Grant Smittkamp

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February 14, 2013
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WATER LINES: Understanding the complexity, importance of irrigation ditches

When was the last time you contemplated the value of the irrigation ditches that criss-cross our Western Slope communities? Many people do not realize that the "stream" running through their town is not a natural stream but in fact is a manmade ditch.

Most of the reservoirs in the state have been constructed to deliver water to farms, but they provide broader benefits as well. "In addition to providing water to farmers to grow food, ditch companies have constructed an artificial landscape of reservoirs, waterways and riparian corridors that enrich local communities," says John McKenzie, executive director of the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (DARCA).

You are invited to join DARCA members and other water professionals for DARCA's annual convention, titled "Water for Food - Food for Life" at Two Rivers Convention Center Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, March 6-8. The convention will allow farmers, ranchers, ditch company personnel, and other water professionals to network and exchange information on topics such as irrigation efficiency, agricultural-environmental cooperation, and water policy issues. Complete details can be found at or by calling 970-412-1960.

The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (DARCA), organized as a nonprofit organization, was formed in 2001 to assist the state's ditch and reservoir companies. DARCA aims to help these businesses and their shareholders find cost-effective solutions to problems such as heightened regulatory controls, growing urbanization, and other problems that are now facing these historic businesses.

DARCA is governed by an 11-member board of directors who come from both sides of the Continental Divide. Having board members from both the Front Range as well as the Western Slope allow for much needed collaboration. "Many of the growing pains that the Front Range water providers have experienced are currently being faced by ditch and reservoir companies on the Western Slope and we try to help one another out," said McKenzie.


This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to


Grant Smittkamp is with the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance.

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The Post Independent Updated Feb 14, 2013 01:39PM Published Feb 14, 2013 01:38PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.