Denver Water crosses divide to tap its next chief executive

The next head of Denver’s water utility will bring a Western Slope perspective to the job.

Denver Water has reached across the Continental Divide to select Glenwood Springs attorney Jim Lochhead as its next manager and chief executive officer. He replaces Chips Barry, who will be retiring at the end of May after 20 years on the job.

Lochhead’s hiring is another signal of increasing cooperation between Denver and the Western Slope over water issues, and it is being well-received by the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

“It’s a tremendous selection on the part of the Denver Water board,” district spokesman Jim Pokrandt said.

Pokrandt said it “certainly helps to have somebody who understands Western Slope values” who will be running Denver Water.

Lochhead started practicing water law in Glenwood Springs in the early 1980s. He was executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources from 1994-98.

He has represented the state and a coalition of water entities including Denver Water regarding interstate Colorado River issues. He served as Colorado’s commissioner on the Upper Colorado River Commission.

Lochhead said, “I’m looking forward to kind of bringing that broader perspective to Denver Water and not only advocating for Denver Water but also hopefully bringing an understanding of the Western Slope and the state and the West and some of the issues and challenges that we face,” he said.

He said today’s world is more interdependent, and it’s important to find ways for entities to work through a lot of common challenges.

“Denver Water holds the key to a lot of that as the premier water utility in Colorado,” he said.

Pokrandt said Denver Water continues to look to divert more Western Slope water for its 1.3 million customers. But he credited Barry with having worked to improve relations with the Western Slope.

Penfield Tate, president of the Denver Water board, said the utility has been involved in three years of mediations with Western Slope interests.

“Thinking more regionally and more as a state than east versus west is something that we’ve been working on for a while,” he said.

He said the board sees Lochhead as not “just a Western Slope person,” but as someone with the vision, background and experience needed to continue pushing the utility toward more water efficiency, conservation and reuse.

Gov. Bill Ritter praised Lochhead’s hiring in a news release.

“In the West, water issues touch every part of our life and having a leader like Jim will benefit the whole state. Jim’s leadership and experience dealing with water issues makes him a perfect fit for this position,” Ritter said.


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