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Know the West

'The world would be different if not for the veto'


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Hamlet "Chips" Barry has been head of the Denver Water Department since 1991. Despite his name, he has acted forcefully to change the behavior of the once-autocratic Denver Water Department.

Chips Barry: "One of the problems with the approach the Two Forks proponents took was the future-demand projections were overblown. They resulted from a process where the Denver Water Department asked people: How much water are you going to need? And everyone inflated their needs to play it safe.

"After Two Forks, we did this integrated resources plan, and instead of asking people, we took aerial photos, took out parks and steep land, and assumed development at current densities. When we did that, the demand for water came down about 20 percent. Proponents were overestimating demand, and opponents were underestimating.

"Proponents predicted balkanization (if Two Forks were not approved). Opponents said if Two Forks is not built, cooperation will break out all over the land. In retrospect, both were right. We have some water wars and increased litigation. But we also have cooperation: integration of water systems, water sharing, joint projects.

"The world would be different if not for the veto. It made the Denver Water Department go back to square one, to reexamine everything we were doing. How to obtain and provide water? Who do we serve? If Two Forks had been permitted and built, we would not have looked at reuse of sewage, conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water, and the other steps we have taken."