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Mayor Hancock signs MOU establishing River Sisters Partnership between Denver and San Luis Rio Colorado

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Mayor José Enrique Reina Lizárraga of the City of San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico to establish the River Sisters Partnership.  The River Sisters Partnership will work to strengthen the protection and restoration of the Colorado River.

Building on an initial meeting early last year between Mayor Hancock and Mayor Reina Lizárraga in Denver, the MOU establishes a groundwork for a long-awaited binational cultural and environmental partnership that highlights the diverse populations that depend on the Colorado River as a source of life.

“As our climate continues to change, so do the challenges and responsibilities that come with water restoration and water-related crises that take place around the world,” Mayor Hancock said. “The Colorado River is a vital source of water for more than 40 million residents across seven U.S. states and two Mexican states. As River Sisters, we’re committed to researching and developing innovative water restoration projects, cultural events and initiatives that celebrate the unique contributions to the greater Colorado River Basin region.”

Mayor Hancock continued, “I’m thrilled that we were able to come together across borders and make this partnership happen. I especially want to thank Denver’s own Nita Gonzalez for her tireless advocacy for the river and her social justice work to highlight the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples across our great city and beyond.”

"Our city is jubilant because today we formalize the sisterhood of two cities united by the great Colorado River. The task and compromise that we have ahead of us is that of ensuring an enduring friendship and partnership between San Luis Rio Colorado and Denver that has no walls, but bridges of understanding, and the shared interest to protect our environment and the Colorado River,"  said Mayor Reina. 

“The Colorado River is a vital environmental and economic asset to the Western United States and Mexico, and it’s in all of our interests to work together to help solve the challenges we face,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager of Denver Water. “Denver receives half of its water from the Colorado River, and we all have a vested interest in protecting and restoring it. The River Sisters Partnership is a great example of binational cooperation that can help this vital resource from the source to the sea.”

Denver and San Luis Rio Colorado will highlight and explore ways in which the Colorado River enhances quality of life, culture and economic development for those on both sides of the United States-Mexico border. This work will be in partnership with the Cocopah Indian Tribe-Mexico; the Water, Wastewater and Sanitation Utility of San Luis Rio Colorado; Denver Water; Pronatura Noroeste; the Autonomous University of Baja California; Denver Sister Cities International; Denver Botanic Gardens; artist Rik Sargent; urban designers Nancy Saldaña and Paul Cawood Hellmund; and the Americas for Conservation + the Arts.

The MOU also establishes a River Sisters Council that will oversee the coordination and execution of events and projects that stem from the partnership.

This partnership is consistent with Denver’s values of conserving water while engaging nature. Denver achieved its 2020 Sustainability Goal for Community Water Quantity early, lowering its per capita water consumption by nearly a third since 2001. The city has expanded on the use of recycled water, recently allowing the use of graywater for subsurface irrigation and toilet flushing. Denver is also seeking to enhance connections to waterways while improving water quality and flood protection..

The MOU signees are:

  • Michael B. Hancock, Mayor, City and County of Denver
  • José Enrique Reina Lizárraga, Mayor, City of San Luis Rio Colorado
  • Hon. Alfonso Tambo Cecena, Governor, Cocopah Indian Tribe
  • Jim Lochhead, Chief Executive Officer, Denver Water
  • Osvel Hinojosa, Director, Pronatura Noroeste, Water and Waste Wetlands Program
  • Irene Vilar, Executive Director, Americas for Conservation + the Arts
  • Dr. Jorge Ramirez, Chief of Hydrology, Geophysics and Environmental Impact Department, Autonomous University of Baja, California
  • C. Jesus Antonio Navarro Acosta, Director General, the Water, Wastwater and Sanitation Utility of San Luis Rio Colorado
  • Paul Cawood Hellmund, Urbanist
  • Nancy Saldana, Urbanist
  • Rick Sargent, Artist
  • Manuel Cuen Gamboa, Artist
  • Brian Vogt, Chief Executive Officer, Denver Botanic Gardens
  • Beth Hendrix, Executive Director, Denver Sister Cities International

For more information about the River Sisters Partnership please see the attached MOU.

CLICK HERE for a video of the joint signing.

*Consumption of Treated Water, Denver Water 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, pg. III-80