A primary responsibility of any municipality is the provision of water. In Arvada as in most front range communities, water is a scarce and precious resource. Prior to Arvada's incorporation in 1904, houses and stores drew water from individual wells or filled buckets from the irrigation ditches.
As Arvada's early pioneers settled into their daily routines, the demands for water grew along with the population. Farmers needed water to grow crops, miners required water for milling operations, and industries such as the local blacksmith needed water as well. The first irrigation ditch was dug in 1860, and a maze of irrigation ditches followed-many of which still exist today. Still, the ditches could not provide reliable, quality water, and the first well was dug in 1870.
In 1910, the Arvada Water Tank was completed, providing artesian water that promised to end all water problems. However, a growing population stressed the water system. Through the years that followed more wells were dug, and dug deeper again. Pumps were installed, and water towers erected. By 1955 residents were using 160 million gallons on an annual basis, and the well system was strained to the breaking point. Therefore, to supplement the wells, other water supplies were developed.
On March 14, 1960, a landmark contract was signed between Arvada and the Denver Water Board. The Contract secures three-fourths of Arvada's water: 19,000 acre feet per year collected from the Fraser River and South Boulder Creek Basins and transported first to Gross Reservoir and then to Ralston Reservoir. The Contract also specifies that Arvada pays the rate Denver charges itself for water plus one percent, and that the contract is perpetual. Signing of the contract climaxed months of negotiation regarding Arvada's water rights from the western slope and transported through the Moffat Tunnel.