Perceptions of Water Export in Colorado’s San Luis Valley

Cloe will be spending the summer in Alamosa, Colorado, where she is conducting independently-led research on the San Luis Valley’s response to past and ongoing attempts to export water out of the region. The San Luis Valley is a high alpine desert in southern Colorado known for its long and enduring agricultural tradition and as a top national producer of potatoes. Receiving an average rainfall of only 7 inches per year, irrigation from the underlying aquifer is critical to the San Luis Valley’s agricultural sector and the broader regional economy. Since the 1980s, a handful of individuals and companies have bought water-adjacent properties and/or tried to buy water rights from local farmers and ranchers, often with the intention of sending water to Colorado’s fast-growing urban and suburban areas. To date, no water is currently sent to the Front Range, which is largely attributed to the sustained resistance of San Luis Valley residents and the collaboration of diverse interest groups dedicated to keeping water in rural communities and working lands across the upper Rio Grande Basin. In the wake of a 2018 proposal to export 24,000 acre-feet of water to Douglas County in the Denver metropolitan area, Cloe will be talking with farmers, ranchers, conservationists, receationists, community leaders, and elected officials about why they are once again coming together to protect San Luis Valley water against export to the Front Range.




Cloe Dickson, Western Resource Fellow|Cloe is a Master of Environmental Science candidate at the Yale School of the Environment. She earned her BA in Environmental Studies and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2019. She is broadly interested in water politics of the North American Southwest, with a specific focus on rural-to-urban water transport throughout the region. As a Western Resources Fellow, her independently-led research looks at the ongoing efforts to keep water on working lands in rural Colorado’s San Luis Valley, which will consist of interviews with farmers, ranchers, and community members who have been fighting against water export to the urban and suburban Front Range for decades. Prior to graduate school, she served in AmeriCorps as a Youth Development Coordinator at Alpine Achievers Initiative, where she supported students in southern Colorado schools. In her free time, you can find her somewhere outside, ideally bagging another 4,000-foot peak in New England, where she grew up. Blog