Using Water for Experiments at CSU

Colorado State University (CSU) has long been involved with the research and experimentation of hydrology. This experimentation has served the local community as well as the national and international one. Colorado State is credited with assisting in projects such as the Grand Coulee Dam, the Hoover Dam, and the Norris Dam. In 1912 President Charles Lory made an agreement with the U.S.D.A that issued in the construction of a hydraulics laboratory at the University. In the 1920s Professor Ralph Parshall and others built the Bellevue Irrigation Hydraulic Laboratory located north of Fort Collins on the Cache la Poudre River near Bellevue, Colorado. This real-world outdoor laboratory allowed Dr. Parshall to develop the first accurate measuring flume. For the first time in history, people could accurately measure the volumetric flow rate of water.1

Since then, the Bureau of Reclamation has partnered with CSU in research and experimentation for many projects. The University’s help reached beyond the national borders. CSU professors and researchers such as Maurice Albertson, Everett Richardson, Daryl Simons, and other hydraulic engineers used the hydrology lab on campus to conduct experiments concerning sedimentation, channel scour, dam strength, and irrigation. These experiments were used in Venezuela, China, Pakistan, Egypt, and other places, and they were part of USAID.2

These experiments and eventual contributions to society could not have been done without the Cache la Poudre River. In the beginning years of experimentation, the on-campus lab allowed for researchers to test models in miniature. But once the Bellevue lab was operational, the researchers were able to model their experiments on a real-life scale. The research has escalated over the years that now the University has several different lab facilities that use water from both the Cache la Poudre and from Horsetooth Reservoir. The Poudre River has been an essential part of innovation of water technology and hydrology.3

  1. James Hansen, Democracy’s College in the Centennial State: A History of Colorado State University (Fort Collins: Colorado State University, 1977), 314; Rose Laflin, Irrigation, Settlement, and Change on the Cache La Poudre River (Fort Collins: Colorado Water Resources Research Institute, 2005), 65.
  2. For examples of these experiments, see the Papers of Maurice L. Albertson, the Papers of Everett V. Richardson, and the Papaers of Daryl B. Simons, Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University,
  3. “Hydraulics Laboratory,” Colorado State University, June 28, 2014.

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