Southwestern Water Conservation District



841 East Second Avenue
Durango, CO 81301
(970) 247-1302
send an e-mail


The Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD or District) was created by the State of Colorado legislature through House Bill #795 which was approved by the General Assembly on April 16, 1941. The District serves the southwest Colorado counties of Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan, and San Miguel, as well as portions of Hinsdale, Mineral, and Montrose. The District is funded through a mill levy on real property.

Throughout the history of the SWCD, a number of significant accomplishments have occurred. The District has conducted a number of surveys of irrigable lands, domestic water needs and measurements of southwestern river flows. This information has been used to determine the necessary water needs for southwestern Colorado. As a result, several water storage reservoirs have been built to meet the water needs in southwest Colorado:

  • On the Dolores River, McPhee Reservoir was built in the 1980s to provide irrigation and domestic water to the towns of Cortez, Dove Creek, the Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribe and large areas of irrigated lands.
  • On the Florida River, Lemon Reservoir was completed in the 1960s to provide irrigation water for the Florida Mesa in La Plata County.
  • On the Mancos River, Jackson Gulch Reservoir was built in the 1940s to provide irrigation and domestic water for the Mancos Valley area.

    Other District supported projects have included water quality research in the Silverton area, the weather modification program, funding assistance for a groundwater study for La Plata County, active participation in the 1988 Indian Water Rights Settlement agreement with the Colorado Ute Tribes, and support for the San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program on the lower San Juan River. The District assisted in the establishment of the La Plata West Water Authority and the River Protection Workgroups.

    McPhee Reservoir The District has worked closely with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in monitoring stream flows in the region. An accurate history of water flows and river depths provides water users and reservoir operators with the necessary information to manage the water supply in the San Juan and Dolores river basins. In addition, a number of "Sno-Tel" snow measurement stations are in operation to determine the water content in the mountain snowpack. This information will assist water managers and users predicting summer runoff, irrigation water quantities and domestic water supplies. SWCD has assisted many southwestern Colorado communities in developing their domestic water resources.

    The SWCD has been an advocate for water resource conservation and development both in the region and before the U.S. Congress. Since federal legislation and congressional appropriations have a significant impact on the water resources and their development in southwest Colorado, the District has been a consistent voice for the interests of the counties, cities and residents that are within the District boundaries.


    The purpose of the District is manyfold and includes surveying existing water resources and basin rivers, taking actions necessary to "secure and insure an adequate supply of water--present and future, constructing water reservoirs, entering into contracts with other water agencies, organizing special assessment districts (known as conservancy districts), providing for instream flows for fisheries, and other legal responsibilities needed by the District to fulfill its purposes.


    The SWCD Board of Directors is appointed by the county commissioners from each of the southwestern Colorado counties in the San Juan and Dolores river basins. There are currently nine members of the Board and each serves a three-year term. This Board oversees the District, sets budgets and determines the actions that the water district takes. The Board of Directors, their positions, and the counties they represent are:

  • John Porter, President, Montezuma County 
  • Stephen Fearn, Vice-President, San Juan County 
  • Bob Wolff, Secretary/Treasurer, La Plata County
  • J.R. Ford, Director, Archuleta County
  • Preston Goetzke, Director, Hinsdale County
  • Rusty Hinger, Director, Mineral County
  • Fred Kroeger, Emeritus, La Plata County
  • Monte Naslund, Director, Montrose County
  • Jenny Russell, Director, San Miguel County
  • Doug Stowe, Director, Dolores County
  • John Taylor, Emeritus, Hinsdale County

    Southwestern Water Conservation District