Celebrating Greeley Water’s Legacy of Responsible Planning, Innovation, and Service

Charles Hansen and WD Farr, water pioneers in Greeley, said, “Look ahead and plan for others as others have planned for you.” To this day, Greeley Water lives by this mantra.

Greeley’s rich water history can be traced back to the Union Colony utopian vision in which trades and businesspeople all lived and owned farmlands adjacent to the city. Because Greeley was part of what Stephen Long called “The Great American Desert,” the settlers had to develop an irrigation plan to water its crops. The No. 3 irrigation ditch was built in 1870, beginning at the Cache La Poudre River and emptying into the Platte River. Community members built the 13-mile ditch using pickaxes and shovels, and by plowing with horses, oxen, and mules. The first decreed ditch in the U.S., the No. 3 ditch sparked the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation based on the principle, “first in time has the first rights,” which is still in place today.

About 35 miles northwest of town in Bellvue, right on the Poudre River, was a farm that held a very senior right. In 1904, Greeley bought this farm and established a water supply for the city for the next 40 years. Just three years later, Greeley built a diversion off the Poudre River above Fort Collins. The city constructed a slow sand filter plant and thirty-six miles of wooden pipeline to bring water to the City of Greeley.

Throughout the early 1900’s—through the Depression and Dust Bowl—Greeley invested in water storage, building the Barnes Meadow Reservoir in 1921, the Seaman Dam and Reservoir in the 1940s, and 11 high-mountain water supply structures in the Poudre Basin in 1947. This focus on planning for future generations continues today with the investment in 1.2 million acre-feet of groundwater in an underground aquifer called Terry Ranch. Greeley also invested in the Chimney Hollow reservoir, a pivotal resource for sustaining Greeley’s way of life for future residents.

Greeley’s water history mirrors the progress and innovation of the entire city. Through water, we understand the stories of the individuals who built and cared for this city from the very beginning.

To learn more about Greeley water, register for the all-day Water & Sewer bus tour on Friday, August 5. The team will take you behind the scenes to see the facilities and complex equipment responsible for treating and moving water throughout the city. Plus, you’ll see construction progress at the Boyd Lake water treatment plant and Chimney Hollow Reservoir. Reserve your spot today at