The Rueter–Hess Reservoir, also known as the Rueter–Hess Dam and Reservoir, is a major water management project for the Parker Water and Sanitation District [PWSD]. PWSD provides services for most of Parker and parts of Lone Tree, Castle Pines and unincorporated Douglas County, Colorado. Originally an enterprise of Parker Colorado, PWSD is now an unaffiliated special District. It is located in an area called Newlin Gulch about three miles (5 km) southwest of Parker.
The project is intended to enable less reliance on groundwater and to help survive the lean years of drought. As of 2005, it was one of only two major water management projects in the American West. Ground was broken for the 17,000 acre feet project 2004. The entire project was expected to be completed in late 2007 at a cost of over $120 million. After initial construction was nearly complete, expansion of the project to 72,000 acre feet was approved as other water districts joined the project. Final completion was in 2012 at a total cost of around $170 million.
Rueter–Hess Reservoir is an off-stream reservoir which will rely on surface water from nearby Cherry Creek, Newlin Gulch, and return flows from PWSD and other water districts. The reservoir is planned to minimize draws of deep groundwater or bedrock aquifer from the Denver Basin that are not renewable.
History of the project
The origins of the Rueter–Hess project began over 20 years ago, long before the town of Parker became the vibrant suburban-Denver community that it is today. The owner of the project is Parker Water and Sanitation District (PWSD). PWSD was formed in 1962 and incorporated in 1981 at a time when the population of Parker was 285. As the town grew, slowly at first, the need for water was recognized. March 20, 1985 marks the date when a water right was legally conveyed to PWSD to divert Cherry Creek water. It is this decree that would eventually permit PWSD to divert surface waters and alluvial groundwater from Cherry Creek to the Rueter–Hess Reservoir.
Other locations had been considered for the reservoir and dam prior to a final determination. By December, 1991 after further water studies, PWSD determined, "...that the Castlewood Canyon site [south of Parker] was the most favorable location for upstream water storage and, therefore, the two additional sites were dropped from the Water Court application. Therefore, PWSD continued with plans for building the dam and 600-acre (2.4 km2) reservoir at Castlewood Canyon State Park (Ciruli and Associates, 1999)." The reservoir "would flood much of the state park and the cattle operations on historic ranches nearby (McKibben, 1991)."
But a legal battle ensued. In early 1993, PWSD and the town of Parker became involved as plaintiffs in a civil court action to appropriate the state land comprising the Castlewood Canyon State Park needed for the dam and reservoir. The town and PWSD had petitioned to condemn certain property owned by the state in order to determine the feasibility of recreation and a water storage project on the state park land. The District Court of Douglas County had found for the state dismissing the petition from PWSD on the grounds that the town and district did not have authority to condemn state-owned lands. The town and PWSD appealed. On March 11, 1993, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a decision in Town of Parker & Parker Water and Sanitation District v. The Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. No. 92CA0494. The appellate court also found for the state.
The town of Parker and PWSD decided they would continue with their legal options to the Colorado Supreme Court. Consequently, in June, 1993, PWSD filed a motion in Division 1 Water Court to add two alternate sites for the dam and reservoir in the event that any further civil actions remained unsuccessful in the attempt to condemn state land for the state park site. One alternate site was located on a tributary of Cherry Creek just upstream of Castlewood Canyon State Park; the other, to be located in Newlin Gulch southwest of Parker. This second alternate site was to eventually become the site of the Rueter–Hess dam and reservoir.
On November 1, 1993, the Supreme Court of Colorado upheld the decision of the district and appellate courts in Town of Parker & Parker Water and Sanitation District v. The Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. No. 93SC301. The high court had once again found for the state.
The reservoir will serve PWSD customers (approx. 25,000 residents/customers) and partner communities of Castle Rock (8,000 Ac. Ft., contributed $44 million and has 44,000 customers), Castle Pines North (1,500 Ac. Ft., $8.25M, 3,200 customers) and Stonegate (1,200 Ac. Ft., $6.6M, 2,700 customers).