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Papers of Tom Pitts

Identifier: WTPP

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Tom Pitts consists of documents dated 1974 to 2014, with the bulk falling from 1984 to 2000. The files thoroughly document Pitts' work on the Colorado Water Congress Special Project on Threatened and Endangered Species, including work specific to the four endangered fish species of the Colorado River and the Project's resulting Recovery Implementation Program for Endangered Fish Species in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Files also document Pitts' work with endangered species and water issues on the Platte River, along the Middle Rio Grande, and in the San Juan River Basin. Pitts maintained thorough paper files on these projects through approximately 2003, and electronic files thereafter (not yet included here). Files relating to presentations on related topics, such as endangered species and environmental law, are also present. Material types include correspondence, agendas and meeting minutes, reports, articles, testimony, presentations, work plans, and financial information.


  • Creation: 1974-2014
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1984-2000


Restrictions on Access

Access to materials is restricted for four years from the date of creation of an item unless permission is granted by the donor in writing. All "confidential" markings have been determined to be for administrative purposes, not attorney-client protection; therefore, these materials are open for access. Also, the collection is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

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


Tom Pitts has provided consulting services to municipalities, industries, regional water organizations, and state and federal government agencies in the areas of water resource planning and management, water rights, water quality management, and regulatory compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. Since 1983, he has participated in the establishment of innovative basin-wide programs to resolve conflicts between water resource management and development and protection of federally listed endangered species. These cooperative programs benefit both endangered species and water users.

William Tom Pitts received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Louisiana Polytechnic University in 1967. From 1967 to 1972, he was employed by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, Water Conservation Division. He worked in the seawater barrier operations unit that provided technical supervision of more than 20 miles of injection wells on the west and south coast of Los Angeles County to replenish groundwater basins and provide protection from seawater intrusion.

In 1972, he joined Toups Engineering Corporation, an Orange County, California, consulting firm. He consulted on numerous surface and groundwater management projects in Southern California. Beginning in 1973, he served as consultant Project Manager for development of the "Water Quality Management Plan for the South Platte River Basin" in Colorado and a west-wide study of irrigation impacts on water quality for the National Commission on Water Quality. In 1975, he relocated to Loveland, Colorado, to establish an office for Toups Corporation. He served as project manager for development of the "Larimer-Weld Regional (208) Water Quality Management Plan" and a number of other regional and statewide water quality management plans, including the Statewide Water Management Plan for Wyoming" and the "Wyoming Statewide Water Quality Assessment."

In 1980, Pitts established Tom Pitts and Associates. He has provided consulting services in water quality management, water rights, and environmental compliance to municipalities, industries, regional water organizations, and state and federal agencies. For the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he served as technical consultant on the development of the Federal Water Quality Standard Regulation that remained in effect for thirty years, developed an option paper on establishing water quality-based effluents, and assisted in development of a program guidance for the National Water Quality Monitoring Strategy. He participated in more than 30 regulatory hearings on water quality standards for a variety of clients. For 15 years, he served as water quality regulatory advisor to a consortium of municipalities and industries in northern Colorado. He conducted water quality modeling on more than 1,000 miles of streams in Colorado.

Pitts served as principal water rights technical consultant to the Cache la Poudre Water Users Association. He was an expert witness on two landmark water rights cases that were resolved by the Colorado Supreme Court in favor of his clients. He has been certified as an expert witness in both water rights and environmental engineering in separate cases in Colorado District Courts.

In 1981, Pitts participated in the successful negotiation of a biological opinion that provided Endangered Species Act compliance for the transbasin Windy Gap Project that diverts water from the Colorado River basin to Northern Colorado. Beginning in 1983, he worked on the Colorado Water Congress Special Project, to assist in the resolution of potential conflicts between water development and management activities and protection of four fish species in the Colorado River Basin listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Pitts represented water users in negotiations with federal agencies, the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and environmental interests. In early 1985, he proposed recovery of the endangered fish species as the solution to the conflict. This led to development of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Implementation Program. The Recovery Program was initiated in January 1988 through a cooperative agreement signed by the Secretary of the Interior, the governors of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, and the administrator of the Western Area Power Administration. Pitts has represented water users in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah since 1988 on the Recovery Program. The basin-wide solution allows water development to proceed in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, as well as state water law, interstate compacts, and Supreme Court decrees allocating water among the states.

In 1989, Pitts was asked by water users in the San Juan River Basin to assist in resolving potential conflicts with protection of endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and water resource management and development. Pitts participated in negotiation of the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program that was implemented in 1992. He has since represented water users in Colorado and New Mexico on the San Juan Recovery Program. That program provides Endangered Species Act compliance for federal, tribal, and nonfederal water projects in the San Juan basin depleting approximately 800,000 acre-feet per year acre-feet per year while recovering endangered fish species in the San Juan basin.

In 1999, Pitts coordinated efforts to pass federal legislation (P.L. 106-392) authorizing funding of the Upper Colorado and San Juan recovery programs that recognized substantial nonfederal contributions. He participates in efforts to obtain annual federal appropriations for the programs.

From 1985 to 1996, Pitts represented water users in the development of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. From 1999 through 2013, by request of the City of Albuquerque, he was involved in development of the Middle Rio Grande Collaborative Program. Both programs were designed to resolve conflicts between endangered species protection and water development and management activities.

Joe Hall joined Tom Pitts and Associates in 1994, prompting Pitts to change the firm's name to Hall, Pitts, and Associates. In 1997, he changed the name to Water Consult. Pitts twice received the National Water Resources Association's President's Award for his leadership of the Association's Endangered Species Act Task Force. In 2013, he received the Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to the western water community. [Biography provided by Mr. Pitts.]


136.5 linear feet (91 record cartons)

Language of Materials



Tom Pitts worked with local, state, and federal organizations to find solutions for water usage and environmental regulatory issues. His efforts on endangered species issues resulted in multiple long-term programs benefiting both water users and endangered fish in river basins within and beyond Colorado. The collection thoroughly documents Pitts' work on the Colorado Water Congress Special Project on Threatened and Endangered Species, including work specific to the four endangered fish species of the Colorado River Basin, as well as endangered species and water issues in the Platte River Basin. Additionally, work on similar issues along the Rio Grande in New Mexico and in the San Juan River Basin is documented. Files relating to presentations on related topics, such as endangered species and environmental law, are also present. Material types include correspondence, agendas and meeting minutes, reports, articles, testimony, presentations, work plans, and financial information.


Tom Pitts kept his files grouped by project and meticulously arranged by alphanumeric categories. His arrangement was retained.

The collection consists of 7 series in 91 boxes:

Series 1: Colorado Water Congress Special Project, 1978-2009 and undated

Series 2: Colorado Water Congress Colorado River Project, 1975-2010 and undated

Series 3: Colorado Water Congress Platte River Project, 1980-2004 and undated

Series 4: San Juan Recovery Implementation Program, 1989-2010 and undated

Series 5: Middle Rio Grande Program, 1996-2007 and undated

Series 6: Chronological correspondence files, 1983-2014

Series 7: Presentation files, 1974-2009 and undated


The Papers of Tom Pitts was donated to the Water Resources Archive in September 2014 and February and March 2015 by Mr. Pitts.

Related Collections

Related collections in the Water Resources Archive include the Papers of John W. Shields, the Colorado Water Congress Collection, the Papers of David M. Freeman, and the Records of the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust, Inc.


Processing was completed in December 2017. Files were rehoused in acid-free boxes, but most original folders were maintained with labels stapled on. Materials in binders were rehoused in acid-free folders. Some metal fasteners were removed and replaced with plastic clips where necessary. The collection was screened for confidential materials, with the determination made that no attorney-client markings originally applied were truly valid, so these materials are open. Documents related to hiring were removed. Duplicates beyond two copies were also removed, as were a few miscellaneous folders unrelated to other projects. Digital media were backed up on a server when the content was original to the collection, but not when created by outside groups.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. Estimated paginationis preceded by an "e." Two identical copies of the same item are indicated by thephrase "2 copies" at the end of the entry, following the number of pages of eachcopy.

Guide to the Papers of Tom Pitts
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Patricia J. Rettig, Heidi Fuhrman, and Steven Emmen
Copyright 2018
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