Little Cimarron River – McKinley Ditch


For years, over three miles of the Little Cimarron River near Gunnison has gone nearly dry in the late summer months. In 2014, Colorado Water Trust purchased a portion (5.8cfs) of the McKinley Ditch to restore late summer flows to the river which are often impacted by warm weather and upstream diversions.


Permanent Projects

This project combines a Split-Season Water-Use Agreement with infrastructure changes to restore water to the Little Cimarron. It is the first water-sharing agreement of its kind in Colorado. This agreement allows the water user to utilize their water right for irrigation in spring and early summer, and then for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to use it for Instream Flow in the late summer and early fall when the river and its ecosystem are in need of water. In very dry years, all water in the stream is protected, and in high water years the full water right is diverted for agricultural irrigation.


Colorado Water Conservation Board, Western Rivers Conservancy, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, McKinley Ditch Shareholders.


Through 2023, the McKinley Ditch Project has restored over

Million gallons

Acre-feet of water to the Little Cimarron River.


This project has been in development since 2014. A decree was signed in 2018 to change the McKinley Ditch water for Instream Flow use in late summer and early fall, with the intent of using the water for irrigation during spring and early summer. Infrastructure changes were implemented in 2021.