Ditch Companies: Enhancing Communication, Reducing Uncertainty, and Planning for a Prosperous Future

This workshop addressed how ditch companies and irrigated agriculture provides benefits to local communities in many ways. A wide variety of speakers were invited to not only inform, but to solicit input from the agricultural and water communities. Representatives from local ditch companies, and Garfield County pointed out the importance of working more collaboratively, and discussed the needs of counties, cities, ditch companies, citizens, contractors, and developers. DARCA presented the updated version of its DARCA Model Land Use Codes. The workshop also addressed the work that DARCA is undertaking in helping ditch companies prosper and protect their resource base through Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs).

When: Friday, June 3, 2016; 8:00am – 3:00pm

Where: Glenwood Springs Community Center; 100 Wulfsohn Rd, Glenwood Springs


8:00 a.m.  Registration/Meet and Greet.

                   « Coffee & Pastries

8:30 a.m.  Roles of Ditch Companies/Irrigators and the Benefits to our Community

                   « John McKenzie, Executive Director, DARCA

9:00 a.m.  Garfield County Changes in Land Use Codes & DARCA Model Land Use Codes

                   « Kathy Eastley, Senior Planner, Garfield County Community Development

                   « John McKenzie, Executive Director, DARCA

10:00 a.m. Break

10:30 a.m. Strategic Planning for Ditch Companies – Options and Opportunities for

                    Protecting your Resource Base

                    « John Wiener, Research Associate, Institute of Behavioral Science, Boulder

11:30 a.m. Crystal River Management Plan

                    « Seth Mason, Principal, Lotic Hydrological

12:00 p.m. Lunch

                   « Provided by DARCA

1:00 p.m.  Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs): Missing Pieces of the Puzzle

                   « Phil Brink, Coordinator, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Ag Water Network

                   « John Wiener, Research Associate, Institute of Behavioral Science, Boulder

                   « John McKenzie, Executive Director, DARCA

3:00 p.m.  Adjourn

Download the full agenda here!

Additional Information:
Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs): Missing Pieces of the Puzzle

DARCA is dedicated to enhancing the prosperity of ditch companies, their shareholders, and the service areas of these ditch systems. Maintaining a productive irrigated agricultural base goes hand in hand with prosperous ditch companies.

Colorado’s ditch and reservoir companies handle the great majority of water diversions and consumption, but are seldom regarded as resource managers with land as well as water assets. More robust planning capabilities would help these companies better adapt to changing social, demographic, and environmental pressures that threaten to limit productivity, recreational, amenity and water quality benefits.   Currently Colorado’s ditch and reservoir companies are not well positioned to adequately protect their interests facing the continuing and substantial pressure for their resources. Alternative Water Transfer Methods (ATMs) are being developed to offer solutions that address the long-term concerns of ditch companies including their resource base, service area, shareholders, and community. DARCA is working to find ways to use, modify, or help invent equitable and farm-saving ATMs.

ATM’s are a collection of different techniques for the allocation and distribution of agricultural water to meet Colorado’s societal water demands. While traditional transfer methods have left farms dry and non-irrigable, ATM’s strive to maintain a healthy agricultural economy while providing water sharing opportunities for municipal, industrial, and environmental purposes. Some of the ATM techniques so far identified include: interruptible supply agreements, long-term rotational fallowing, municipal-agricultural water use sharing, water cooperatives, water bank storage and management, deficit/partial irrigation practices, alternate cropping types, and flex markets.

DARCA holds planning and ATM workshops and the results will be discussed, with some lessons learned and with many questions raised that go beyond the engineering and legal issues which are the bulk of ATM development efforts so far. But there are missing pieces of the puzzle; these may be delaying development and adoption of acceptable ATMs.

Colorado’s Water Plan outlines and presents these tools including: the availability of grants; examples of implementation; and existing ATM legislation. While ATMs look like a sensible and important tool to remedy water problems, the adoption has lagged behind the expectations of many – attributed to technical, legal, institutional, social, and financial obstacles. These impediments associated with ATMs include: high transaction costs associated with water court processes including engineering and legal fees; water rights administration issues; water providers needing permanence and certainty of long-term supply; infrastructure constraints; and water quality issues. With that said, DARCA is keenly interested in learning from ditch companies and their farmer/rancher shareholders what makes sense to them.

This portion of the workshop will be heavy on discussion after a short presentation of some less-explored issues and overviews. We will focus on the missing pieces of the puzzle, from the perspective of the ditch companies and the farmer-rancher water rights owners who also irrigate much of the best land in Colorado. The discussions will help to develop the template of considerations for ATMs that DARCA is developing, and help to focus on priorities for the missing pieces of the puzzle. Your experience and perspective will be valuable and welcome!