1930's: Dust Bowl Drought


1930's: Dust Bowl Drought

In Colorado, a big drought like the 1930's Dust Bowl Drought is usually followed by many water construction projects. Farmers and cities try to find more reliable sources of water, so they will be ready for the next time.But in the 1930's, the "easy" work, the projects which local resources could fund, had already been built. East Slope water was already fully developed.

The nearest unclaimed water was west, over the Continental Divide on the Colorado River. There was lots of water there. The problem was getting it across the Divide.

Right, clockwise from the top left:

Delph Carpenter's copy of the Colorado River Compact. The Colorado River Compact of 1922 gave our state rights to 25% of the entire flow of the Colorado River. Delph Carpenter, a Greeley water lawyer, is called "The Father of Interstate River Compacts". He conceived, promoted and completed seven interstate water compacts, including this first. Courtesy of Colorado State University Water Resources Archive, Fort Collins CO.

Top right: Fraction of Colorado in Drought from 1890 to 2007.  In the 1930's, severe drought hit Colorado again. Many farmers gave up and stopped trying to raise crops. Graph courtesy of Colorado Climate Center.

Bottom right: Construction of the Moffat Tunnel.  Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO) had tried to build the Moffat Tunnel and bring West Slope water through the divide in 1909, but the project was beyond their financial abilities. They went bankrupt. Bringing water through the divide requires great expertise and deep pockets. In 1928, Denver built the three Moffat tunnels for $15.6 million and 28 deaths. Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History Collection, #Z-50.

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