Gov. Cox appoints new Colorado River Commissioner

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced the appointment of Gene Shawcroft as the Utah Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC).

The UCRC is an interstate water administrative agency that works with the upper basin states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) to safeguard their respective water rights and allocations while meeting obligations to the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada). 

Shawcroft has more than three decades of experience in the water industry and currently serves as the general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, the largest diverter of Colorado River water for municipal and industrial use in Utah.

“Gene has dedicated his career to the study of the Colorado River,” said Cox. “His knowledge of the river will serve Utah residents well during a critical time in the state’s history – when the basin states are renegotiating the operation and management guidelines of the river. The Colorado River currently provides water to more than 65% of Utah’s population and is a major contributor to the state’s $189 billion economy. The river is one of our most valuable assets and it must be protected.” 

Utah’s Colorado River Compact apportionment is 1.725 million acre feet of water per year. The state is currently using about 1 million acre feet annually (including reservoir evaporation). 

Considering the state’s economic expansion and population growth, available water resources and the upcoming Colorado River negotiations, Utah legislators passed the Concurrent Resolution Concerning the Protection, Development and Beneficial Use of Utah’s Colorado River Compact Allocation during the 2020 general session. 

The resolution encourages the state and its water providers to “expeditiously develop and place to beneficial use wherever in the state the need may arise, the water apportioned to Utah under the compacts, consistent with the Law of the River; … continue to explore and implement practices that promote water efficiency and water conservation; and … coordinate and cooperate with the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, and the other Colorado River basin states in the timely implementation of the Drought Control Plans and the completion of the re-consultation on the Colorado River Interim Guidelines, while ensuring that the state’s lawful interest in Colorado River waters is fully protected.” 

“Utah’s executive and legislative leadership agree that Utah’s Colorado River water is essential to our future,” said Cox. “We’re committed as a state – with support of both government branches – to protect state rights as we work to solve the challenges of the river with our fellow Colorado River water users.” 

“We’re confident Gene has the skills, expertise and resources needed to serve as Utah’s representative on Colorado River issues,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “We extend our full support to him recognizing the magnitude of this responsibility and its impact to our state.” 

Shawcroft has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Brigham Young University and is a licensed professional engineer in Utah. He is active in various professional groups and serves on several governing boards in the water industry, including serving as a trustee for the Colorado River Water Users Association and board member of the National Water Resources Association.