Bob Carlson

Bob Carlson

Water Commissioner for District 6

In 1980 as a graduate student in Montana, Bob got into the water field when he was hired to help document the first adjudication of Montana's water rights. (They have a lot more water up there. Colorado's first adjudication was in 1882!) He learned about water on the job, moved to Colorado 2 years later, and worked briefly as Water Commissioner on the Grand Mesa, before coming to Boulder and taking the District 6 Water Commissioner job which he has had for 20 years.

"My job is to quantify the water resource as to time, place and amount, and to administer the water resource based on the prior appropriation doctrine," says Bob. The job is 7-days-a-week during irrigation season, and involves checking stream gauges and inflow to reservoirs, calculating who is in and out of priority, turning ditches on and off, and tweaking headgates to get the right amount of water to the right people. "Your schedule becomes the river's schedule," says Bob. "If it rains, you can't take the weekend off, because the river is changing and you have to make changes to your entire system."

Bob works on his computer at least an hour a day, enters data and makes charts of what he thinks is happening, and then ground-checks all the readings to see if it is actually happening that way. "Because of return flows to the creek, a drop of water in Boulder Creek can be used up to 5 times before it hits the St. Vrain River," says Bob. He publishes an annual diversion record each year, documenting water use in District 6. This report is used in court for water transfer cases and in basin-wide analyses.

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