Big Thompson River Envisioning Project

Project Description

The River Envisioning Project is a stream management planning project that considers the future of the watershed and the Big Thompson River system through Loveland. We asked ourselves, our partners, and our community how we can ensure that it will meet the long-term needs of our communities, our agricultural producers, and our environment. Our goal with this project was to build a shared vision for improving the Big Thompson River by identifying strategies and action plans that respect property and water rights, address water user needs, and enhance environmental conditions and recreational opportunities.

Completed in 2022, the River Envisioning Project was a 3-year planning process that involved an Advisory Committee composed of diverse water users and stakeholders and the input of hundreds of community members. The plan looks at a 15-mile stretch of the Big Thompson River from the canyon mouth to I-25.

Fun Fact

The River Health Assessment which looked at four functions of river health and the community benefits assessment which utilized feedback from over 250 community members ended up identifying the same six priority river reaches! This alignment will help ensure our projects meet not only river health goals but community ones as well!

Project Extent Map

This map shows the project extent – from the canyon mouth to I-25, which includes 16 “reaches” or sections of the river. Each of these reaches was evaluated through five assessments and recommendations were provided to increase the overall health of each reach. Keep reading to learn more!

Collaboration & Assessments

To complete the plan and develop this shared vision, BTWC, with our advisory committee, working groups, and consultants completed five major assessments.

These assessments included:

  • River Health Assessment
  • Hydrologic Assessment
  • Diversion Infrastructure Assessment
  • Community Benefits Assessment
  • Future Conditions & Potential Impacts Assessment


Together these assessments and their associated data allowed us to develop:

  • A numerical grade for each of the 16 reaches encompassed in the project extent
  • A list of stressors impacting the health of each reach
  • Management strategies to enhance river conditions
  • Six priority reaches to focus efforts in
  • Four priority diversion structures
  • Five future initiatives

If you’d like to learn more about the results of these assessments, you can download the full report here or visit our brand new GIS StoryMap that visualizes the outcomes of the River Envisioning Project.

From Planning to Implementation

While the River Envisioning Plan is complete, the work is far from done. Unlike some Stream Management Plans which outline specific projects to complete, ours focuses on geographic areas where river health is impacted and suggests management strategies that could be used to improve conditions. It also identifies priority diversion structures that could benefit from upgrades or replacement to alleviate maintenance needs, improve efficiency and function, and enhance fish and sediment passage. We purposely left these potential projects open- ended as the Big T is a highly managed river system that has many diverse users and needs and supports numerous sectors. To identify project specifications, more engagement and collaboration is needed to determine where there is support and interest for projects.

To begin to pursue next steps and project identification, BTWC will be working to re- engage our community and stakeholders in each of the six identified priority reaches as well as with ditch company representatives from the four priority diversion structures.

It is important to note that all pursued projects will be voluntary, collaborative, and grant funded. In our project scoping and re-engagement efforts we will look for win-win improvement potentials which respect property and water rights, consider water use needs from our diverse users, and enhance environmental and recreational opportunities for our human and natural communities.

Big Thompson River Envisioning

Project Accomplishments

Brought together a diverse Advisory Committee including local government, irrigators, water management agencies, landowners, and more.

Incorporated feedback from over 250 community members into the plan

Characterized current river health conditions and potential improvements for 15 miles of the Big T River

Developed a road map to guide our river and infrastructure projects in Loveland for the next 20 years

Project Funders

  • Colorado Water Conservation Board
  • South Platte Basin Round Table
  • Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
  • City of Loveland
  • City of Greeley
  • Larimer County
  • New Belgium Family Foundation