus as a vibrant Front Range sprung up throughout Northeastern Colorado and helped Weld County to become one of the highest-yield agricultural areas in the United States. Today, the Big Thompson Project brings water to 30 municipalities and eastern Colorado farms.

Farr served on the Board of Directors for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Greeley Water Board for 40 years. In the 1970s, he served on President Nixon’s Environmental Protection Agency, then a 12-member commission charged with protecting and cleaning the nation’s water. During his three-year appointment, he helped clean up the Great Lakes and fill them with fish after massive dumping of chemicals by Midwest manufacturers.

Farr also contributed greatly to agriculture throughout the West. As president of the National Cattlemen’s Association in the 1970s, Farr regularly testified before Congress to give voice to many Western cattlemen’s concerns about increased government regulation. He also was instrumental in developing modern cattle feeding techniques with fellow ranchers in Greeley during their "regular T-bone steak dinners," as the group called their meetings.

Farr died in August last year. He is survived by his four sons and their families. Historian and CSU emeritus faculty member Dan Tyler, who is working on a book about W.D. Farr’s life, his contributions to Western water and agriculture, and his significance as a community and national leader, recognized immediately that Farr’s materials would make an essential addition to CSU’s Water Archive and its ability to tell the story of Western water through primary source materials.

"To study the life of W.D. Farr is to understand leadership in the 20th century," Tyler notes. "Extraordinary leadership is what made Farr so successful in his endeavors."

With Tyler’s encouragement, the Farr family has decided to donate the Farr papers to the Water Resources Archive at CSU so that researchers, historians, students and residents will have access to the work of this remarkable man long into the future. The collection includes papers and photographs related to all aspects of Farr’s life and work in water, agriculture and banking. (He served as chairman of the Greeley National Bank after following his father and grandfather into the banking business.)

"Colorado is where water law originated, and the Big-Thompson (Project) was a huge part of that," says Dick Farr, W.D. Farr’s son. "Dad would be thrilled to have his papers at CSU. This (CSU) is the heart of everything. It’s where Northern (Colorado Water Conservancy District) is located and where engineers are trained. I can see that his papers will be well taken care of and well used at the Water Archive."

Housed in CSU’s Morgan Library, Farr’s papers will join the archival collections of fellow water greats such as Delph Carpenter, father of the Colorado Compact, and Ralph Parshall, inventor of the Parshall Flume, a key water measurement device.

After receiving the Farr materials, the archive will begin processing the collection, organizing its contents and creating an online search program of the items. The archive hopes to make the Farr materials available for public use in 2009.

Albert Yates, former CSU President, considered Farr a friend and mentor and described him as a "quintessential scholar."

"I’ve combed a great number of documents over the years," Yates said in a 2007 Denver Post interview. "None were more impressive than those that were written by W.D. Farr."