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Records of Wright Water Engineers, Inc.

Identifier: WWWE

Scope and Contents

The Records of Wright Water Engineers, Inc., consists of documents concerning both Wright Water Engineers and Wright-McLaughlin Engineers dated from 1882 to 2006, with the bulk falling from 1965 to 1999. The collection contains project files related to the 1976 Big Thompson flood, the Great Western Sugar Company, the City of Northglenn, Eastman Kodak, Water Supply and Storage Company, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Mt. Werner/Steamboat Springs, Maryvale, the South Platte River, the University of Southern Colorado, Cyprus Mines Corporation, and Stahmann Farms/State of New Mexico. Because of the close partnership between the two companies (WWE and WME), documents from one firm's work often appear in the other firm's files.

Records for Ken Wright's service as special consultant to Governor Lamm following the Big Thompson flood in 1976 primarily concern a year-long analysis of the disaster and flood control policies. Wright Water Engineers completed many projects for Great Western Sugar, Northglenn, Eastman Kodak, Water Supply and Storage Company, and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District from the 1970s to the 1990s, covering topics such as hydrology, water rights, water storage, flood control, drainage, groundwater, irrigation, augmentation plans, urban water management, and wastewater treatment. Their work related to the South Platte River was for several clients and concerned a mix of hydrology, flood studies, and recreation. The Cyprus Mines work examined a uranium mine district and associated water rights and water quality challenges, including groundwater. The Stahmann Farms/State of New Mexico work examined groundwater issues causing a lawsuit with the City of El Paso. The collection's predominant material types include notes, data, minutes, reports, newspaper clippings, correspondence, court filings and other legal documents, maps, drawings, plans, photographs, and negatives.


  • Creation: 1882-2006
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1965-1999


Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection. However, the collection is stored off-site, so advance notice is recommended. All "confidential" markings on correspondence or other materials have been determined to be for administrative purposes, not national security information; therefore, these materials are open for access.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


In 1961, Kenneth R. Wright founded Wright Water Engineers, Inc., in Denver. The firm added offices in Glenwood Springs and Durango during the following thirty years. As a civil engineering firm, Wright Water Engineers' work includes agricultural and irrigation engineering, water rights, flood control and drainage issues, hydrology, dams, and groundwater studies.

For the last six decades, the company has undertaken projects in Colorado as well as other states and countries. In Colorado, Wright Water Engineers has engineered water infrastructure for businesses and cities and assisted with rebuilding after natural disasters such as the 1976 Big Thompson flood. Municipal, professional, and cultural institutions have presented the firm with numerous awards.

Ken Wright earned bachelor's degrees in civil engineering and business administration in 1951 and a master's degree in civil engineering in 1957 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He worked as a construction engineer for Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia from 1951 to 1955, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation employed him as a hydraulic engineer on the Rio Grande from 1957 to 1958.

Wright has been part of several engineering firms over the course of his career. In 1958, W.W. Wheeler and Associates hired him. He was a partner in Wheeler and Wright from 1959 to 1961 before leaving to form Wright Water Engineers. In 1964, Ronald C. McLaughlin and Kenneth R. Wright formed Wright-McLaughlin Engineers to complement Wright Water Engineers' work. Wright-McLaughlin Engineers dissolved in 1982.

Wright is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Engineers, Chair of the American Water Works Association's National Water Rights Committee, and a member of many other professional organizations. He has honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, (2011) and the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria, Lima, Peru (2009). He and his wife, Ruth, founded the Wright Paleohydrological Institute in 1996.


150.5+ linear feet (99 record cartons, 1 document box, 5 flat boxes, 4 flat files, 2 tubes)

Language of Materials



Wright Water Engineers, Inc., is a Colorado-based water resources consulting firm founded by Kenneth R. Wright. Since 1961 the company has undertaken projects concerning agricultural and irrigation engineering, water rights, flood control and drainage, dams, and groundwater in Colorado as well as other states and countries. The collection contains files from select Colorado projects, as well as one in New Mexico/Texas. Also present are the files of Wright-McLaughlin Engineers (1964-1982), a closely associated engineering firm also founded by Kenneth Wright. Materials include court documents, notes, reports, minutes, newspaper clippings, correspondence, maps, drawings, data, facility plans, photographs, and negatives. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


The collection consists of 12 series in 105 boxes, 60 oversize folders, and 2 tubes:

Series 1: Big Thompson flood, 1948-2006 and undated

Subseries 1.1: Files, 1948-1980 and undated

Subseries 1.2: Audio and visual materials, 1958-2006 and undated

Subseries 1.3: Publications, 1976-1977

Series 2: Great Western Sugar Company, 1882-1986 and undated

Series 3: Northglenn, 1924-1986 and undated

Series 4: Eastman Kodak, 1934-1974 and undated

Series 5: Water Supply and Storage Company, 1943-2001 and undated

Series 6: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, 1915-1995 and undated

Series 7: Mt. Werner/Steamboat Springs, 1965-1983 and undated

Series 8: Maryvale, 1981-2002 and undated

Series 9: South Platte River, 1962-2004 and undated

Series 10: University of Southern Colorado, 1969-1995 and undated

Series 11: Cyprus Mines Corp., 1942-1996 and undated Series 12: Stahmann Farms/State of New Mexico, 1954-1987 and undated


The Records of Wright Water Engineers, Inc., was donated to the Colorado State University Libraries by the company on July 31, 2006. The company gave additional donations in 2007, 2011, 2014, 2019, and 2024.

Online Materials

Some materials have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In this finding aid, some of these direct links appear in context. A link to the full online collection appears in the abstract.

Related Collections

Related collections in the Water Resources Archive include the David McComb Big Thompson Flood Collection. The Water Supply and Storage Company Collection and the Papers of Harvey G. Johnson contain oral histories referencing Wright Water Engineers' work for Water Supply and Storage Company. The Papers of Ray Nixon and the Papers of Frank Milenski hold materials from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and the Papers of Arthur L. Littleworth concerns Kansas v. Colorado.


Processing of the collection occurred in stages. At each stage, materials were rehoused in acid-free boxes. Paper clips, metal spring clips and rubber bands were generally removed. Rolled maps were flattened and placed in large folders. Duplicates beyond two copies were not retained. Confidential and privileged documents created by the donor were cleared for access by the donor; those by others were either cleared by the clients involved or removed.

Series 1 was completed in March 2007 and Series 2 was processed in March 2009. Materials were rehoused in acid-free folders. Aerial photographs, photographs, and negatives were placed in protective sleeves. Series 3 was minimally processed in December 2014. Some materials were water damaged; a small number of folders were cleaned for mold. Series 4 through 6 were minimally processed in April 2015. A set of photocopied Arkansas River Compact Commission annual reports was removed. Floppy disks in Series 6 were removed; duplicate data can be found on retained print-outs of disk content or by contacting the Colorado Office of the State Engineer. Series 7 through 9 were minimally processed in April 2023. Most computer printouts of HEC-2 modeling data for water surface profiles were discarded. Series 10 and 11 were minimally processed in Summer 2023 and series 12 in Fall 2023. Data received from the State Engineer's Office and some duplicate materials and reference materials were removed. Oversize materials received in 2019 were processed during 2023 to be stored flat or in tubes as appropriate. Voided drawings and some drafts were discarded. A small addition was processed in May 2024.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. Estimated pagination is preceded by an "e." Two identical copies of the same item are indicated by the phrase "2 copies" at the end of the entry, following the number of pages of each copy. Authored articles, books, and studies are listed in bibliographic form. Abbreviations used frequently include "WWE" for Wright Water Engineers, "KRW" for Kenneth R. Wright, "SEO" for Colorado Office of the State Engineer, "JMR" for John Martin Reservoir, and "WR" for water rights.

Guide to the Records of Wright Water Engineers, Inc.
Edited Full Draft
Prepared and revised by Holley R. Lange and Clarissa J. Trapp; revised by Patricia J. Rettig
Copyright 2015; revised 2023, 2024
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA