On April 23rd, we celebrated another important landmark for this project: we finalized a permanent water-sharing agreement with the Colorado Water Conservation Board under which the environment and agriculture will share the same water rights. Water that was traditionally diverted will continue to be applied to the historically-irrigated ranch owned by Western Rivers Conservancy each year until stream flows in the Little Cimarron drop, typically mid-summer, at which time the water will be left in the river to keep it from going dry.
In December 2014, the Colorado Water Trust and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) jointly filed an application in Division 4 Water Court asking the court to recognize irrigation and instream flow as uses for our senior water rights in the McKinley Ditch on the Little Cimarron River in the Gunnison River Basin.
The State is looking for new ways of meeting a host of needs with a limited resource, and this project provides one new example of how that can be done. We took a customary transfer process and applied it to the outcome that we wanted, which was partial irrigation and partial flow restoration. We are excited to pioneer this type of win-win solution between two uses that are typically seen as incompatible. Steamboat Today and The Aspen Times are among the media outlets who recognized that this water-sharing model could be replicated in other areas of low flow across the state, too.