Colorado State University Water Resources Archive Digitizes More Than 43,000 Water History Documents

Over 100 years of Colorado water history — more than 43,000 pages of primary source materials related to water use in the state — are now freely available online.

The Colorado State University Water Resources Archive recently scanned, digitized and posted the items that include reports, images, oral histories and data, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). This is the fourth such grant from the CWCB to the archive.

The unique project took just under a year to complete and added material from 15 previously undigitized collections and 24 total collections to the archive’s online offerings. Scanned materials relate to today’s water issues, and include groundwater research and administration, snow hydrology, agricultural water use, the 1976 Big Thompson flood and early water leaders. Digitization also preserved more than 200 rare glass-plate images of Colorado and several thousand slides of dams and waterways in the western United States.

Searchable free access

Patrons can browse documents or find specific items with simple keyword searches on the archive’s website, Online access to archival materials is intended to aid those who want to educate themselves about water but who don’t have the time or money to travel to Fort Collins to view these historic documents.

Some highlights from the recently digitized materials include 41 oral history interviews from survivors and emergency responders of the Big Thompson flood, USGS Civil Engineer Robert Glover’s diaries from 1923 to 1984, and data and reports from Colorado’s portion of the six-state High Plains-Ogallala Aquifer study conducted between 1979 and 1981. Those interested in Colorado history will also find 79 images of farms, towns and mountains in the 1890s from the Delph Carpenter collection particularly fascinating.

The Water Resources Archive, part of the University Libraries, is Colorado’s only repository dedicated specifically to preserving the history of water in the state and the American West. Most of the documents in the archive are unique and unavailable elsewhere. Holdings, contained in nearly 2,000 boxes, cover more than a century of water history and provide access to the studies, debates and legislative deals that have shaped Colorado’s water legacy.

For more information,contact Patricia J. Rettig at the Water Resources Archive,Colorado State University Morgan Library, or (970) 491-1939.