Ten important rivers originate in Colorado. Those rivers eventually cross Colorado's state lines. Shares of their water are claimed by 18 downstream states and Mexico. As Colorado's most basic and important resource, water also is a limited resource. We need to study, defend and use it wisely.
I grew up in the mid-20th century on a ranch in South Routt County. In my youth, water was generally taken for granted. Some crops, such as hay, used irrigation water. Other crops, such as commercial lettuce and spinach, didn't. Exploring, fishing and picnicking along the numerous beautiful mountain streams were major summer recreational activities for families. When thirsty, one would lie down by a stream and drink the cool clear rushing water. In autumn, muskrats and an occasional mink were harvested for their furs from beaver ponds and streams. Before rural electrification, ice from ponds was stored for summer domestic use.
I'm a lifetime student, trained and then employed as a professional educator. Later, I came back to Routt County as a rancher, wife and mother. Like others here today, I own land, water and ditch rights. I read about, listen to and discuss the current challenges to the future of our Western water.
Sen. Jack Taylor recently said we need to recognize Western Slope water usage is a major Colorado issue that needs continual attention from the state Legislature and public. It, therefore, behooves all of us to educate ourselves to understand Colorado's water law, our water rights and the challenges they may confront.
Here are some of the books regarding Colorado water that I have found useful:
- Colorado Water Law - Citizen's Guide, prepared by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education - www.cfwe.org. (CFWE's quarterly magazine is excellent too!)
- Acquiring, Using and Protecting Water in Colorado, by Trout, Witwer & Freeman, P.C. Bradford Publishing Co., Denver. (Foreword by Justice Greg Hobbs)
- Water Rights Handbook, by Peter Nichols, et al. Bradford Publishing Co, Denver. (Especially directed to water in conservation easements.)
- Pillar of Sand, by Sandra Postel (available from book sources on the Internet). This is an especially interesting book about the history of irrigation and how its growth helped contribute to the economic and cultural development of ancient civilizations. It also reviews irrigation's role in the demise of many older civilizations due to salinization, sedimentation and lowered aquifers (problems also found in modern irrigation).
- The Last Water Hole in the West, by Daniel Tyler, is another valuable book that discusses West Slope-Front Range water development. This reviews the planning, politics, and legislation involved in the construction of the Adams Tunnel, Colorado-Big Thompson Project and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Another important resource is the Ditch and Reservoir Co. Alliance - www.darca.org.
DARCA serves Colorado's mutual ditch and reservoir companies, districts and private ditches. The Web site contains a continually updated listing of current water-related news articles, regulatory and legislative information, and issues important to ditch and reservoir companies. It includes a print-off of the helpful booklet Landowner's Guide to Incorporating Irrigation Ditches and Laterals, which is prepared by water resource managers in the Grand Valley.
Routt County's Community Agriculture Alliance will be sponsoring its fourth water forum in early June. The date and water resource professionals as speakers will be announced soon. Please direct any questions to: 879-4370.