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FROM BIG THOMPSON RIVER.
JOHN E. FIELD,
Assistant State Engineer of Colorado.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
U.S. DEPARtMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
OFI0 OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS-BULLETIN NO. 118.
A. C. TRUE, Director.
.. .::.. :.
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS.
A. C. TRUE, Ph. D., Director.
E. W. ALLEN, Ph. D., Assistant Director.
ELWOOD "MEAD, Chief.
C. T. JOHNSTON, Assistant Whief.
J. M. WIsooN, Agent and Erpert in Charge of California Office.
R. P. TEELE, Editorial Assistant.
CLARENCE E. TAIT, Assistant in Charge of Maps and Illustrations.
A. P. STOVER, Assistant. .
J. D. STANNARD, Assistant.
FRA.NK ADAMS, Agent and Expert.
FRANK BOND, Agent and Expert.
".:: -ll:::E Ii
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS,
Washington, D. C., Ju.ne 15, 1902.
SmR: I have the honor to submit for publication a report on irriga-
tion from Big Thompson River, Colorado, prepared under the direc-
tion of Prof. Elwood Mead, expert in charge of irrigation investiga-
tions, by John E. Field, assistant State engineer of that State.
The farmers of northern Colorado have made a more complete use
of their water supply than is made in any other part of the United
States except California. This development has brought out many
interesting features in the practical workings of the Colorado system
of water laws. The report deals largely with the legal status of water
rights in the Big Thompson Valley, and in the State of Colorado as a
Mr. Field's official connection with water administration in Colo-
rado makes him especially well qualified to discuss this subject. It is
through studies of this character that the people of Colorado and of
the West can perfect their irrigation systems and secure the highest
development of their resources.
It is recommended that this report be published as a bulletin of this
Hon. JAMES WILSON,
I Secretary of Agriculture.
A. C. TRUE,
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Physical characteristics.......- ... ...... ................ .........-- ..--- ..
Water supply--- ......-------------..----.....-------...........................----------------
The Big Thompson Ditch .....-..-............. ......... ........------
Mariano Ditch .......-.........................---- ..............----
The Big Thompson Manufacturing Company's Ditch ...................
The Farmers' Irrigating Ditch .,............- ......-...........-......
The Big Thompson Irrigating Ditch .................................
The Loveland and Greeley Canal ..................................----
The Big Thompson and Platte. River Ditch............................
Rist and Goss Ditch .................................. ........... ....
Hill and Brush Ditch ..-..... .......................................--
The Loudon Ditch ....................................................
The George Rist Ditch.............................................. -
The Hillsboro Ditch. .................................................
The Handy Ditch ....................................................
The South Side Ditch ................................................
The Home Supply Ditch..............................................-
Reservoirs under the Loveland and Greeley Canal..-....................
The Big Cut Reservoir................ ............................
The Sanborn reservoirs, Nos. I and 2...................... ........
Reservoirs under the Loudon Ditch.... ............................
Benson Lake ...................................................
The Bental -...-.......-...........-..-.........................
Seven Lakes, Loudon and Boyd lakes ........... ........ .........
Reservoirs under the Handy Ditch ......--................-........
Frank Loveland Reservoir......-.................................
The De France Reservoir .........................................
The Kee Reservoir "
The Brown Reservoir..... --...........................--...........
The Brown Reservoir............................................
The Wilson Reservoir .........................................
SThe Hupp Lake Reservoir .---...................................
SThe Hupp Reservoir .............................................
The Berthoud Town Lake ........................................
The Jansen Reservoir ........................... ...............
Hummel Lake ..................................................
SBeasley Lake ...................................................
The Welch reservoirs ...........................................
The Chapman Reservoir........................ ................
Reservoirs under the Home Supply Canal..............................
Duty of water ......................................................... 44
Seepage ..-.... ....-...... ..........--.................... ........ .... 46,
Administration and distribution........................................... 4
Titles to water----------- .................................-----------------....---................ 5
Laws..----------- ---------------- --------...------------------.......... 56
First series of contests ......-....... ....... ........... .......... .... .. 65
Second series of contests .............................................. 67
Other litigation .........-----.........--------..--....-------.............. --9
New Loveland and Greeley Land and Irrigation Co. v. Home Supply
Co--------------------------------------------------- ...........................................................- 69
Lower Latham Ditch Co. v. London Irrigating Co. et al............. 70
Comments...............-------- ---........... ------.... --... ---........ 71
Dam and head gate of Handy Ditch, Big Thompson River............. Frontispiece
PLATE I. Map of Big Thompson Valley....-----..-....----.. -----.. --..--..--. 10
II. Dam and headworks, Home Supply Ditch, Big Thompson River... 28
III. Outlet tower, Lake Loveland .-.....--.........................- 34
IV. Fig. 1.-Outlet of Lone Tree Reservoir. Fig. 2.-Weir just below
outlet of Lone Tree Reservoir................................. 44
V. Fig. 1.-Mariano Reservoir. Fig. 2.-Dam of Mariano Reservoir.- 44
FIG. 1. Diagram showing the water supply from Big Thompson Creek, and the
manner of its use.........-.....................................- 32
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IRRIGATION FROM BIG THOMPSON RIVER.
The examination and study of the Big Thompson was undertaken in
preference to that of other streams for the reason that it presents
many features not found in other districts and at the same time is
free from modifying influences and conditions not related to strictly
agricultural pursuits or their attendant industries.
The district presents a well-developed and substantial set of local
customs and regulations, which appear, moreover, to be sensible and
well calculated to produce good results, as evidenced by the consider-
able length of time they have been in vogue and which have been
found to meet the requirements of the people.
That portion of the river on which the head gates are located is not
very extensive (P1. I), and in consequence the matter of regulation of
the proper amount of water to be turned into each is much simplified.
No great sand bars exist in the river, and its channel is excellent,
making the loss of water by evaporation or seepage small.
The art of farming is as well advanced as in any section of the
State, and over the entire district there is a notable absence of any-
thing approaching thriftlessness in the methods used. The spirit of
orderliness is very apparent in the arrangement of the farm surround-
ings and in the neatness with which the farms, large and small, are
There is a great diversity of crops; nearly everything grown in
Colorado can be found. Near and just inside the first line of foothills
are found thrifty and profitable orchards, and, while most of the farms
'have more or less of an orchard, those at the base of the mountains
are especially noteworthy. Small fruit and garden truck are raised in
quantities for the markets. It is the center of the lamb-feeding dis-
trict, probably 100,000 head being fed on alfalfa each winter, and
many cattle also are wintered and fattened here. Wheat, oats, rye,
birley, and corn for grain; alfalfa, timothy, clover, and the native
grasses of the second bottom as hay, give not only great diversity of
farm produce, but of farm labor as well. By intelligent handling the
Sfarms are made to produce crops above the general average of the
State, and an air of prosperity and energy pervades the community.
S There has been a marked tendency toward more intensive farming
and toward the cutting up of the old and larger farms into smI~ h-ri
tracts of 80 acres and less. This tendency has grown in the last.to:
years, and the land has become more valuable with the prospect fi::ii:I
and the building of a beet-sugar factory at the town of Loe'lanidIt
The year 1901, the first in which .beets were extensively planted, :e'': ......
proved the suitability of the soil and climate to the cultivation of tO iE':
In the future probably few farms here will exceed 40 acres in
extent; every acre will be under cultivation and be made to yield:
something more nearly approaching the capacity of the land. Indeed,
it appears that the district is incapable of increasing its acreage very
much, as practically all the land between the ridge on'the north, aep- *
rating the Cache la Poudre and the Big Thompson rivers, and that '
on the south, separating the Big Thompson and the Little Thompson,
is now under ditch and under cultivation. More than this, the water
discharged from the canyon is barely equal to the demand. In dry .
years there is grave apprehension of a shortage of irrigating water,-
and the utmost economy has to be practiced. Indeed, the very effi-
cient reservoir systems, which will be spoken of later, are the result
of the necessity for more and later water.
The storage capacity is almost equal to the excess run-off over and
above that needed for direct irrigation. Very little water escapes
from the district except in seasons of unusual flow and during short and
very heavy storms. In the year 1900 every reservoir in the district
was full early in the storing season, which is generally in June, and
some water passed into other districts; this, however, was exceptional.
During the spring of 1901 many of the reservoirs were practically
empty until late in the season; copious rains, however, came, and a
good run of water was had, filling the reservoirs to nearly their full
capacity, and to the end of the season there was no complaint of the
Another consideration in selecting the Big Thompson was that its
waters are used almost exclusively for agricultural purposes; there is
no mining in the district, with its attendant waste and contamination
and with its conflicting interests. In some districts of the State the
slimes a from the stamp mills above, together with the sand and gravel
of the players, cause trouble in keeping the ditches in good condition.
The slimes in particular are annoying, as they do not settle readily,
and so find their way onto the fields and gardens, where they leave an
almost impervious sticky coating of scarcely any fertilizing value, but
very deleterious to such fruits and vegetables as come in contact with'
it. There is likewise no use of water for manufacturing purposes, so
that in distribution only agricultural uses are considered.
a The technical term applied to the fine powdered rock, mostly in suspension,
coming from the stamp mills and closely resembling that carried by glacial streams.
U. S. Dpt of Agr. Bul 118 Olthc of E.pl. Slat.ons Ilr.galon In.erl.galion
BIG 'THOMPSON RIVER
/4r. rD TRIBUTARIES
LiT TL TmniOMP0N
SCALE Or MILES
-. ,,r "F LJOGCND
[:, LAN rDSUriER LO'.L 9ri iPLLLEV CANAL
I LANDS uTLER S0CuTriH SI.D DITCH
L A' ]L0ND5 UrnLF 'MAPiA CITCM
SJL.'4NI SUNOR RIST O,TIl4
lIJLAND SuNrGEA RiST a 0SS L1iTCl
I.'- -_JLDSUYrDCR BIG TnOr.lPSOlC a & MrCO. DITCH
Ii LVI.DER BIG; THOMPE Ou iJRG MrG IC TCH
LAria0 UI.)DE FarRME a5 IRRIGATNCG CANAL
[_LAriDSUADER HMOME SUPPLY CANAL
'7 LAr10S UNDLR HILLSBOROUGH CANAL
LANDSUNDERBiG TnOMPSON N0. DITCH
MT L4ANDS UNDLR HILLS BRUSH DITCH
IJ LANDS UNDER BIG THOMPSON PLATEE RIV.
MAP OF BIG THOMPSON VALLEY.
- ----- ~ ----
The district is, moreover, practically independent of others in its
claims to water. There is no district above, but below the Big
Thompson empties into the Platte River and is subject to the priorities
on that stream. However, it is found in practice that the priorities
on the Big Thompson are, generally speaking, older than those on the
Platte. At such times as there might be a conflict there is an abun-
dance of water. Above the Big Thompson the St. Vrain discharges
into the Platte River a reliable flow late in the season, and this,
together with a considerable inflow of seepage water, supplies all the
old priorities on the Platte below Platteville. The return seepage
water in the Big Thompson furnishes all the very old priorities on
That stream at its lower end and sends some water into the Platte.
The last, but one of the most important, of the reasons for selecting
this stream is that it presents clearly the extreme to which litigation
over rights to water may be carried.
Water district No. 4, or the Thompson district, lies in the South
Platte division, or division No. 1, and wholly within the State of Col-
Sorado. It embraces portions of Boulder, Larimer, and Weld counties,
extending from the continental divide, on the west, eastward to the
South Platte River, with elevations varying from 5,000 to 14,000 feet,
Sthe entire western boundary being above timber line, which in this
Latitude is about 11,000 feet. The mountains, especially the northern
slopes, are a region'blessed with perpetual snow, from which the late
water is almost entirely derived. Below timber line the slopes of the
mountains are fairly well covered with timber. Fire has not yet
caused its entire destruction, and over the burned areas a new growth
is spreading rapidly, aiding in the conservation of the water supply by
retarding the melting of the snow.
The district may properly be divided into three divisions. The first
of these is the mountain region, where both the Little and Big
Thompson rivers flow in places through deep ravines and in others
traverse open parks of greater or less area. In these parks a few
ditches have been taken out for the purpose of irrigating hay meadows.
Never far away from the streams, flowing over porous, shallow soil
underlaid by solid rock, most of the water soon finds its way back to
the river. As these ditches are small and are not included in the
Adjudication of rights by the court, they are not considered in the dis-
Stribution of the water of the district, nor will they be considered in this
The second division includes the lands irrigated by the waters of the
Little Thompson. The Little and Big Thompson rivers unite at a
: point so near the entrance of the Big Thompson to the Platte that the
distribution of the water of each is practically independent of the other.
The third division comprises all the land watered by the Bigf Th ii:
son between the point where it issues from the mountains and its ji
tion with the South Platte River.
In order to confine this discussion within the narrowest possible
limits, except in so far as the other divisions may affect the third, thi
division, by far the most important and the most interesting, i. !
will be considered. *
To one standing on the outer range of foothills near the mouth N
the canyon and looking east, the entire valley of the Big Thompeon ...
visible. To the north, extending eastward, is the ridge between the
Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson rivers, some 10 miles away at the
westerly end, and gradually approaching the river on its eastern treaui&:.
The ground sloping gently to the river appears somewhat rolling.
To the south a similar ridge marks the boundary between the Little
and Big Thompson rivers. Less rolling, the country here presents .
smooth, even slope to the river.
The elevation and the fall of the river are such that the higher
ditches skirting the foothills soon reach the crests of those ridges and
extend down them to the limit of their supply of water for the Iewer-
lying land, but supplying water to lands on both the Cache la Podndi
and Little Thompson slopes.
Under this head will be found the data collected for a number of
years on the subject of precipitation and run-off. .
The gauging station on the Big Thompson River was established in:'::
1883 by the late E. S. Nettleton, then State engineer of Colorado, and i
was located "about 200 yards above the head of the upper ditch, 12
miles from Loveland." This station being found unsatisfactory, was
abandoned, and in 1887 another was established about 10 miles west of
Loveland and was maintained until 1892. In 1893 and 1894 no reiad-
ings were taken on the river. On May 9, 1895, a third station was
established some 9 miles west of Loveland. Being below both the
Handy and Home Supply ditches, a record of both of these, entailing
considerable extra labor, was necessary. On this account the station '
was moved to a point above the head of the Home Supply Ditch April
1, 1899. This station, located about 3 miles south of the post-office at !
Arkins, at a point where the wagon bridge crosses the stream, though
below the Handy Ditch, is quite satisfactory. The gauge rod is a ver- I
cal 2-by-4 fastened on the downstream side of the south abutment o. I
the bridge. :
The channel, though quite rough and full of bowlders, is permnen,
and the results obtained are reliable. The entire record for the ~rier
at the several stations is given in the accompanying table:
Cnompartive table of discharge of Big Thompson River at Arki/s, Colo.
Minimum ... .....
I I I
..... .. ....
per see. per sec.
1895. 1896. 1897.
--- -- !- --
Cu. ft. Cu.ft. Cu.fl.
per sec. per see. per sec.
....... 74 .......
....... 37 .......
S 5 .......
420 911 666
318 218 420
217 5 64
823 483 850
570 285 465
344 180i 36
778 403 459
465 225 267
293 152 146
696 443 390
319 144 133
174 38 36
217 195 85
146 119 37
32 74 15
132 138 1 48
79 66 17
20 20 5
aNo record October 1 to 7.
On account of the uncertainty of the location of the earlier stations
and because it is not known whether the waters diverted by the ditches
above the stations were included in the discharges as given, the records
for the years 1888 to 1892, inclusive, have been excluded in making
estimates of the discharge and run-off. In the table which follows the
volume diverted by the ditches is added to the discharge as given in
the preceding table, and the average computed for the six years 1895
to 1900, inclusive.
Run-off f Big Thompson drainage area.
A iln ..... ........
282 143 211 149 275
aMelted snow and rain.
361 237 17.48
I -- -- --."
Comparative statement of run-of and precipitation.
Year. Precipi- Precipi- Rn-CU B a
Inches. Inches. Inchis. r" icaw.
1895 ........................................................... 22.37 24.10 6
96 ........................................................... 17.28 17.07 6.
1897 ........................................................... 18.87 17.02 9.8
1898 ................................. ....................... 16.86 16.99 6.6
1899 ........................................................... 16.58 18.25 12.1 S
1900 ........................................................... 16.72 16.42 16.0 M
a Year ending October 31.
It was found necessary to estimate the discharges for the months
when no record was kept. These, being the months of least flow, were
easily determined. At the same time any error in the estimate affects
the general result but little. In arriving at the conclusions given the
discharges of other rivers in the State which had records covering the
entire year were examined. As a result of such examination the gen-
eral proposition may be stated that streams reach their minimum
before the 1st of November, increasing thereafter slightly to Decem-
ber, and thereafter the discharge is quite constant until the warm
days in spring increase the flow.
The following tables of precipitation are furnished by the United
States Weather Bureau and are for the three stations of the district.
The Longs Peak and Moraine stations are located well back in the
mountains, the Moraine station having an elevation of 7,900 feet above
sea level. This station, located on one of the branches which consti-
tute the headwaters of the Big Thompson, is about 6 miles from the
summit of the range, and, being so situated, gives a much better general
average of rainfall on the watershed of the Big Thompson than either"
the Longs Peak station or the Waterdale station. Besides this, the
observations cover nearly twice as many years. For these reasons, in
estimating the run-off relative to the precipitation, the averages in this
table have been used. The Waterdale station is located near Arkins,
just inside the first range of low foothills, and these records are of
most use in cases where the precipitation on the cultivated land is
Precipitation for Longs Peak station, Larimer County, Colo.
Year. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June. July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dee. ota'it
Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inchees. Inc Inches. Inches. Inche. Inches. J
1895.... ...... -...... ... ............... 2.70 4.61 1.52 1.10 2.60 0.60 0.17.....
1896.... 0.26 .0.551 3.17 1.00 1.21 .65 3.60 2.95 1.95 1.05 .37 .15 1.9
1897... 78 1.25 1.96 1.45 1.60 1.50 1.85 1.29 .95 1.41 1.07 .56 1. ...
1898.... .24 .831 .75 1.73 2.07 2.06 2.94 1.53 .81 .60 1.00 .m0 l".
1899.... .54 1.15! 3.01 1.18 .38 1.09 4.32 1.73 .11 2.50 .02 64 1.67
1900.... .16 .85 .35 6.34 .60 .80 .51 .17 1.93 1.14 .44 .64 lt.* :
Mean .40 I .93 1.85. 2.54 1.17 1.47 2.97 1.53 1.14 1.55 .67 46 '"1
Precipitation at Moraine station, Larimer County, Colo.
Year. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June. July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Total.
Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches.Inc Inches. InchInces. Inches Ies. InchesInc Inrhes. Inches. Inches.
1889........ ..... ...... ....... ....... .. ..............1.57 0.40 0.64 ......
1890.... 0.81 0.76 0.71 2.77 1.30 1.05 2.42 3.40 0.82 1.34 .65 .35 16.38
1891.... 2. 8 3.00 3.52 1.80 3.26 1.10 1.12 .99 1.45 31 .94 .92 20.79
1892... .50 1.80 1.84 1.69 3.21 .84 2.17 .62 .06 .55 .60 .60 13.48
1898.... .69 2.82 1.88 1.34 1.76 .37 1.43 1.83 .21 .43 1.03 .90 14.19
1894... 40 .99 1.08 1.86 5.72 .38 2.25 1.26 2.13 .56 .54 1.58 18.75
1895.... 42 1.60 1.40 1.74 4.63 2.53 3.66 2.86 .84 2. 30 .35 .04 22.37
1896 8 .22 2.87 1.08 1.62 .49 3.88 2.50 2.74 .75 .30 .30 17.28
1897.. .61 1.68 1.86 1.29 2.30 1.79 2.52 2.43 .78 1.16 1.25 1.20 18.87
1898... 50 1.05 1.32 1.44 3.05 1.93 2.19 1.67 .40 .99 1.77 .55 16.86
1899.... .77 2.32 2.98 1.39 .45 1.57 3.02 1.32 .15 1.96 .00 .65 16.58
1900... .21 1.11 .30 7.74 1.30 .91 .36 .23 2.19 1.42 .47 .48 16.72
Mean .71 1.67 1.75 2.19 2.60 1.18 2.27 1.74 1.07 1.11 .69 .68 17.48
Precipitation at Waterdale station, near Arkins, Colo.
Year. Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June. July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Total.
Inches. Inches. inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches. Inches.
1895.... 0.21 1.33 0.98 1.89 4.95 4.60 5.84 0.57 0.51 1.15 .....................
1896.... 62 .28 1.50 1.22 1.66 1.83 2.58 1.44 2.60 .68 0.08 0.43 14.92
1897.... .18 .50 2.32 1.82 3.61 2.30 2.42 1.09 .84 1.07 .82 .64 17.61
1898.... .24 .25 .87 1.42 3.43 1.86 1.20 1.61 .51 .75 1.62 .50 14.26
1899.... .63 1.10 1.25 .84 .67 .92 2.12 .94 .19 3.30 .00 .49 12.45
1900.... .19 .86 .97 9.21 1.76 .45 1.05 .57 1.72 .18 .12 .22 17.30
Mean .84 .72 1.32 2.73 2.68 1.99 2.54 1.04 1.06 1.19 .53 .46 16.60
A comparison of the averages of the three tables shows that the
rainfall is very evenly distributed, there being little difference between
that of places at an elevation of 6,000 feet and of those at 9,000 feet.
Nor does there appear in the tables anything to indicate that the pre-
cipitation is differently distributed over the year, all three showing
the least precipitation in winter and the most in the spring and sum-
mer. The records cover a period scarcely long enough to make com-
parisons or to reach conclusions. An attempt was made to ascertain
what relation the precipitation during the winter had to the late flow of
the river, but no conclusion was reached while considering chiefly the
snowfall at the high altitudes. In this study the year was divided not
at January 1, but'at November 1, assuming that the snow falling after
November 1 would remain until spring at least. This failure to reach
a conclusion is not surprising, for the late flow is dependent as much
upon the amount of drifting as upon the quantity of snowfall, it being
only deep drifts that remain late. The temperature in spring is a
factor, as is also the rainfall at that time. Warm spring rains melt
the great drifts on the northern slopes and in the sheltered places
rapidly. The rain, augmented by the melted snow, flows away almost
immediately, while snow melted by the sun late in the day refreezes
to a considerable extent the succeeding night. The slower melting of
the snow also allows the water to enter the soil and the cracks and
crevices of the rocks, to reappear later in the season in springs which
feed the river. This applies to the untimbered portions aW ii
above timber line where the winds and rains have free access i
snow, and has especial reference to Longs Peak station. Under
modifying conditions, of which there are no records and whichI
so many variables into the calculation, and with so few years of.
plete records to consider, even though conclusions were reached, th
would not be positive in their character. Necessarily a good mnowb.i
during the early winter on the higher elevations melts later than ta i..ii
lower down when unprotected under similar conditions of .rain a
sun during the melting period. If the winds aid in building de .:
drifts in the ravines, or if there are no warm rains, the beneficial
result of an early snow is quite marked. The records given here,
however, seem to indicate that the run-off from protected snows- an
be more easily predicted in advance and are less affected by the con-
ditions of rain, sun, and wind during the melting period.
The run-off and average rainfall, as given above, seem to bear a
relation to each other. Both being considered for the year, one would
expect little difference in their relative proportions. By the table,
the year 1895 had 22.37 inches precipitation and an average ran-of of
282 cubic feet per second. The following year a decrease in rainfall
brought a decrease in the run-off of 139 cubic feet per second, nearly
50 per cent. In 1897 there was an increase in both items, in 1898 a
decrease in both, while for 1899 the run-off was nearly twice as much
as in 1898, and in 1900 nearly three times as much as in 1898, with
scarcely any difference in precipitation for the three years. The rune
off for the year 1900 exceeded, indeed, that for 1895, with its record-
breaking rainfall of 22.37 inches. The difference of time of year of. -:
the rainfall and the run-off for these years of extremes will. now
be examined. In 1895 it is seen that the run-off had a maximum
recorded discharge of 931 cubic feet per second and a minimum of
116 cubic feet per second; that for August, September, and October,
months of small discharge, the flow exceeded -that of any other year
for the corresponding months. For May, June, and July, however:
the average run-off for 1895 is exceeded a number of times in years
greatly less in total precipitation, as, for example, May, 1897, June
and July, 1899, and May and June, 1900. The year 1900 is especially
remarkable, May and June showing the highest run-off for any months
of which there is record, while for the months of small flow the d~:li.'i
charge is considerably below the normal. Turning now to the ri S
remarkably well distributed throughout the different months of 18i* :
with a maximum for May of 4.63 inches, about one-fifth of th oetii '
In 1900, however, the distribution was very poor, 7.74 inches falli:
in the month of April alone, almost one-half of the rainfall for.i t AiN
entire year. Although the total run-off for 1900 was far in iexkeews :
.. .. ..
I that for 1895, much of the water escaped and was not available for irri-
gation. Neither the reservoir nor the feeder-ditch capacity was suffi-
Iient to store more than a fraction of the flow for May and June, nor
would it be economy to increase them to an extent sufficient to store
Such floods, occurring as they do at rare intervals; in fact, only once
in twelve years is such a flood recorded. Therefore a uniformly dis-
Stributed rainfall, as in 1895, even though it give a much smaller
I percentage of run-off as compared with precipitation, is better than
That of a year like 1900, when most of it occurs in a short period.
.i The variations in the percentages of run-off and its causes will now
be considered. The run-off for 1895 was 52 per cent, while that of
1900 was 97 per cent of the precipitation. The great loss of 1895 was
caused by the long exposure to the dry winds, a large amount of even
I the early winter snows passing directly from the solid to the vaporous
state. The remarkable run-off of 1900 is due principally to the rapidity
with which the water reached the stream and to the short exposure.
; Two other causes, which might be classed as errors in the data used,
contributed to swell the percentage of run-off: First, the precipitation
Son the lower reaches of the river, as shown by the Arkins station rec-
ords, was greater than that shown by Moraine station records; second,
Almost no old snow remained after the summer of 1900. Snow banks
which had been considered perpetual" had by the action of the rains
been almost entirely melted. This snow, deposited in previous years,
of course does not appear in the records of precipitation for the year
1900. Considering the long exposure of 1895, the percentage of loss
by evaporation is not remarkable. In the year 1899 there was a large
precipitation in the early spring, probably in the form of light snow,
which, melting rapidly as the weather warmed, caused high water in
the early summer. The bountiful snowfall of the preceding Novem-
ber and December furnished a good late flow.
The record of Longs Peak station failed to establish a relation
between a late flow and the snowfall in the early winter; but here we
have, when considering the precipitation for lower altitudes, appar-
ently positive proof that early winter snows do augment the flow.
What, then, is the reason for the apparent slower run-off at the lower
altitudes? As already mentioned, the timber near the headwaters is
still well preserved and new timber is coming up where fire passed
some years ago. In these lower altitudes the soil is deeper, the many
:small depressions form lakes and marshes, and numerous small grassy
parks are found; all these aid in retarding the escape of the water. A
good fall of snow in the spring will lie in the timber for a long time;
Such as falls on the little open parks is absorbed by the ground as it
melts; the melting in the timber is slow and almost all the water sinks
into the ground, and, while the snow itself may disappear early, con-
i: 2817-No. 118-02- 2
.. .. ..... :::........ : ::::
.. ... .. .. .
siderable time is consumed by the water in percolating through *0
soil before it appears again in the springs and water courses:
dow n. ::.. ... .i .
The forests, especially,. aid in holding back the water, for they' il
tect both the unmelted snow and the wet ground or surface water :,,M
the dry winds and sun, and the loose, porous soil of the forests cWi
absorb water almost as fast as the snow is melted. .In the: hi::l
unforested areas, the ground being much steeper and with less cov:
ing to absorb the melted snow, the run-off is much more rapid.
From the above the following statements are formulate d:
(1) Snows in the early winter in high altitude will furnish a l ;
flow, but the amount of late flow therefrom is modified at first by:
the drifting and then by weather conditions as regards rains jand :
(2) Snows in the forested areas give a better distribution of run-of
than in unforested areas.
(3) Years of well-distributed precipitation give a more even and.
later flow in the rivers than years of excessive periodical rains; but
years of evenly distributed rainfall give a less total of run-off.
The average run-off for six years was 237 cubic feet per second for
the entire year. This means a total of 470 acre-feet per day, or 171,550
acre-feet per year.
The drainage area of the Big Thompson above the gauging station is
given as 305 square miles, or 195,200 acres. The run-off in depthover *
the entire surface is therefore 0.88 foot, or 10.56 inches, as compared.
with 17.48 inches precipitation. This indicates that about 57 per cent.
of the total precipitation would be available for irrigation if it could'
all be stored or should come at such time and in such volume as could
be used for direct irrigation. This subject will be treated in the dis-
cussion of duty of water and reservoirs.
In the valley of the Big Thompson prior to 1861 there was very
little settlement, the gold excitement being much farther south, the
point farthest north where any mining was done being on Boulder
It was the mines that furnished, in the earliest days as they do now,
the best and most profitable market; andthen, as now, the farms made
possible the development of most of the mining resources.
The irrigation of the meadow lands required a great deal of water,
or, if they did not really require it, it took a great deal to injure them.
Underlaid, as they usually were, with a bed of coarse gravel, bowlders,
and wash. they drained quickly, and little alkali was brought to the
surface, that undesirable substance coming later from the upper lands.
The higher grounds were leached by the excessive.application of water;
the resultant seepage, strongly impregnated, appeared later in the
lower lands, and, evaporating, left on the surface a coating of white
S In the construction of the earlier ditches no attempt was made to
reach a level higher than the bottom lands. The early settler was
skeptical as to the ability of the upper lands to produce anything other
than short grass and cactus, and the running of ditches out onto the
mesas was too great an undertaking. The ditches began only high
enough up on the stream to cover the land of the builders, and were
given a grade more with reference to making the water run than to
maintaining a maximum elevation. The matter of erosion of the ditch
was never considered. The ditch was carried over the edge of the first
mesa and thence along its foot on no uniform or fixed grade. Often
the rate of fall was greater than that of the river itself, which in
its meanderings back and forth traversed much longer distances than
the ditch between the same points. The consequence was that the
ditches washed and grew larger and larger. An extension required no
enlargement of the old portion, and the abundance of water and the
ease with which a large amount was obtained led to excessive use. If
the decrees were based on the sizes of the ditches it is not surprising
that they were excessive.
There were probably earlier, small, unimportant, and now forgot-
ten ditches, .but at present there are only 15 in all. Of these, 2
are practically abandoned and 2 are small and supplied by seepage,
while 1 other has no decree and is likewise supplied by seepage.
Those ditches which survived up to the granting of decrees in 1881
are described below, and, as far as possible, their original names, loca-
tions, sizes, and the land covered at the various periods are given.
It is a delicate matter to make statements concerning these ditches, in
view of the lawsuits past and anticipated. When voluminous court
records give directly conflicting evidence by the "oldest inhabitants,"
one will surely be excused for so often using the words "possible,"
"probable," "perhaps," and "about."
The statement of the former and present value of lands under sev-
eral ditches is given for three reasons:
(1) To compare them with unirrigated Government and railroad
(2) To show the change of sentiment toward bottom lands and those
on the mesa. In the early days bottom lands only were of much value,
Syet a few years ago they were the lowest priced of any in the district.
ii` The reclamation of this land by drainage will make it very valuable
for the planting of onions in particular and of sugar beets, as it is
very rich though hard to thoroughly subdue. It is quite rough and
requires leveling to make it available for these crops.
....... ... .... .. .
(3) These lands are certain to again be of great value, and it A
future comparison also that the data is given here. ..
THE BIG THOPON DITCH....
A description and a history of the construction and man a ii'c
this the first ditch upon the Big Thompson of which there i 'Iri ni f
record or which is of importance at the present time, is similar to tht
of all the early ditches in the district, and much of what is said willt
apply as well to other districts throughout the State. According' to
the record the survey and construction were begun November 10, 1861
the ditch being a neighborhood enterprise intended to water the" 'ia
of a number of adjoining farms.
Without irrigation the grasses of the meadow lands were generally
forced to maturity by the hot weather and the want of moisture befor ie
the growing season was really over, and the product was light, although
making an excellent feed. The experiment having been tried In
other communities with good results, it was believed that the applica-
tion of water would very materially lengthen the growing season and
produce a much greater tonnage. So we see that ditch building was
almost coincident with settlement.
The Big Thompson Ditch was some 8 miles long, covering a narrow
strip of land, seldom more than a mile in width along the river bottom,
and amounting probably to less than 3,000 acres, being almost entirely
hay land of the second bottom. The decree gives the ditch 96.5 cubic
feet of water per second, which purports to be the amount actually car-
ried at times by the ditch and necessary for the land watered. While
it is possible that the ditch had a capacity equal to the decree and
possibly did at times carry that amount, it is hardly credible that that
quantity was either necessary or carried for any considerable time.
In 1897 28 cubic feet of water per second was transferred by order
of the district court to the Hillsboro Ditch. This transfer served
two purposes: (1) A consolidation of interests with a consequent
decrease of expense in maintenance, and (2) it made possible the irri-
gation of higher and better land. Such a transfer could hardly be
objected to by outside parties, as the head gate of the Hillsboro
Ditch is but a mile above that of the Big Thompson, and any seepage
water previously used was still available, and if the full appropriation
had formerly been diverted to irrigate the bottom lands its use on the
more valuable upland, requiring less water, was certainly wise. In
1897 the superintendent of irrigation made transfers of individual
shares to the Hillsboro Ditch as follows: Two of 14, one of 7, and
two of 5 cubic feet per second each. In the same year two shares of
a The prices given were obtained in 1901 and have already very materiaM.i:
5 cubic feet per second each were transferred in similar manner to the
Home Supply Ditch. Permission was also given to transfer one of 7
cubic feet per second to the Lbudon Ditch. This transfer, however, is
uncertain, as the interests of the Loudon Ditch appear to demand a
prohibition of transfers of all kinds, and it is probable that this com-
pany will resist the other transfers permitted by the superintendent
of irrigation. There now remains in the Big Thompson Ditch 51
cubic feet of water per second, irrigating some 500 acres, with a pos-
sibility of the return of 62 cubic feet of water per second temporarily
transferred to other canals. This ditch in its present condition can
not carry to exceed 25 cubic feet per second. It in all probability had
been in that condition for a considerable time prior to the transfers of
water. From data at hand the ditch carried but 22 cubic feet per
second in 1890 and covered but 640 acres of land. The value of land
under this ditch in the early days was from $40 to $60 per acre; its
value now, however, is about $20 per acre. The decrease is easily
accounted for in the decline in the price of wild hay from $50 or $100
to less than $10 per ton, together with the fact that much of the land
has become water-logged.
The ditch, designated as priority No. 3, was built in 1862 by a Mexi-
can by the name of Mariano and his people, to irrigate lands on the
south side of the river. The ditch was small, and Mariano, unable to
cope with American energy in the acquirement and perfection of
water rights and the holding of land, at length found himself confined
to some 40 acres. The ditch was gradually abandoned and is now a
record only. This was the first private ditch in the district. At the
time of the decree its owners claimed for it a capacity of 38.4 cubic
feet per second; however, as they testified that it irrigated but 120
acres, and although the referee stated that there was insufficient data
for granting a decree, the court granted 3.12 cubic feet per second, or
an inch (0.026 cubic foot per second) to the acre.
THE BIG THOMPSON AND MANUFACTURING COMPANY'S DITCH.
This ditch is located on the south side of the Big Thompson, about
2 miles west of Loveland. It is less than 7 miles in length, covers
about 1,300 acres on the river bottom, and was the first ditch in the
district to incorporate. Its first decree of 34.02 cubic feet per second
is dated April 1, 1863. The ditch was enlarged and extended in 1864,
acquiring its second right of 37.01 cubic feet per second May 1, 1864.
In 1867 the head gate was moved farther up the river and the ditch built
to cover land farther back from the river. Being much larger than the
old ditch, it acquired its third right of 65.47 cubic feet per second.
In May, 1872, it claimed a fourth appropriation of 9.75 cubic feet .
per second, making a total of 146.25 cubic feet per second. From the
present size of the ditch, its location, and the amount of land covered,
it does not seem possible that more than 75 cubic feet per second was
ever carried, and at present it does not run to exceed 25 cubic feet per
second. Some ten years ago, by measurement, it had a maximum
capacity of not to exceed 50 cubic feet per second. In the application
of the claimants for a decree the maximum amount of land claimed to
have been irrigated was but 1,500 acres,; while the land susceptible of
irrigation was but 2,180 acres. According to the referee the capacity
of the ditch was 213 cubic feet per second, with a fall of 25 feet to the
mile-considerable water for such a fall; the court, however, granted
but 146.25 cubic feet per second for the 2,180 acres, something over
24 inches to the acre, or, for the 1,500 acres irrigated a duty of some-
thing like 10 acres to the cubic foot per second. Under the same
ditch on the same land the duty at present is about 162 acres to the
cubic foot per second.
Attention is called here to the table under the heading "Titles to
water," page 64, which gives a summary of the -findings of the court on
all the ditches.
Transfers have been made as follows:
To the Home Supply Company, by sale, 24 cubic feet per second;
by permission of the superintendent of irrigation, 22 cubic feet per.
second for five individuals, the amounts being 10, 4, 3, 3, and 2 cubic
feet per second..
To the Handy Ditch, 6 cubic feet per second, by permission.
To the South Side Ditch, 6 cubic feet per second, by permission.
To the Farmers' Ditch, 11 cubic feet per second, by order of -the
To the Loudon Ditch, 1 cubic foot per second, by permission.
Against this transfer, however, the Loudon company will protest.
If the estimate of 75 cubic feet per second maximum capacity is cor-
rect, and if the transfers stand, but 3.97 cubic feet per second remain
of the water used before the transfers for this ditch. In making the
sale to the Home Supply Ditch the part sold was not all of one
priority, a proportionate amount of each of the four appropriations,
approximately one-sixth of each, being sold. The value of this water
in the Home Supply Canal averages probably $1,000 per cubic foot
per second, while the price paid is said to have been $400 per cubic
foot per second. The land being much the same as under the Big
Thompson, has, as a whole, decreased in value; some of the land,
however, is excellent and worth probably $50 per acre.
There are no reservoirs or reservoir sites under this ditch..
hi P '
THE PA BlME' IRRIGATING DITCH.
By successive enlargements this ditch has the following rights:
Decreed rights of Farmers' Irrigating Ditch.
May 1, 1864 ............................. ........ ......5.72 -
i June 1, 1868 ....-......... ..... --.................... ....... 2.60
August 1, 1878............................................... 54.08
It is located just south of Loveland on the north bank of the river;
it is about 9 miles in length and covers 4,500 acres of land worth $45
per acre. The area irrigated is probably nearly 3,000 acres. It has
30 shares, of a value of $1,200 each; each share supposed to be suffi-
cient for 160 acres. This ditch carries 14 cubic feet of water per sec-
ond, decreed to the Big Thompson and Manufacturing Company's Ditch
by order of the district court. Had the amount been larger the trans-
fer would probably have been resisted by other ditches injuriously
The annual expenses on the ditch average for superintendence $300
and for repairs $300.
The capacity at present is about equal to its decreed rights.
There are no reservoirs or reservoir sites under this ditch. Con-
sidering the amount of water allowed per acre cultivated for the Big
Thompson and Manufacturing Company's Ditch, the amount of water
decreed this ditch seems to be very small. Although this ditch was
actually irrigating one-third more land and had under it twice as much
land as the manufacturing company's ditch, its decree is less than
one-half as large. Though the character of the land under each is
similar, the court saw no inconsistency in its decrees.
THE BIG THOMPSON IRRIGATING DITCH.
Having priority No. 5 in the district, this ditch is locally designated
as "No. 5 ditch." It is some 5 miles long and covers about 1,000 acres
of land along the river bottom.
Considerable controversy has arisen over the decrees of this ditch
and its capacity in connection with its sale to the Handy Ditch Com-
The head of the ditch was located some 2 miles southeast of Love-
land, and since 1895 has not been used. The decree is for 78 cubic
feet per second, of date of February 25, 1865, which the Handy Ditch
Company purchased in 1897, together with the land covered by the
ditch. Upon application to the superintendent of irrigation in 1897
to transfer the full 78 cubic feet per second he allowed 40 cubic feet
per second to be changed, provided the old ditch be abandoned. On
2 4 .. .....
appeal to the State engineer that official caused the line of the old da it
to be carefully surveyed and its cross section determined. The ~reupl(
of the survey showed that the ditch could carry more than 78 oetae i
feet per second, even taking the least cross section and lightest grad
found as a basis of calculation. The State engineer, therefore, ordered:
the entire decree to be transferred, which resulted in suit being
brought, under the the title of "The Loudon Irrigating Canal Co. v.
the Handy Ditch Co. et al." This case is given more fully later. At
present the Handy Ditch is allowed to draw not more than 20 cubic
feet per second of this water. In obtaining a decree the capacity as
claimed by the owners was but 75 cubic feet per second, but notwith-
standing this the decree grants 78 feet per second, or 3 "inches" of
water per acre. The size of the ditch is given as 8 feet on the bottom,
14 feet on top, 3 miles in length, 2- feet in depth, with a fall of 10 feet
to the mile.
THE LOVELAND AND GREELEY CANAL.
The canal or, rather, system of canals and reservoirs which goes
under this name is one of the most important in the district, extend-
ing, as it does, from a point on the Big Thompson some 3 miles west of
Loveland nearly to the town of Greeley, supplying water along its
entire course to more than 21,000 acres, the greater part of which lies
near Greeley and on both the Big Thompson and Cache la Poudre
slopes. The name Loveland and Greeley was applied to the main
canal as it was enlarged. The head gate is located in sec. 17, T. 5 N.,
R. 69 W., and the system embraces the old Larimer County Irrigating
and Manufacturing Ditch, commonly called the Chubbuck Ditch, with..
its priorities as follows:
Decreed rights of Chubbuck Ditch.
November 1, 1865 ....----.. ---......--...------.....--------. 8.36
October 20, 1870.............................................. 39.04
October 25, 1873.----...........--...--.--..-- ......--...... -- 35.50
Total ......---...-................----.........-- .---- 82.90
This total of 82.90 cubic feet per second, added to the decree of
April 1, 1881, of 297.44, makes a total of 380.34 cubic feet per second.
With this latter enlargement (the extension of the canal by the Boom-
erang and Grapevine laterals) it covered some 30,000 acres. The old
Larimer County Irrigating and Manufacturing Ditch at the time of its.
decree covered about 2,100 acres, of which 1,800 were irrigated. In
acquiring this ditch the Loveland and Greeley Irrigating and Land
Company guaranteed to the owners, thereof a perpetual free and first
right to the water of the canal at such times as it was needed and in
amount to the full extent of their priorities. The company does-not,.
however, furnish reservoir water under this agreement. The amount
of land so irrigated amounts to about 3,100 acres, and the amount of
free water furnished is 1,815 inches under a 2-inch pressure.
The Barnes Ditch was another acquirement by the company under
Similar agreement, the company furnishing free water to the extent
of 2,100 statutory inches. The land watered, however, scarcely exceeds
1,000 acres. The Barnes Ditch had four priorities, as follows:
Decreed rights of Barnes Ditch.
October 20, 1865 ............................................... 18.56
June 1, 1867 .............. ................................ 12.06
June 23, 1873 ...........--... ...-- ---............--- ------- 19.93
November 1, 1878--..------ --.. ---.------------ .. 15. 20
The ditch was acquired and enlarged as a feeder to Lake Loveland,
and when in good repair has a capacity of more than 400 cubic feet
per second. The total decreed right of the Loveland and Greeley
Canal is 446.09 cubic feet per second.
Four kinds of rights exist under this system-the old Larimer
County Irrigation and Manufacturing Ditch free rights, the old Barnes
Ditch free rights, the rights under the Loveland and Greeley Canal
proper, and the Lake Loveland Reservoir rights. A piece of land
may have a reservoir, right with either of the others, or a reservoir
Right alone. There are 208 rights of 80 acres each under the Love-
Sland and Greeley Canal proper, of which 205 are in use; under the
reservoir are 300 rights of 80 acres each, of which 175 are in use.
I There is considerable land covered by no water right that lies under
Sthe ditch and the reservoir whose outlet is the ditch, and it is probable
That some of this land is watered. A water right, being about 1.44
cubic feet per second, is made to cover much more than 80 acres, the
waste and seepage water being used.
The range of value of the land is considerable, but $75 per acre is
not uncommon even for 160-acre tracts, especially if it possesses
Both ditch and reservoir rights.
THE BIG THOMPSON AND PLATTE RIVER DITCH.
This ditch is located at the extreme lower end of the district, just
above the mouth of the Little Thompson, from which it draws some
seepage water. It has two priorities, one dated November 18, 1865,
for 35 cubic feet per second, and one dated May 15, 1876, for 86.18
cubic feet per second. Its first priority is supplied principally from
seepage. The ditch covers about 1,800 acres between the Big Thomp-
son and the Platte River, and has a carrying capacity of about 40 cubic
Feet per second. The cost of maintenance, including supervision, is
i: about $500 per year. This ditch is a source of very little trouble to
the commissioner, he having to visit it seldom, as there is :g
enough seepage to supply its needs when water is scarce.
BIST AND GOSS DITCH...: ..
This is a small ditch on the south side of the river, and ia iw.. :..';!
irrigate portions of two farms, that of Mr. Percy D. Goss and cji*:
Buckingham estate, in all about 300 acres. Its capacity at present is
about 20 cubic feet per second, and it is some 2 miles long. t.s
priorities are, March 20, 1866, 6.41 cubic feet per second, and April 15
1875, 80.07 cubic feet per second. According to the findings of te
referee, but 400 acres were covered by both appropriations, and lint
225 acres actually irrigated, while the amount actually appropriated
was 4.68 cubic feet per second. A third enlargement was claimed, but
not allowed. Also, according-to the findings, the land requires 0.008
cubic foot per second per acre, or a total of 8.32 cubic feet per second,.
but in the face of this the court grants 86.48 cubic feet per second,
more than ten times what was apparently recommended by.the referee.
There are no reservoirs under this ditch, but the decree seems to
be ample without one.
HILL AND BRUSH DITCH.
This is a small private ditch on the north side of the river, near the
lower end of the district. It is about 5 miles long, and has a maxi-
mum capacity of 15 cubic feet per second, but a decree of 61.8 cubic
feet per second. The referee says as this ditch covered 1,500 acres,
and required 0.0208 cubic foot per second per acre it had acquired a
right to 31.2 cubic feet per second "by construction," though its..
owners claimed for it 69 cubic feet per second. The court, disregard-'
ing the findings and recommendations of the referee, gave the ditch a
decree of 61.8 cubic feet per second.
THE LOUDON DITCH.
The Loudon Ditch is the highest on the stream on the north side,
waters land on the Cache la Poudre slope, and is one of the most
important in the district. It has good and large priorities, but, hav-
ing no reservoirs, is short on late water. There are -a few private
reservoirs, and some good sites which might be utilized. It is some
26 miles in length, counting its more important laterals, irrigates more
than 10,000 acres, and covers about 13,000 acres. Its capacity is equal
to its first two decrees. This ditch originally covered 400 acres, of
which one-half was irrigated. The referee says that the capacity of
this old ditch was 21.19 cubic feet per second, but that 40 cubic feet
per second were claimed, and it was so allowed. The canal has two
later appropriations-154.3 cubic feet per second November 1, 1877,
and 123.48 cubic feet per second September 17, 1883. It is carrying
at present 9 cubic feet per second of transferred water; 8 cubic feet per
.. a. s!i~
cond from the Big Thompson No. 1 and 1 cubic foot per second from
e Big Thompson and Manufacturing Company's Ditch. However,
e management deny that they recognize the transfers. Land under
is ditch is valued at $60 per acre.
THE GEORGE RIST DITCH.
The ditch is used to irrigate land belonging to the Buckingham
estate only, about 1,800 acres, and has a capacity of 66 cubic feet per
second. Formerly its capacity was less than half that amount, but
when the Mariano Lake was put to use by the Home Supply Ditch
Company, it purchased a right of way through this ditch, enlarging it
and making it a feeder for the lake. Besides a money consideration
for the right of way, the company assumes the cost of maintenance for
its use. The ditch has one decree only, of 195 cubic feet per second,
of date May 1, 1873, though application for decree was made under
two dates-May 1, 1873, and July 9, 1875. There had been actually
irrigated in the first case but 100 acres, and in the second 2,400 acres.
This is the most important of the lower ditches, as well as one of
the largest in the district. It extends from a point on the south bank of
the Big Thompson, some 5 miles below Loveland, in a curve around
I:to and across the Little Thompson, and irrigates some land on the
South side of that stream, where there is a reservoir to aid in regulat-
ing the distribution of the water. The present capacity of the ditch
is greater than, or at least equal to, its decree of 153.4 cubic feet per
F second. This ditch has practically absorbed the Big Thompson No. 1
Switch and covers all the latter's land. It has acquired by purchase 28
cubic feet per second, and by the transfer of five individual rights 45
cubic feet per second more, carrying, therefore, 73 cubic feet per sec-
ond of the Big Thompson No. 1 water. It covers nearly 9,000 acres
and actually irrigates 5,000 acres or more. Its stock is divided into
108 shares, serving 80 acres each, valued at $400 per share; the cost of
maintenance is less than $900 per year, and an assessment of $14 per
share yearly covers all costs of maintenance, superintendence, and a
certain amount of interest on borrowed money. Each share is pre-
sumed to furnish 60 iL inches when needed, though much less suffices.
This ditch has three decrees, as follows:
Decreed rights of Hilsboro Ditch.
Date. Quaritity. Area.
per see. Acres.
:October 15, 1874.................................................................... 8.25 300
: april 15, 1878..................... ...................... .... ............. ......... 99.46 1,800
October 6, 1881......................... ...................................... 45.69 3,000
There seems here to be rather a flexible rule for estint ig i
amount of water required per acre in granting the decree. -Its:
struction is said to have been "difficult," probably due to the fact
an attempt was here made to get water up on to the mesa. Ot o
later construction are accounted "easy of construction" under ithila
THE HANDY DITCH.
The head gate of this ditch (see frontispiece) is the highest.:o
river, and the ditch covers the highest irrigated land on the sot Si~...
It is about 22 miles long, covering some 15,000 acres and actUaljy i r .
gating more than 12,500. Its capacity is about 250 cubic feet 1 p6 w
ond, and it is used largely to fill the numerous private mervewo :tis
under it. A large part of the area irrigated lies on the Little Thomp-
son slope, which is accounted the best land in the district; certain it is.i
that the land under this and the Home Supply Ditch lies ideally for
irrigating and is wonderfully productive, and, taken as a whVle, will
average $50 per acre in price. This ditch is unfortunate in the small-j
ness of its first decree and in its not possessing reservoirs to furnish |
late water. Both these defects are largely counterbalanced by the i
numerous private reservoirs under it. This ditch is especially famous 4
on account of its lawsuits, and will be frequently referred to hereafter
in that connection. As to its priorities, it has one of Feiruary 28,:
1878, for 31.2 cubic feet per second and one of December 15, 1880, of
141.23 cubic feet per second. 2
The findings of the referee are different in this case from those toi
which attention has been called. The application states that there wre
10,000 acres under the canal February 28, 1878, and that the amount
claimed was 520 cubic feet per second. The referee then says that the
amount of water appropriated was 31.2 cubic feet per second. Of his
own volition he states: "1 find, further, that the ditch was enlarged."
The owners never claimed an enlargement in their application. The.
facts were that the ditch was built the first year full size to a rock cut,
and beyond the rock cut full size again; but in order to get water for
the crops of that year the cut was not built full size, but was com-
pleted two years later. The referee evidently considered the capacity
of a ditch the capacity of its smallest part, and the court agreed with
him. This was really the beginning and cause of the Handy Ditch's
subsequent legal contests, though most of the cases involved in no
way the decree to the Handy. The Handy Ditch Company has
acquired by purchase the Big Thompson Irrigation Ditch, known as
No. 5, with a priority of 78 cubic feet per second. As stated before,
it is now allowed to draw 20 cubic feet per second of this water, and it
has had transferred to it 6 cubic feet per second from No. 2, or the Big
Thompson and Manufacturing Company's Ditch, so that it has 26 cubic
t of water per second of very early priority, besides its first 31.2
bic feet per second to supply domestic needs and late crops.
THE SOUTH SIDE DITCH.
SThis is a small ditch heading just inside the canyon, with only the
nandy and Home Supply ditches above it on the river. It covers
bout 2,000 acres and irrigates nearly that area; it has a capacity of
than 35 cubic feet per second, though its decree calls for 50.3
bic feet per second. The acreage and capacity at the time of the
decree was about one-half of this amount, the enlargement being made
i consequence of the purchase of water from the Big Thompson and
manufacturing Company's Ditch. The amount purchased was 6 cubic
eet per second and the price $1,500. The ditch stock is divided into
75 shares at $50 per share, and a share is supposed to irrigate 10
sres. The land under this ditch has an average value of $40 per acre.
he cost of maintenance and of superintendence is about $100 per
THE HOME SUPPLY DITCH.
SThis ditch, the second on the river, is likewise one of the largest and
nost important in the district. It, with the Handy, irrigates by far
e greater part of the land on the south side. It is finely constructed,
rith a good masonry dam in the river (Pl. II). The upper end is in
rock cut, and its rating flume is the most permanent on the river.
he canal with its laterals is some 32 miles long and covers 19,000
acres, actually irrigating 18,000 acres. It has the best reservoir system
in the district, running water from its reservoirs directly onto the land
And exchanging with the river. Notwithstanding its very late priority,
its lands are as well supplied as any. Under it are a relatively large
,percentage of the late crops; winter wheat, in particular, being raised,
the acreage of which is increasing every year. The yield is in excess
of 30 bushels of wheat per acre. There are 2,001 shares in the com-
pany, each 15 shares equal to a 160-acre water right. The value per
:share is $150, practically $10 per acre. In 1881 this company acquired
the Lone Tree Reservoir and in 1888 the Mariano Lake. It has pur-
hased 24 cubic feet of water per second from the Big Thompson Man-
M.facturing Ditch, at a price said to be $1,000 per cubic foot per second.
figuring the value of a foot from the value of the shares, it would
$ '2,250. As this, however, includes reservoir rights as well, it is
-rdly a fair estimate of the value of a cubic foot of water per second.
.t is said by parties under the ditch that as much water is run in
iptember as in June. This is nearer the truth under the Home Sup-
y than under any other ditch or system of the district; at the same
Sits entire accuracy is open to question.
e ditch has acquired by the transfer of the shares of five different
parties 10, 4, 3, 3, and 2 cubic feet of water per second from the B
Thompson No. 1 ditch, for the carrying of which they charge 50i
cent of the water carried.
The cost of operation is for superintendence $1,500 and for repair
about $350 per year.
The reservoir system of district No. 4, while not as complicated
that of district No. 3,a is as well developed and as efficient. No mor
water escapes from district No. 4 than from district No. 3, and probe.
ably not as much. Its inlet ditches are comparatively short and thE
reservoirs lie at a good elevation, making it unnecessary in all but one
case to discharge into the river and take water in exchange.
Almost all the reservoir sites are found to be natural depressions.i
These depressions often form natural reservoirs and contain water
drained into them from the surrounding lands; others have the rimi
depressed at one point, and through this break the water escapes. In:
improving the sites a dam is thrown.across the lowest point in the rim:
and the capacity of the reservoir largely increased. The dams are:
generally of earth riprapped with stone, with outlet pipes running
through them, controlled by valves.
The soil in these reservoirs being the washings from the surrounding
lands and of an adobe or clay character, is almost impervious, and forms.
an excellent bottom, through which very little water escapes.
Very few reservoirs have been made by placing dams across water'
courses, as they are much more expensive, as well as more dangerous,
the sudden floods often endangering the structures and necessitating
the construction of proper wasteways and constant watching. In such
reservoirs, also, considerable annoyance and expense is incurred-on
account of the necessity for allowing the natural flow to pass unimpeded
through them when the water is needed for direct irrigation by the
Fortunately, there is an abundance of good natural sites in this dis-
trict other than those found in the beds of the streams. Some excel-
lent sites which exist in the mountains have not been utilized, asthose
in the immediate vicinity of the farms could be constructed more
cheaply and more easily controlled. Storing water in the mountains
necessitates the use of the river channel to convey it to the head of
the ditch which carries it to the land irrigated. Here a division of the
reservoir water and the natural flow of the stream must be made.
aln U. S. Dept. Agr., Office of Experiment Stations, Bulletin No. 92, on "The
Reservoir System of the Cache la Poudre Valley," by the late E. S. Nettleton, will
be found an excellent description of the reservoirs and reservoir sites of district :No.3.
What is there said is equally true of the reservoirs of district No. 4. The gene~r~
physical characteristics and the method of management, construction, and distni-
bution are the same.
U es occur in transit from numerous causes. To have a keeper at
e lake is an expense, and communication between the lake and the
rm is slow and difficult.
SOn the Big Thompson few reservoirs are owned by the ditch com-
pnies or by the users in common; the majority being private in their
character, are used principally to irrigate the lands of the owners. If
Ia reservoir owner has a surplus, however, he may sell water to his
neighbors. Becoming a chattel when stored, reservoir water is under
.the absolute control of its owner, and valuable accordingly.
Reservoirs were developed much later than ditches, for until a
Scarcity was felt there was no necessity for them. Prior to the time,
However, when such necessity existed, reservoirs were, nevertheless,
l'coming into existence through natural causes and through no effort on
the part of the irrigator. In the natural depressions mentioned, the
surplus, the waste, and seepage water found a resting place. Land
being abundant, no effort was made to drain the natural lakes so
Formed, which were found to be useful for stock purposes. Later fish
were put into them, ice was cut, and in numerous ways their conven-
ience and value became apparent. When the ditches were not running,
it was soon discovered that by a little labor in excavating a trench
through the rim water could be taken from these lakes for irrigating
early crops or for plowing, and the uses naturally grew as water
.became more scarce. This was the condition until about 1880, when
it began to be recognized that the rivers were overappropriated dur-
ing low water, and the ditches constructed about that time saw in
stored water their only assurance of an adequate supply. The Home
Supply Ditch Company was the .first deliberately to build a canal in
the face of a short supply with the avowed purpose of storing the
floods and using reservoir water as its main supply. Its wisdom
has been demonstrated by the success of this canal and reservoir sys-
tem, Which, notwithstanding the lateness of the decree, always has
an abundance of water. Before 1880 there was little diversity in the
crops sown in the district. Aside from native hay, grain was the prin-
cipal product and required irrigation at about the time of the maxi-
mum discharge of the river. These conditions, together with a more
evenly distributed as well as later maximum flow than now, delayed
the recognition of the overappropriation of the river and the neces-
sity for reservoirs. The increase of the area cultivated at length
showed the overappropriation and the growing of alfalfa increased the
demand for late water for the irrigation of its second and third crops.
Requiring little engineering skill and but a small amount of capital
and labor, the construction of the reservoirs kept pace with the demand
intil now the time has arrived when there is a scarcity of water for
rage purposes. With the numerous demands upon the river, unless
e reservoir has a fairly early priority, or is small, or has a very large
supply canal, it often happens that the short high flood periq4 W
sufficient to fill the reservoir. This condition has retarded .re
construction somewhat, the greater growth being in inuree slitma.
capacity of reservoirs already constructed and in enlarging the
canals. There are numerous undeveloped sites in the district,-1
more important of which are enumerated further on. By thuse.
these and the enlargement of the inlet canals very little water la
would escape, and then only in time of unusual floods.
The great incentive at present for the construction of reservoirs is it
supply water to late crops; sugar beets are becoming a factor in the
water problem and require considerable late water; potatoes likewise
require irrigation late in the season, and winter wheat, now so pope
JAN. FEB. MARCH APRIL MAY JUNE JULY AUG. SEPT. OCT. NOV. DEC.
u.y 10 20 10 20 10 20 10 20 1020 20 1200 20 1 0 120 1 1020 1 10 20
P m&Yoarwac7ar ----- -ed--r----rect- r -d -u
a -- :i
lar, ust be irrigated in the fall. With alfalfa, followed by pot
and beets, and these in turn followed by winter wheat, even the r ||I
tion of crops does notZlessen the demand for reservoir water. In:the4
Fiu. 1of i u :.
ISr, ma ut be i ... t
diagram (fig. 1) the average water supply for the different months of
the year is represented graphically, platted to accord with the figure
given in the tables of discharge. It will be seen that there isa surp
available for storage from October to June, while there is a demand
for stored water during June, July, August, and September. On the
plat the dotted lines represent the average amount of water used during
each month. In arriving at these quantities estimates were eobbt lt ed....
from several of the former water commissioners and from the pr at
commissioner of the amount of water used for direct irrigation teso
month and the amount drawn from reservoirs. They furnished
ates also of the percentage which would be used each month, if
te irrigators under the present crop conditions could have the water
whenever they wished.
i. Similar statements and estimates were obtained from several of the
officials of the larger ditches and from such consumers as could be
reached. With these statements, and a knowledge of the average
tbW for each month, the conclusions were as shown on the diagram.
The opinions and figures were remarkably uniform in general state-
ment, the greatest difference of opinion being as to the relative use of
water for July and for August. Those contending that the use was
greater in August were under a ditch with good reservoirs, while
those who believed it was the greater in July were irrigating with water
direct from the river. The commissioners were inclined to believe
the use in July was the greater, and, considering the flow in the stream,
such appears to be the case. The figures on which the diagram is based
are given in the following table:
Water supply from the Big Thompson River, with the average amount of water u sed, various
uses to which it is put, and probable time of use of additional stored water.
Direct irrigation. amount of
Average amount of
reservoir water. Possible Time of
Month. AveraeAmount Water increase
Month rage Average necessary unused. of stor- increased
of river used. to supply Used. Stored. age.
of river demand.
--------- ----- ---- ----------- -- --
Cubic feet Cubic feet Cubic feet Cubic feet Cubic feet Cubic fect Cubic fet Cubic feet
per sec. per sec. per sec. per sec. per sec. iA r sec. per see. per sec.
January............. 60 00 00 00 30 30 20 .........
February .......... 60 00 00 00 30 30 20 .........
March .............. 100 00 00 00 70 30 20 .........
April................ 250 75 75 00 150 25 20 .........
May......-......... 544 850 350 00 150 44 30 .........
June............... 834 650 1,000 50 150 I 34 20 10
July................. 465 400 800 250 35 30 15 40
August.............. 230 220 700 350 00 10 5 106
September .......... 111 100 0 0 66 11 00 00 50
October .-....-.... 71 25 25 00 30 16 16 .........
November .......... 54 00 00 00 30 24 20 .........
December........... 60 00 00 00 30 30 20 .........
Average....... 237 ... ......... .......... .......... .........
Acre-feet...... 171,729 100,271 .......... 43,170 43,170 18,287 12,389 12,389
The first column is simply the recorded flow of the stream; the
second is an average of the amount of water used directly on the land,
and is the result of a comparison of the reports of the superintendent
and of the commissioners of irrigation who have direct control of the
water distribution. The flow of the stream as recorded, and the fact
that much of the loss is during extensive floods, though this loss is
Generally for a very short period, have been considered in making the
table. The conclusions given in the third column are taken from fig-
aiures furnished by the superintendents and commissioners, and it is
probably the most nearly correct column in the table. After Juneand
until October there is a greater demand than the average flow of the
stream, and yet during June and July water is stored. The demand
... ......... :::
is not a fluctuating quantity, but is steadily increasing or decrsig
while the flow of the streams is fluctuating, often violently, dr4
these months. Also, while the average demand, in June, for exas,
is for 1,000 cubic feet per second, the greater part of the demand ij
the latter part of the month. The greater part of the storage is
therefore early in June. In July the storing is done during itbi f
odical rises only, while during the winter months the loss ::"of .wht.ii'
might he stored (see sixth column of table) is occasioned .l y ,.ji by.
the freezing of the ditches, and for that reason in estimating l the add
tional amount that might be stored, about one-third is deducted M
the total loss at present. A little care would almost always. peaait
the entire amontt in the river to be stored. The last column ,in a .
exhibition of when the additional water so stored would bea usi
according to those best informed on the matter. It is agreed thaat
present the early water is forcing the planting of early maturingiero.
though these are not as profitable as the later ones.
Development in reservoirs is not restricted to the water now going
to waste, for it will be profitable to store the water which Ceven : owi
being used for direct irrigation and save it for the more profitable l
products. With potatoes producing an average of $100 ani ally per'
acre, and beets two-thirds that amount, neither using much more water
in a season than is necessary for a $20 alfalfa or wheat crop, t.h.b. build-
ing of what we might call retarding or temporary storage reservoirs
can not he other than profitable. To the construction of 'retarding
reservoirs the demand for direct irrigation acts as a check, and ftb
true status of the right of such reservoirs to store water is yet to be
determined. In some districts it is the custom to allow temporary
storage of water taken from the river on a "direct irrigation" i pi-
ority; in others it is looked upon as illegal. One side argues that water
alike in quantity and time would be taken from the common soUare in
any case, and that it makes no difference to later ditches whether itfis
actually applied at once or after a short interval. The other stie -on-
tends that only when not needed for immediate use may it b itored,j
and that the storing will increase the area irrigated and the consequent
withdrawal of a larger total amount during the season. ThereiP an b
no question as to which would be for the greater good of the community
as a whole, but the established rights of- individuals must be respected
Returning again to the diagram and table, we find that e23-cubol
feet per second represents the average discharge for the year, or abokut"1
171,729 acre-feet; that 100,271 acre-feet are used for direct irrigation;
about 43,000 acre-feet are stored; about 18,000 acre-feet escape, and
it is possible to store a little over 12,000 acre-feet more than is stored
It appears that during April, May, and June equal amounts of water
are stored. The commissioners differ somewhat as to this, but incline
to the belief that more is stored in June. A necessary correction,
i~ i,, i ,ii ii r "
Oi; ;i~;; ni~ 1 i~ ox
OC;lP~'B~, "" ls;, 4.sssis;;i g ~
ollli ,, r~ili
ever, which they have not considered is the amount of water
which is stored in fact, but is supposed to he diverted for direct use.
re private reservoirs especially practice storing their pro rata of
,itch water when they do not need it for direct use. Many system-
atically store water at nights and on Sundays, and in the aggregate
'*is is no inconsiderable amount. The practice is indulged in very
urlty in the season, as the reservoirs are empty and a general fear
exists that they may not be entirely tilled; later, when many of the
iieservoirs are full, this practice stops. For this reason the quantity
stored during April and May is made larger than would at first thought
On the diagram will be noted small circles scattered over the por-
tion representing the months of May, June, July, and August. These,
with the year indicated, represent the highest water for these years.
In the following descriptions of reservoirs those under each ditch
are given together to enable one to form an estimate of the value of
the reservoir and ditch as a system. The list contains many reservoirs
of little importance, and these are inserted more with a view to mak-
ing the list complete than to their value.
RESERVOIRS UNDER THE LOVELAND AND GREELEY CANAL.
This is the largest lake in the district, and one of the most noted in
the State, not only for its size and capacity, but for the amount of
land dependent upon it for water. The land irrigated has generally a
ditch right, as well as reservoir right, reserving the latter until late in
The reservoir covers 472 acres, and is located near the north bound-
ary of the town of Loveland. It is a natural depression which was
enlarged and improved by the building of a dike along the south side,
18 feet high, 20 feet wide on top, with a slope of 3 to 1 on the inner
face and lt to 1 on the outer face; the inner face is well riprapped
with stone. A tunnel, lined with concrete, three-fourths of a mile
long and 5 feet in diameter, furnishes ample outlet facilities and dis-
charges into the Loveland and Greeley Canal. A brick tower near
the south side of the lake at the upper end of the tunnel contains
the mechanism for opening and closing the gates (Pl. III). The gates
are of iron sliding in grooves outside the tower and operated by a
threaded rod, worm gear, and wheel. The amount discharged through
the tunnel seldom exceeds 350 cubic feet per second. The inlet ditch,
known as the Old Barnes Ditch, has its head gate 3j miles above the
reservoir, and a capacity of more than 400 cubic feet per second, though
on account of the danger of breaking where it runs along a side hill,
275 cubic feet per second is about the maximum carried.
C..a ......iy f Le Lovelan.i
i ....:.. .. .
The reservoir has a'L maximum available capacity of 13,000 acr.i0e .
and an iunavailuble capacity of 7,000 acre-feet. At the various dept
it has the following capacities:::"
Capacity of Lake Loveland. '1
.. q. :"
30 8, 000
The cost of the construction of the reservoir was about $125,000,
and the present cash value of each of the 300 shares is $750.. One
hundred and thirty-five shares were sold some years ago, 100 being
taken on a guaranty before the work of construction was beun, and
35 sold at irregular intervals during the seven years since the reser-
voir has been in operation. During the present year some 40 shares
were sold, more than during the entire time previously, and at the
full cash value. A sudden awakening seems to have come as to the
value of reservoirs for late water, due in a measure to the advent of
the sugar beet. It is probable that the remainder of the 300 rights
will be disposed of before many years, and at an advanced price.
In delivering water from the reservoir the wishes of a majority of
the farmers have been considered in determninig the time when the
water is to be run. The difference in location and a considerable
difference in the crops raised on the upper and lower parts of the
ditch often caused a conflict between these two sections on this point.
The lower ditch, having a considerable majority, generally had its
way. It is proposed, however, hereafter, so far as is practicable, to
consider the needs of each farm and to divide the ditch into at least
two sections. A flow of 1.44 cubic feet per second is accounted the
equivalent of an 80-acre water right, and that amount is turned out
for each right, measured over a weir, the total amount being measured
in a rating flume near the mouth of the tunnel. In the description of
the Loveland and Greeley Canal it is stated that more than 21,000 acres
were actually irrigated by it. It is interesting to know that after the
1st of July practically no water direct from the river is used on
17,000 acres of this land, the other 4,000 being served by the old free
rights. Much of this 4,000 acres possesses reservoir rights also.
There are in use 175 shares of reservoir rights of 80 acres each, or in:
all 14.000 acres.
SDuring the year 1901 the following runs were had from the lake on
SRun.q of water from Lake Lor'ehlaul, 1901.
Date. Days.. Cubic feet. Acre-
July 21 to July 27....................................................... 6 91,806,000 2,10(
Atmust 2 to August 7 .................................. ................ 5 7,34,HX 1,809
August 14 to August 19 ............ ................................... (9,2( 000 1,5.9
SAugust 26 to September I .......................................... 5 84034.000 1,929
September 6 to September 13......................................... 7 7 79,021,000 1, 14
Total ............................................................ L' 28 4L2,95,000 9,249
.At the end of the season there remained 9.5 feet in the lake to be
drawn off, about 2,000 acre-feet. Without counting loss, which is
probably made up by seepage into the ditch, the reservoir furnished
practically a depth of 8 inches over all the land possessing reservoir
The amount of water run into the ditch, as nearly as can be deter-
mined, was, prior to April 30, 2,911 acre-feet; in May, 5,139 acre-feet;
in June, 15,900 acre-feet; in July, 7,068 acre-feet; in August, 1,916
acre-feet; in September, 870 acre-feet--a total of 38,946 acre-feet; but
this water was subject to the demand of nearly the entire 21,000 acres,
making a depth of 1.85 feet.
THE BIG CUT RESERVOIR.
This reservoir is located in see. 6, T. 5 N., R. 67 W., covers 76 acres,
and contains 1,150 acre-feet of water when filled to its full capacity.
It is filled from the Loveland and Greeley Canal during high water.
This is situated in sees. 4 and 9, T. 5 N., R. 68 W., has a capacity of
400 acre-feet, and is about 60 acres in area. It is supplied with water
from the Loveland and Greeley Canal.
THE SANBORN RESERVOIRS NOS. 1 AND 2.
These reservoirs are owned by private individuals. Together they
are supposed to contain 400 acre-feet, but have not been used to any
considerable extent. They can be filled from the Loveland and Greeley
Canal and gather some seepage water. They were intended to supply
domestic water in the immediate vicinity of Greeley by means of a
pipe line run from them.
The reservoir sites under the Loveland and Greeley Canal are few,
viz, the Dawkins, in secs. 21 and 28, T. 5 N., R. 67 W.; the Basch,
capacity 25 acre-feet, in sec. 10, T. 5 N., R. 68 W.; the Steele, with
an area of 7 acres and a capacity of 25 acre-feet, and the Steele and
...." .. ..
Phillips, in sec. 16, T. 5
capacity of 35 acre-feet.
N., R. 66 W., 10 acres in area and I
These are unimportant in point of
and can be used only for very limited areas.
RESERVOIRS UNDER THE LOUDON DITOH.
Under the Loudon Ditch there are several small reservoirs and isoie
very fine reservoir sites; the main difficulty met with, however, is the
distance of the better sites from the head gates of the supply canas.
The reservoir sites are natural depressions without outlets and cone-
quently tunnels or cuts must be made through which to draw the
water. On account of the loss of head and the location of the basins
below the head gates of the ditches of the district an exchange of water
from them with other ditches is difficult. If discharged into the ri:er
there would be no ditches below to take the water and use it, as the 4
Mariano Lake now exchanges with the lower ditches to almost their
Benson Lake is situated in the N. I of sec. 10, T. 5 N., B. 69 W.
It is owned by A. S. Benson, of Loveland, and used by him to sup-
plement his supply from the Barnes Ditch for about 400 acres of land.
By the use of the reservoir Mr. Benson says the amount of land irri-
gated is twice what it otherwise would be. The reservoir has an
available capacity of about 300 acre-feet.
This is a small lake of about 10 acres in sec. 2, T. 5 N., R. 69 W... -
filled from the Loudon Ditch and supplements the irrigation of some
60 acres. The capacity is about 50 acre-feet.
SEVEN LAKES, LOUDON AND BOYD LAKES.
These form a system lying close together some 3 miles northeast of
Loveland, and for the most efficient use are largely dependent on each
other. The Loudon Lake, which is the most northerly, has been in
operation for some time, and by decree has a right to 50,000,000 cubic
feet, or 1,148 acre-feet. Its priority is dated February 24, 1883, and
is the sixth on the Big Thompson River. This lake is located'mainly|
in sec. 30, T. 6 N., R. 68 W., on the line of the Loudon lateral, and is
used as an auxiliary supply for some 2,000 acres of land on the ache
la Poudre slope. It covers about 65 acres to a depth of 28 feet The
area of land irrigated by the Loudon lateral by reason of the ava'i
ability of the water from this reservoir is at least doubled. The reset-
voir, with its outlet ditch, was bought by the Seven Lakes Company,
The year 1901 was the first season for the Seven lakes and was faily
tisfactory. What its future usefulness will he has not yet been
determined, the first season developing a number of unforseen diffi-
Ities and conflicting legal claims.
I* The reservoirs are supplied partly by seepage and waste water, but
this source, even augmented by flood waters, which are not inconsid-
s:rable, is entirely insufficient. Dependence must be placed, therefore,
on'a supply from the Loudon Ditch, and 40 shares in that ditch were
purchased, the intention being to fill all the reservoirs through the
Loudon Reservoir with water furnished to these shares. As water
can not legally be stored when needed for direct irrigation an injunc-
tion immediately stopped the practice and the question will be finally
':settled in the courts.
In addition to this difficulty the Loudon Ditch Company does not
Feel bound to allow the use of the canal as a supply ditch for the Seven
Lakes, at least not without compensation.
The Seven Lakes Company contracted with the Loveland and
SGreeley Ditch to carry 56 cubic feet of water per second to lands under
that ditch. On account of the smallness of the outlet and the small
difference in level between the lakes and the ditch, not more than 40
cubic feet per second could be discharged into the Loveland and
Greeley Canal, and when the water in the reservoir had been lowered,
20 cubic feet per second was the most that could be drawn. Some
difficulties in dividing the water of the reservoir and of the ditch
developed, but these can probably be easily overcome as the conditions
are better known.
With ample supply facilities, the capacity of the reservoirs could be
increased by additional embankments 130,000,000 cubic feet, and by
drawing off the low water in reservoirs Nos. 1, 2, and 3 into Boyd Lake
100,000,000 cubic feet of now unavailable water could be used. This,
with the 330,000,000 cubic feet capacity at present, would make
560,000,000 cubic feet, or 12,856 acre-feet-almost equal to Lake Love-
land. Most of this water would be used on the Cache la Poudre slope
or at the lower end of this district.
Boyd Lake and South Lake, natural bodies of water separated by a
low ridge, have been examined and reported on by Captain Chitten-
den, U. S. Armya. It is one of the best sites in the State. The plan
outlined by Captain Chittenden is for the development of the greatest
capacity of the lake. However, by filling the lake and sluicing out
the cut to a less depth than was contemplated, the cost would be vastly
less than the estimated cost under the Chittenden plan, and yet would
be ample to store the available water.
Two small reservoirs exist in sec. 2, T. 5 N., R. 69 W., and cover
1i some 10 acres each. Their combined capacity is perhaps 100 acre-feet,
i:and they are used as an auxiliary supply on the lands of the owners.
a House Doc. 141, 55th Cong., 2d session.
.., : .....
The reservoir sites under the Loudon Ditch are comparatively small
and few in number, aside from the Seven Lakes and Boyd system.
There is a site belonging to A. S. Benson in the S. I of sec. 10, T.
5 N., R. 69 W., and one belonging to A. S. Benson and A. Rist in see.
9, T. 5 N., R. 69 W. These have an area of 50 acres each and could
possibly be made to have 15 feet of available depth.
George W. Alford has a site in the NE. I of sec. 2, T. 5 N., R. 69
W., possibly 20 acres in area and 10 feet available depth.-
The Fairport Lake, in sec. 13, T. 6 N., R. 69 W., is on the Cache la
Poudre slope, connected with the Cache la Poudre by an inlet canal,
It has an area of 53 acres and a capacity of 575 acre-feet. It con-
tributes to the irrigation of some 1,500 acres.
RESERVOIRS UNDER THE HANDY DITCH.
Under the Handy Ditch there are, as previously stated, only private
reservoirs, although the company will probably very soon take steps
to obtain suitable reservoir facilities.
FRANK LOVELAND RESERVOIR.
This reservoir is located in the NE. 4 of sec. 15, T. 4 N., R. 69 W.,
and covers nearly the entire quarter section. It has a capacity of 800:
acre-feet, which, however, can be greatly increased. By the raising
of the dike some 10 feet a capacity of 2,000 acre-feet could be
obtained. As the reservoir has recently changed hands, it is probable
that this will be done. At present it is not much used for irrigation.
THE DE FRANCE RESERVOIR.
This reservoir is located in secs. 4, 5, 8, and 9, T. 4 N., R. 68 W.,
and covers over 50 acres. It is used in irrigating. some 600 acres of i
land and has a capacity of 250 acre-feet. It is most efficient in sup-
plying late water.
THE KEE RESERVOIR.
The Kee Reservoir is located in the NE. sec. 17, T. 4'N., R. 69W.,
and is filled through the Handy Ditch in the spring. It is a natural
basin, with a dam some 12 feet high, and irrigates about 50 acres.
Its capacity is not over 100 acre-feet.
THE BROWN RESERVOIR.
The Brown Reservoir is located in the SW. 4 sec. 35, T. 5 N., R. 69
W., receives its supply from the Handy Ditch, and being just above
the Home Supply Ditch, exchanges water with it. It has a capacity ofi
65 acre-feet and irrigates some 40 acres of land.
THE WILSON RESERVOIR.
This reservoir is located in the SW. f sec. 20, T. 4 N., R. 69 W.,
is filled from the Handy Ditch, irrigates 100 acres, has an area of 30
acres, and a capacity of probably 150 acre-feet. It is proposed to
enlarge this reservoir soon.
: THE HUPP LAKE RESERVOIR.
This reservoir is in the NW. 4 sec. 35, T. 5 S., R. 69 W., is filled
from the Handy Ditch, furnishes late water for 160 acres, and has a
capacity of 50 acre-feet, which could be doubled by building a high
THE HUPP RESERVOIR.
This reservoir is located in sec. 28, T. 4 N., R. 69 W., has been
practically abandoned, though it contains water from seepage. It was
found to injure the land below it, while available to irrigate little land.
The capacity was 50 acre-feet.
THE BERTHOUD TOWN LAKE.
This lake is used for irrigation in the town of Berthoud, is small
and irrigates little land.
THE JANSEN RESERVOIR.
The Jansen Reservoir is located in sec. 13, T. 4 N., R. 69 W.; covers
40 acres; it is supplied now from waste and seepage water; is unused
at present, but could be developed to cover 100 acres, with a capacity
of 1,000 acre-feet.
THE HUMMEL LAKE.
This lake is in sec. 17, T. 4 N., R. 68 W., is owned by J. C. Hum-
mel and is used to irrigate the owner's land, some 350 acres. It cov-
ers an area of 60 acres and has a capacity of 250 acre-feet. It is filled
through the Handy Ditch in the spring.
Beasley Lake is in sec. 11, T. 4 N., R. 69 W., filled by the Handy
ditch, is owned by the Loveland Lake and Ditch Company. It covers
155 acres and can be drawn off for a depth of 19 feet or about 1,800
acre-feet. It furnishes water to some 2,000 acres, largely potato and
Ssugar-beet land. It cost $14,000 to construct, and is valued at $50,000.
THE WELCH RESERVOIRS.
SThese are five in number and probably the most important under the
[Handy Ditch, especially if developed and used to their full capacity.
The two more northerly reservoirs, Nos. 3 and 4, are not used at pres-
ient. The capacity of the five is 4,400 acre-feet. No. 1, the largest,
4 2 ..............
covers 127 acres, and has a claimed capacity of 2,500 acre-feet. Smit.
2 and 5 have a combined capacity of 415 acre-feet. The reservoire
present serve about 800 acres.
THE CHAPMAN RESERVOIR.
The Chapman Reservoir covers about 70 acres in sec. 32, T. ::5 c
R. (9 W., and irrigates probably not more than 80 acres., Another
smaller reservoir in the same section is used for stock purposes prin-
Some other sites and reservoirs exist under the Handy Ditch, 't:::
little could be learned concerning them. The Smith and Welty Il; Ask,
in sec. 15, T. 4 N., R. 68 W., has an area of 25 acres and a capacity ofI
100 acre-feet. The Berthoud Lake, in sec. 11, T. 4 N., R. 69 W., ha
an area of 40 acres and a capacity of 250 acre-feet. The Welch Lake,i
in sec. 25, T. 5 N., R. 69 W., has an area of 30 acres and a capacity of
200 acre-feet. In secs. 17, 20, and 21, T. 4 N., R. 69 W., are some '.
very fair reservoir sites. Mr. George Zwick owns a good site in sea.
17 and 20, T. 4 N., R. 70 W. W. T. Newell has a site in sec. 18, T.;
4 N., R. 68 W., with an area of about 150 acres. It could be filled
from the Handy Ditch and furnish probably 1,500 acre-feet of water.
In the filling of reservoirs under the Handy Ditch the stockholders
are permitted to store water in proportion to the amount of their
stock, if they prefer to do so. As between themselves, the water is:
always divided in proportion to the stock held by each, and no restric-
tions are placed on the use to which it is put. On account of the ::
smallness of its first priority and the necessary abundance of water ii.
the river before the ditch can draw on its second priority, it is not 7:
possible to store water needed by other ditches for direct irrigation.-
Whenever the ditch is running 50 cubic feet per second or less it is i
probable that every user needs his full amount for direct irrigation.
RESERVOIRS JNDER THE HOME SUPPLY CANAL.
The reservoirs under the Home Supply Canal are both large and.
important, and the values of the water rights and of the land equal the:',
oldest rights on the river.
It is estimated by those best acquainted with the practical working
of the Home Supply system that at least three times the area is now
irrigated that could be served without the Mariano and Lone Tree,
lakes; that is to say, 18,000 acres are now irrigated in place of the
6,000 possible with the ditch alone. The land is estimated to be worth
two-fifths more with than without reservoir rights; its value under
system being from $40 to $60 per acre.
Under this system water is sometimes rented to others than stoc&.f'
holders, the price being $12.50, equal to $1.25 per acre per year,
which, considering the certainty of supply and the ability to use it
any time, is very reasonable.
The division of water is somewhat unique. As long as there is a
pply in the ditch and the reservoirs are not taking it for storage, the
holders have what is called "free" water, and no account of its
ue or distribution is kept; but when the reservoirs begin to supply
the demand a conservative estimate is made of the amount of water in
be lakes available for use, and this amount is divided equally among
the 2,001 shares, and each stockholder is credited with his amount in
eubic feet. An accurate account is kept of the amount each stock-
bolder draws, and this is charged to him. He is permitted to draw
te full amount as soon as he pleases. When the estimated amount
hs been drawn off, if there is water in the lake another credit is made
as before, and the additional amount can then be demanded. By this
system economy is encouraged, a high duty is obtained, and the easy
rotation of crops and the planting of whatever seems best are made
possible. It eliminates also many causes of controversy.
In acquiring its reservoirs the Consolidated Home Supply Company
purchased in 1881, with $5,000 worth of its stock, the Lone Tree site.
The company expended $12,000 on its dam and $10,000 on its tunnel
and outlets. (P1. IV.) It has a priority dated August 31, 1881, for
400,000,000 cubic feet. To acquire the Mariano Lake the company
paid $6,000 for the land and right of way through the Rist Ditch,
agreeing to enlarge and maintain it for its use. It expended $4,000
on the dam and outlet. (Pl. V.) The lake has a priority dated Octo-
ber 1, 1875, amounting to 180,865,000 cubic feet. With riprapping
and other expenses, the cost of both reservoirs was certainly not over
$50,000; this expenditure has increased values of shares probably $100
each, a total of $200,100, and has increased the value of the 18,000
acres irrigated probably $20 per acre, or $360,000-all of which goes
to show the value of reservoir water.
In 1901 the distribution of water from the reservoirs began on June
1; a number of days of "free" water intervened, but from that time
to the end of the season water was run continuously from one or both
of the reservoirs. It was stated by the secretary that as much reser-
voir water was used in September as in June, and that the tendency
for a number of years has been to use the water later each year. He
also stated that the expenses of repair, maintenance, and distribution
would not exceed $2,000 per year, or about 11 cents per acre irrigated,
and with the value of rights at $150, allowing 6 per cent interest, the
total cost per year per acre would amount to about $1.
The Mariano Lake discharges its water into the river, the discharge
being limited by the amount to which the ditches below are at the
time entitled by their priorities. The ditch takes from the river
above a like amount, thus enabling its owners to use the water in the
regular way, and the effect is the same as though the reservoir were
the head of and above the ditch. The capacity of Mariano Lake is
"i .'.. 9
probably now equal to its decreed priority, but it could be en l
hold at least one-third more than that amount. The Lone TrMe;I'
has a capacity of nearly twice that of the Mariano Lake. Being o:ihi
enough to irrigate most of the lands under the ditch, it does
exchange water with the river. Such lands as lie above it ar s
plied by that taken in exchange for the Mariano Lake water. :H.
The following lesser reservoirs are also under or supplied bt.
Home Supply Ditch: ....
The Rist Reservoir, supplied like Mariano Lake, fromtheflkt
covers some 40 acres, and is used to irrigate the lands of ,t
ingham estate, to which it belongs. It has a capacity of I !
The Big Hollow Reservoir, a seepage reservoir in sed. '"II
R. 68 W., has a capacity of 30 acre-feet...
The Allen Reservoir, 6 acres in area, in sec. 6, T. 4 i, i$
also a seepage reservoir, with a capacity of about 85 acre44
may be increased.
The White-Butler Reservoir, on the south side of the A"
son, has purchased rights from the Home Supply Ditch, bi~t jstI
properly in the Big Thompson district.
There is also one other reservoir on the south side of he Little
Thompson, but it is supplied by the Hillsboro Ditch; name unknown.
It has an area of 160 acres and has a capacity of 1,500 acre-feet.
DUTY OF WATER.
.-" .:. .
The data at hand scarcely justifies discussing at any great len
the duty of water. To reach results of value would require an ex mj-.
nation and classification of the soil under each ditch, the kind of cro
raised, and measurement of the water used by each over asaei:
years. The following table gives, however, such data as ha i i
collected: iBT pe1 -
Duty of water on Big Thompson River, 1901. .......
Name of ditch.
Big Thompson and Manu-
facturing Co ..............
Loveland and Greeley......
Big Thompson and Platte
River ............. .....
George Rist ...............
Big Thompson ............
Big Thomn psn Irrigating...
Rist and 4oss .............
Hill and Brush ............
Water diverted. .. i
I -- I -I I~- -- I
1 I !-1.
U. S. Dept. of Agr., Bul. 118. Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigation Investigations
FIG. 1.-OUTLET OF LONE TREE RESERVOIR.
FIG. 2.-WEIR JUST BELOW OUTLET OF LONE TREE RESERVOIR.
! i .
f i :
U. S. Dept. of Ag~., Bul. 118 Off.cr of Expt. Stations. Irri .tinn Irvs'tigatlons.
FIG. 1.-MARIANO RESERVOIR.
FIG. 2.-DAM OF MARIANO RESERVOIR.
. D1uly oj water on B'g Thompoun iter, 19Jl-(:'iitiiiinutl.
h. ____,,_________ _.,t. ... ......I
Amount llused.'i. u [ f I
I.. .i.i. C v A t-rage t ii,,ity
S.Total -- -- h o l ,ir di.r uf ri-ri-
Name of ditch. amount FrIom ''Pinh l. s ivr I v irN
used. Direct. reser- l ad.i oil ,l lll .r
1M.. vuir.dfr iv. liith.
Acre-ft. Acr -fl. Ar-ft.Ft. .lr p r ",'r. .l r ft.
SBThompson and Manufacturing
.................................. 3,232 3,232 ......... 2..A 11 .. U ........
a m ers' ............................. 4,652 4, 652 ......... 1.55 20 I '... .....
iLoveland and Greeley .............. 3,, 946 25,946 13,000 1. 4s 193 0s. 3: 15, 20)
Big Thompson and Platte River ..... 8,711 8,711 ......... 5. 80H 2 2I. '..........
GeorgeR at-............---......... ... 3,600 3,600 ........ 5.50 5 10 .........
Loidon ............................... 17,270 9,270 8,000 1.73 206l -.18 9,INX
Hillsboro ..............- ............ 16, 458 14,958 1,500 3.30 o10 45.7 1, N )
Handy ............................... 21,744 16,744 5,000 1.74 205 60. 4 7,20U
South Side..........-... ......--..... 3,238 3,238 ......... 1.62 22 .........
Home Supply......................... 28,382 14,382 14,010 1.58 22 7.8 15,100
Big Thompson....................... 1,500 1,500 ......... 2.34 153 4.2 ........
Big Thompson Irrigating .. ...... ............ ...... .....................................
Rist and Gos........................ 1,000 1,000 ......... 3.3: 107 2.8 ........
Hill and Brush....................... 1,800 1,800 ......... '2.00 179 5 ........
Total........................... 150,533 109,033 41,500 1.91 187 418.21 4<,300
It may appear that in considering the duty of water the irrigating
season of one hundred and eighty days is too long; that little irrigat-
ing is done in April or September. However, it is none too long, for
much of the water is stored in April and represents what a cubic foot
per second accomplishes with reservoir facilities or with a diversity
A comparison of the above table with the table giving the flow of
the river (p. 13) reveals a remarkable agreement between the averages
as estimated and what actually occurred in 1901, showing it to be an
average year, a conclusion which is confirmed by reports just received
from the superintendents and commissioners.
Allowing for the average amount of water escaping from the district,
we have 150,533 acre-feet used and 18,287 acre-feet waste, giving
168,820 acre-feet as the discharge of the river, as compared with 171,729
acre-feet, the average for six years, as given in the discharge table;
also 109,033 acre-feet used for direct irrigation, as compared with the
average of 100,271 acre-feet; 41,500 acre-feet stored, as compared
with the average of 43,170 acre-feet. In the table the Rist Ditch is
given as diverting a total of 9,900 acre-feet, while using but 3,600;
the difference, 6,300 acre-feet, was stored in Mariano Lake, and is
accordingly charged to the Home Supply Canal, making its total
28,382 acre-feet instead of 22,082 acre-feet, the quantity diverted.
The duty of water, it will be noticed, for the district is 187 acres per
cubic foot per second, running one hundred and eighty days, and the
land was covered to an average depth of 1.9 feet. If we add the
amount of precipitation on the land, the total depth would probably
be nearly 3.5 feet. Rain, however, does little good, since the greater
part comes as light showers. Therefore, it is more to the point to con-
sider simply the amount of water spread on the land.
.... i .... ..
It will be noticed from the table that the smaller ditches haii
much lower duty than the larger ones, and those with reservoir:.
rally show a higher duty than those without. One cause of thelq..i
duty under the small ditches is that they cover the lowlands i'.
near the river, which, on account of their porous subsoil, require: noiv
water, and which, being generally rough, require a larger volu::'me
force the water over the uneven surface. Another cause is that tI
smaller ditches in this district have the older and probably excesmivil
decrees, making economy of use unnecessary. With these ..de.r.i
and the poor construction and management of the ditches, it is surY)
prising that the duty is not lower than shown." .".... ....
It is hard to compare the duty under the ditches with and withouilt
reservoirs, as conditions opposite to the above exist under the ditches:
themselves. Being able to use water when and how it is most bene-.
ficial, the owners feel that economy of use means greater acreage irri-:
gated. Loss, of course, occurs from the reservoirs through seepsge
and evaporation and partially offsets the economy practiced; but as"
this loss is not allowed for in the tables, it would appear that the
better land irrigated, the better management, better ditches, and more
economical use not only make up for all loss from the reservoir, but
leave a large margin besides.
Seepage and return water o upies a position secondary only to the.
supply furnished by the ditches and reservoirs. While in volume it.
is small, the regularity and reliability make such waters valuable in.
irrigation out of all proportion to the quantity. Seepage is in part a
necessary result of irrigation, which can not under any condition bell
remedied; in part a result of the methods, which are theoretically i
wrong, but more economical in practical application, and in part the
result of carelessness and ignorance.
The application of water to the surface of the ground must result in:-3|
a certain amount percolating through the soil before it is either
evaporated or taken up by the growing plant, and ultimately finding:
its way to the lower level of the water courses. No piping, cementing:
of canals, or economy of use can avoid this. The value of water and
the cost of labor determine at what point it is economy to waste the
one and reduce the other, or to save the one and increase the other,.
In practical irrigating, therefore, it is often economy to use more,
water than necessary in order to reduce the expense of labor in spread:!
ing it on the land, and this excess produces increased seepage. The
possession of an old and abundant water right does not convey the right
to use the privilege wastefully and to the harm of others less fortunate
In practice, however, it is impossible to prevent this abuse, which ia
illegal" and to be condemned. It is a delicate matter to determine
when and how much water is necessary to a piece of land; to step in
and say only so much water is needed, when the court has determined
Sthat much more is needed. Only in the most flagrant cases is it
:possible for the water officials to interfere with what is conceived to
tbe "established rights." Fortunately, much of this water is returned
as "seepage," or, more properly, wastee" water. So prevalent is
This waste that it has become a recognized and reliable source of sup-
I:ply and is almost synonymous with seepage. Nearly all filings, which
: claim seepage water, claim as well storm and waste water.
In the table below are given the claims for water filed during the
last thirteen years on the Big Thompson, showing the activity in the
different lines during the different years.
lings for water on Big Thompson River, 1888-1900, (s shown by ihe records of the office
of the State engineer.
1891 ............. ......
1897 .... ...............
Reservoirs. Seepage reservoirs. Ditches. Seepage ditches.
No. I Capacity. No. Capacity. No. Capacity. No. Capacity.
Cubic fec Cubirfiet
Cubic feet. Cubic feet. per se'r. per sec.
1 200,000,000 ................... 1 233.00 ..................
........... .. ....... ...... ............. 3 37.44 ..... ...........
7 323,400,000 ; .. ............... 3 27.48 ..................
9 696,034,831 ..... ...... .....71.20 .................
...... ........ 1 1,468,000 ......1 8.00
5 3, 329,666, 000 4 7,282,000 1.................. 1 3.50
1 600,259,000 1 1,350,000.................. 41 16.70
1 1,305,972,360 ......'.............................. 2 17.50
...................... 5 279,949,000 .................. 3 135.00
1 42,469,000 ...... ............. 2 26.50 1 6.00
3 23,270,000 21 70,125,000 1 12.985 5 22.65
...... ............... 4 248,000,000 ...... ............. 53.50
3 332,356,000 .................... ::::::..::::::::: : [1 5.00
31 6, 853, 427,191 17 608,1714,000 12 408.47 26 267. 85
...... 221,078,296 ......' 35,774,941 ...... 34.04 ...... 10.30
It might be said that most of the filings to 1893 were for reservoirs
already in existence, as the Mariano, Lone Tree, and Loveland lakes.
It will be noticed that the claims for both ditches and reservoirs claim-
ing seepage water began in 1892, and that they have, generally speak-
ing, increased in both number and capacity since that time. It will
be noticed, also, that the seepage ditches and reservoirs are small as
compared with the average appropriations from the river. The seep-
age ditches average but 10.3 cubic feet per second. Even this is too
high, as one ditch alone in 1896 claimed 135 cubic feet per second, an
obvious error. Excluding this we have the average claimed capacity
of the seepage ditches 5.11 cubic feet per second, as compared with a
claimed capacity of 34.04 cubic feet per second for ditches direct from
the river. A like difference exists in the capacities of the two classes
aThe statutes of Colorado expressly prohibit the excessive or wasteful use of
.water. Session Laws of Colorado, 1895, p. 197.
of reservoirs. The seepage of the district is probably not equl
the 25 claims for 132.83 cubic feet per second.
Seepage measurements on the river show that the return wait
probably close to 50 cubic feet per second, but much water:: sit
reach the river, being taken up and diverted from the small draws
depressions where it first appears. As will be seen on the pi ii
seepage ditches, represented by the broken lines, do not head nrt
river, but under and near some of the large canals. This water d.4g
not appear in the measurement of the river, and its quantity ean uaj
be determined. It probably equals the amount which does reach ,.l
river, and the two should then equal 100 cubic feet per second. With.
an average flow, as shown heretofore, of 237 cubic feet per second
the seepage water would equal 42 per cent of the flow, and thg"::
returning to the river would be 21 per cent. On the Cache la
Poudre River the return water, according to the investigations of
Professor Carpenter, of the agricultural experiment station, is 30 per
cent. Sufficient measurements of seepage have not been made on the
Big Thompson to give more than approximate figures, but from data
at hand 21 per cent seems at least a conservative estimate. In prac-
tice it is found that the Hill and Brush, the Hillsboro, and the Evans
Town ditches are supplied largely during the latter part of the season
with seepage water. The great value of seepage water is that its
greatest flow occurs at the time of least flow in the river and supplies
water when most needed.
In the consolidation of ditches it will always be necessary to main-
tain some on the lower river to take advantage of the return water.
One large high line ditch on each side of the river with one or more
seepage ditches below should be all that is necessary. The only objec-
tion to the use of seepage water appears to be that it is often quite
strongly impregnated with alkali, and on evaporating leaves alkali
deposited on the land. On the Big Thompson there appears to be
very little trouble from this, because of the small amount of alkali in
the district and because much of it has already leached and passed
away. It has been observed that lands ruined by alkali have in time
recovered and the alkali has almost entirely disappeared, the water,
surface and underflow, passing through the soil having carried away l
most of the surplus. Much of mineral matter that is required by plant h
growth is contained in alkali, and when not in too great quantities it
is a benefit to the soil, so that the leaching done by the surplus water,
used in irrigating deprives the land in one place of beneficial ingre-'
dients, which, concentrated and deposited on other land, makes th
worthless. There are few spots which in their natural state con
alkali in such quantities as to make it harmful. It is the disturb
of its natural and even distribution through the earth by water a.
consequent concentration in spots or on the surface that makes
Little has as yet been (lone in district No. 4 toward the reclamation
of such lands as has been spoiled by seepage water, though there are
several places of considerable area, probably 2,)000 acres in all, which
Should be reclaimed with profit. The practice of draining hand is of
very recent origin in this State and the methods not well developed.
The most common method and that giving best results is to dig an
Open trench along the upper edge of the swamped land or near the
foot of the first raise of sufficient depth to intercept the inflowing seep-
age water; having done this, the water is conducted by open cut or
pipe with sufficient fall to give a good velocity to the river or into
some ditch where it may be exchanged or used for irrigation in the
same manner as reservoir water. The amount of water thus reclaimed
is often sufficient to pay for the expense of draining. Attempts to
drain land with tiling under the surface and in the wet ground have
not been successful. The abundance of land and the cost of tiling
would in most cases make this method unprofitable, even if it were
practical. After reclamation this land soon returns to its former con-
dition, producing excellent second bottom hay, or, if put into grain,
sufficient moisture is present to mature the crops without irrigation.
ADMINISTRATION AND DISTRIBUTION.
In the administration of ditches and reservoirs and in the distribu-
tion to the consumers there may be said to be two distinct sets of offi-
cials, those of ditch or reservoir companies of a private character and
those of the State and district of a public character. A ditch or res-
ervoir company has a president, secretary, and treasurer, with duties
similar to those of any incorporated company. There is a man who
patrols the canal and distributes the water to the consumers accord-
ing to their proportion of stock or rights in the ditch. He is called
the ditch "boss," "rider," or "superintendent," and acts generally
under the direction of the other officers or directors. In most cases
it is he who receives orders from the public officers and acts in con-
junction with them.
Various devices and units of measurement are used in distributing
the water; the more common, and those used in this district, are the
division box for pro rata division and the ordinary culvert placed
through the bank of the ditch. Where ditches are small the division
box is quite satisfactory. This is a simple flume with level bottom and
vertical sides, and of about the same cross section as the ditch. It is
divided by a partition running lengthwise of it, the respective widths
of the parts being in proportion to the number of shares to be turned
out and to the number of shares in the ditch at that point. For
instance, if there are 100 shares in all and 20 had been taken out above,
leaving 80 shares in the ditch, and it was desired to turn out 10 shares
at this point, the box being 8 feet wide, one division would be "Idfi
7 feet wide, the other 1 foot wide, the part flowing into the mrrafi
section being withdrawn from the side while the rest flows on doW'iI
the ditch. Where the ditch is large, if the rider knows the amount
of water at his disposal, he can turn out at any point a proportionits;
amount through the culvert, which is nothing more than a rectangu-
lar wooden pipe set through the bank of the ditch. By opening ori
closing the sliding valve at the end of the box he can regulate the
flow. A rise or fall in the ditch will alter the quantity, of course, but
the variation is probably not enough to affect the result seriously, and
in any case a rise or fall will affect all alike. Where the water is sold
by measure more accurate methods are desired. In such cases an
additional measuring flume or weir is placed in the lateral, and the
outlet gates are regulated until the proper depth is attained in the
flume or over the weir.
The water in the river is divided among the different ditches in
accordance with their priorities by the public officials, who are the
water commissioners of the district, appointed by the governor upon
recommendation of the boards of county commissioners of the counties,
in which they are to serve, the superintendents of irrigation for each
division, and the State engineer, also appointed by the governor.
A water commissioner generally has charge of a single tributary or
of a section of the main stream, and it is his duty to visit each ditch
whenever it is necessary to regulate the amount of water flowing into
it; he reports to the superintendent as often as necessary, stating the
volume being carried by each ditch, the volume coming into and going
out of his district, and the volume required to fill all ditches. The-
superintendent from these reports knows whether the water is being
properly divided among the different districts, and if it is not orders
the commissioner of one district to take more water, or less, and speci-
fies the volume which should be allowed to pass into the district below,
his orders being generally to close all ditches with priorities subse-
quent to a certain date. Protests against the actions of the commis-
sioner are made to the superintendent, who passes upon the points in
dispute. If his determination is unsatisfactory to any one interested,
appeal may be taken to the State engineer and from him to the dis-
trict court. The commissioners are subject to the orders of the super-
intendent, and both to those of the State engineer.
The commissioners are paid $5 per day for each day they are on
duty, and the superintendent a like sum, his term of service continu- A
ing as long as any commissioner in his division is at work. In most
cases this is for the entire year. In the winter the storing of water
and the repair of head gates and placing of rating flumes and weirs are
in progress, and the commissioner, besides attending to the dividiig.J
of the water for storage, usually gives directions and advice concerning.
the requirements and the best methods of placing the gates and flumes.
Superintendents and commissioners are paid equally by the several
counties in which they serve (in some cases ais many as ten or fifteen
counties) and suffer the inconvenience of having their hills audited
that number of times. The State engineer receives a yearly salary,
paid by the State.
Besides the duty of distributing and dividing the water, the com-
missioner is required to gather crop statistics and to see that no water
is wasted; and while he has no power to settle disputes over the dis-
tribution of water which is in the ditches, by mutual agreement he is
generally made arbitrator in these family disputes.
The State engineer occupies a somewhat anomalous position in the
irrigation system. While it is true the law places him at the head of
affairs, he does not in fact act in that capacity unless sonic ditch or
canal owner, feeling aggrieved at the rulings of a superintendent,
appeals to him. In addition, the State engineer is required by law to
gather and compile data of rain and snow fall, measure the streams,
rate ditches, measure and keep records of reservoirs, examine their
dams, supervise their construction or repair, condemn unsafe struc-
tures, and give professional advice to other departments of the State
In this district, most of the ditches being owned by the water users,
few written contracts exist, the conduct of the ditch officers being
determined by the by-laws and constitutions adopted by the ditch com-
panies. In most cases, whether the flow in the ditch be great or small,
the water is distributed pro rata. Often, by agreement, when water
is short one section of the ditch will use all the water for a few days,
after which it is given to the consumers on the next section.
The cost of distribution is quite small and is approximately as
follows for this district, which is fairly representative of the more
important and better settled districts:
Cost of distribution of water, waler district No. 4.
Officials. Cost per Paid by-
State engineer's office ................................................. 6100 State.
Superintendent of irrigation......... ............................... ....... 100 Counties.
Water commissioner............... .................................... 1,000 Do.
Officers of the ditch companies (12 companies)......................... 2,000 Ditch companies.
Ditch riders (12 ditches).................................................. 5,000 Do.
Miscellaneous and extra help ............................................ 1,800
Total..................... ..... .......... ........................... 10,000
That is to say, the total cost of distributing the water from the river
to the ditches is about $1,200, and from the main canals to the laterals
$8,800, a total of $10,000 per year for perhaps 80,000 acres, or 12J
cents per acre.
In the management of small ditches the officers act without.-syi
station, and the ditch riders receive perhaps $50 per year, the only0E
when they are on duty being when the ditches are being put in r WmiM
It is seldom that the, other officers receive compensation. It is ol
when the consumers are not the owners of the ditch and where tis
carrying of water is expected to return interest on the inve~tmeine*
where, as it is generally stated, water is "sold" by a ditch corporation
to the consumer--that the cost of administration and distribution isany
considerable item. In that case the manager, secretary, bookkeeper,
treasurer, and a regularly employed attorney, as in any oorporat~ion,
seem to be necessary, and are of course expensive. The cooperative:
ditch needs no such complicated machinery, and the success of cooper
native ditches where corporation ditches have failed is largely due to
TITLES TO WATER.
Nearly all questions that come before either the administrative
department or before the courts resolve themselves into the rights of
the parties and their titles to the water. The title itself depends upon--
(1) The construction of canal and use of water, and the regularity
of procedure in perfecting rights.
(2) The relation to other appropriators and their rights, including
the right of transfer and sale.
(3) The nature of the grant, when issued, and of the privileges
(4) The good faith shown by the grantee.
(5) His compliance with the provisions of the grant and nonaban:-
donment of rights.
These five will include nearly every case in the conflict.
The right to the use of water for beneficial purposes was recognized
by Territorial laws as early as 1861, and affirmed by Congress in 1866. ii
The constitution of the State, adopted in 1876, declared water to be i
public property and subject to appropriation. These declarations ::
were deemed necessary, as riparian rights had been upheld in the..
older States, and might by inference have become attached to.!
At first water was taken from the river and used without thought.
of its ever becoming scarce or of there being a conflict for its possess
sion. The lands then considered farming lands were so limited
there was apparently more water than would ever be used. Even at
the time the decrees were granted many still entertained this opinion
and did not enter their claims nor examine into the claims of other
In effect this does not deprive them of the right to water, but in t
distribution the water commissioner ignores their claims, thus force
applications for decrees. Prior to 1879 there was no requirement-j
law relative to the filing of claims to water and adjudications of rights,
'though the necessity of some definite determination of the rights of
different claimants had been recognized for some time prior to that
year. As soon as a scarcity began to be felt the difficulty of dividing
the water and the necessity of a clear statement of each consumer's
right forced some action, by the legislature, which up to that time had
seemed unable to appreciate the importance of early action or unwill-
ing to take the initial steps. There was a belief also that the ditch
itself was-evidence of a right; that water having once been used on
land thereby becomes appurtenant to it. It was thought that a deed
to the land conveyed the right to the water which had been used
thereon. A series of years with abundant flow encouraged the irri-
gation of a good deal of land, but when these were followed at length
by a year of small flow the necessity of depriving some one of water
forced- the establishment of a rule whereby this could be done. In
the early days water was abundant for the land irrigated, and the
causes of a short supply were, as stated, a slow decrease in the late
flow, from deforestation on the one hand, and on the other a con-
stantly growing demand for later water for the rapidly increasing
acreage of alfalfa and crops other than grain. The cultivation of
great areas of mesa lands, like that begun by the Union Colony at
Greeley in 1870, was of course the greatest factor in calling attention
to the short supply.
Up to the time of the passage of the law of 1879 many of the later
users contended that the water must be pro rated in accordance with
the old law of 1861, amended in 1870. This law provided that the
county judge should appoint three commissioners, whose duty it was
to "apportion in a just and equitable proportion a certain amount of
said water upon certain or alternate weekly days to different locali-
ties." In 1879 the legislature passed the first bill intended to meet
the conditions existing. Exclusive jurisdiction was by this law vested
in the district court whose territory embraced the water district.
"But when the water district extended into more than one county,
the court of the county in which the first regular term after the 1st
day of December of each year shall soonest occur shall be the proper
court," and such court retained jurisdiction to final settlement. The
district judge was required to appoint a referee to take testimony, who
should issue a notice stating the time and place where he would hold
court, notifying all interested parties to be present and to submit
proofs of claims or present objections to the claims of others. The
referee could call and examine witnesses, and he submitted his find-
ings to the court for final adjudication. Those refusing to present
their claims were barred as against those submitting proof. Appeal
from the decree of the judge could be made within two years, and the
court would thereupon order a rehearing.
Little was done under this law, many details of procedure beiug:. :
omitted. In 1881, therefore, the act was amended, making further
provisions for settling and recording priorities of right, viz, a prm-
vision for petitioning the district court to proceed to an adjudication'
of rights, for the water commissioner to keep a record of decrees, and
that the county clerk should record them; also for numbering the
decrees, for keeping the testimony where it could be inspected by
interested parties, for fixing the method of procedure in cases of
appeals to the supreme court, which court could then render.a decree,
and providing that four years in place of two be allowed in which
proceedings may be begun to set aside the decrees.
The present practice in obtaining title to water is to have the ditch
or reservoir surveyed and platted, then either before or after con-
struction statements are filed in the offices of the State engineer and
county recorder. After completion of the works and after the water
has been applied to the land a petition is presented to the district
court asking that the rights be defined; after proper notice to all
interested parties and due publication, the evidence is taken by the
judge or a referee, and decree entered according to the findings. The
water commissioner and other officials are notified by the clerk of the
court, and a copy of the decree is furnished. Adverse claimants may,
within four years, present their protest to the court, and the usual
court procedure establishes the contested rights. The following cir-
cular, issued by the State engineer's office, gives the forms used at
present for filing claims to ditch and reservoir rights, and is in accord-
ance with the laws now in force:
STATE ENGINEER'S OFFICE, Denver, Colo.
Instructions for preparing sworn statements and maps in the appropriation of
water for ditches, canals, and reservoirs, and for the preparation of plans 6f specifi-
cations for dams.
RECORDING STATEMENTS OF CLAIMS TO WATER RIGHTS.
STATE OF COLORADO, County of ss:
Statement of claim to water right.
Irrigation division No. -. Water district No. -
The undersigned, owner- of the following-described ditch, in
compliance with the requirements of general section No. 1720 of the general itat-
utes of the State of Colorado, and the amendments thereto, hereby make this
statement for filing in the proper offices:
1. The name- of the owner- of the said ditch, whose postoffice
address is county of .
2. The name of the said ditch is the ditch. II
3. The head gate of the said ditch is located on the bank of from :i
which stream said ditch diverts its suppy of water, at a point whence the cor-::i
ner of section -, in township of range -- west, bears feet.
From the head gate the said ditch runs in a general direction, as shown on
the map hereto attached and made a part of this statement; which said map also
shows the ownership of the lands over which said ditch passes, and distances of the
ditch line from the governmentt corners.
4. The length of the said ditch is miles.
5. The width of the said ditch is- feet on thlle bottom and feet at the
6. The depth of said ditch is -- feet at high-water line.
7. The grade of said ditch is feet per mile.
8. The carrying capacity of the said ditch is cubic feet of water Kpr second of
9. Work was commenced on the said (litch on the -- day of A. D. 19-.
10. The enlargement of said ditch was commenced on the day of --- ,
.A. D. 19-.
11. The said ditch, as enlarged, is -- feet wide on the bottom, feet wide at
high-water mark, feet deep at high-water mark, and the increased capacity
arising from such enlargement is cubic feet. of water per second of time.
Reservoir statements for filing should be as follows:
STATE OF COLORADO, C(br ty of-- ss:
Statement of claim to waler right.
Irrigation division No. -. Water district No. -
The undersigned, -, owner- of the following-described reservoir, in
compliance with the requirements of general section No. 1720 of the general statutes
of the State of Colorado, and the amendments thereto, do- hereby make this state-
ment for filing in the proper offices:
1. The name- of the owner- of said reservoir, whose .ost-office address
is county of
2. The name of said reservoir is the reservoir.
3. The said reservoir is situated on the -- of the -- the ) of the -- ,
the f of the -- and the -- of the-- 4 of section in township ,
of range in county aforesaid.
The of said reservoir being at a point when the- corner of said section
S 4. The area of said reservoir at the high-water line is acres and at. low-water
line is acres. The depth of water that. can be drawn off is feet, making the
available capacity for storage cubic feet, for which claim is hereby made.
5. The said reservoir derives its supply of water from the through the
ditch, the head gate of which is located at a point whence the corner section
-- in township of range bears feet. Said ditch has a carry-
ing capacity of cubic feet. of water per second of time.
The head gate of the feeder from said ditch to the said reservoir is at a point
whence the corner section in township of range bears ,
6. Said feeder is feet wide on the bottom, feet wide at high-water mark;
is feet deep, with a grade of feet per mile and a carrying capacity of -
cubic feet of water per second of time.
7. Work was commenced on said reservoir on the day of A. D. 19-, and
on the feeder above described, on the day of A. D. 19-.
8. The outlet ditch from said reservoir is feet wide on the bottom, feet
wide at high-water mark; is feet deep, has a grade of feet per mile and a
carrying capacity of cubic feet of water per second of time.
9. Work was commenced on said outlet on the day of A. D. 19-.
The water laws of the State have been discussed heretofore in bl4f l
letins issued by the Department of Agriculture more fully than ..i
here possible; therefore the briefest outlines and the statement of i4$
fundamental principles only which underlie the law and are the baski&i
of our court decisions are given.
In Bulletin No. 58, Office of Experiment Stations, United States '
Department of Agriculture, issued in 1899, the laws were given mand:.
discussed at some length, and in Bulletin No. 60, of the same office ,
issued in 1899, the methods and laws governing the acquiring of tit-le"
to water were published.
The right of appropriation, as stated, is based upon the Territorial
laws, the act of Congress in 1866, and the State constitution, which
latter declares: "The water of every natural stream not heretofore
appropriated is hereby declared to be the property of the public
and is dedicated to the use of the people of the State, subject to
Theoretically, the fundamental principle of our laws, and one that
should he the basis of all irrigation laws, is that the water is the prop-
erty of the people, and the right to its use depends upon its being
a beneficial application. It does not matter what a person's decree
may be, nor what he may have diverted, nor for how many years, nor
what his claims may be, he should have no right to water which he
does not need and can not use beneficially.
The next question of importance is whether or not water attaches, to
the land. The decisions of the court, in the absence of any law on the
subject, control in Colorado. Contrary to general belief, the State'
supreme court held that the water and land were not attached; and
this decision was the basis of the greater part of litigation, permitting
as it does the transfer of water and enlargement of ditches to the full
amount of the decree.
The right of persons along the borders of a stream to an undimin-
ished flow has been abrogated in Colorado, and by the decision of the
State supreme court h the common-law doctrine of riparian rights is
inapplicable to Colorado." The law abrogating riparian rights is
slightly modified, however, by allowing such persons as have enjoyed
the benefits of water from streams for meadow lands by the natural
overflow, in case the flow is diminished to such an extent that they
are denied the benefits of such overflow, to construct a ditch from the
stream to irrigate the meadow; the priority to date from the time when
the land was first used as a meadow.
Priority of appropriation shall give the better right; unappropriated :
waters are subject to appropriation for canal or reservoir purposes, .i
and any excess above that needed for direct irrigation may be stored. .
SConsi tution, Art. XVI, sec. 510. ..
Incorporated companies may obtain decrees and may collect fees as
common carriers, and as long as there is water in the canal must per-
mit persons under the canal to use the same upon the payment of the
carrying charge. This charge may be regulated by the board of
When water is distributed to users or ditches for a length of time
proportionate to their claims, usually the maximum quantity that can
be used economically, the process is known as prorating." In the
distribution of water, while prorating is not sanctioned by law in
filling ditches from the river, it is permissible in distributing to owners
in common under one ditch; the point of difference being that in one
case the dates of decrees are different, in the other they are identical.
The right to the use may be transferred from one individual to
another, and a deed to the land does not carry the right to the water
unless specifically mentioned. Water may be transferred from one
ditch to another and its point of diversion changed up or down the
stream. It may be transferred from one drainage to another; its place
and character of use may be changed, providing always that the estab-
lished rights of others in the waters are not interfered with.
The builders of ditches have the power to condemn a right of way.
Ditches are not subject to taxes except when constructed for the pur-
pose of deriving a revenue therefrom.
Domestic uses have no real preference over agricultural except
that water used for agricultural purposes may be condemned when
necessary for domestic uses. This right of condemnation alone dis-
Seepage and waste waters may be appropriated and are governed
by the same laws as water from streams.
The laws passed by the general assemblies of 1899 and 1901 are
quite important: they are interesting also as pointing out the difficul-
ties to be overcome and as showing the effort toward more economical
use of water. The laws of 1899 provided that filings shall be examined
by the State engineer and a fee for the same collected. This is a step
in the right direction; but the State engineer can not reject the filings,
he having only power to return them and request a more accurate and
complete statement. He does not examine into the merits of the
claim that reservoirs covering more than 20 acres or having a dam
more than 10 feet high shall be under the control of the State engi-
neer, both during construction and afterwards. He may fix the height
to which a reservoir may be filled at any time. This law provides
penalties and methods of procedure against dams deemed unsafe, and
upon complaint of three persons the State engineer must examine the
dam complained of. The costs of the examination fall on the persons
making the complaint if made on insufficient ground-a very wise pro-
vision, as it acts as a check on the ill-considered reports people are so
... ..... .. ..
prone to make; at the same time the law stops the tendency of 3vi'
charge to overcrowd the capacity of the reservoir.
The most important law, however, and the one attracting the nfi
attention during the legislative term of 1899 was the one providing
for the transfer and exchange of water." This law is given here inaf i
SEc. 1. Every person desirous of changing the point of diversion of his right to iiii
water from any of the streams of this State shall present his petition to the dliuts1A-4i
court from which the original decree issued, praying such changes may be gulaa
to him, and the practice and procedure on the hearing of such petition shall be.tZ.
rame as if said petition were for an original decree. The court shall require ~prio
that all parties who may be affected by such change have been Auly notified of &t:.i
proceeding; and shall hear evidence to determine whether or not such change 'wi:ll'
injuriously affect the vested rights of others in and to the use of water; and if the a : id
court shall find that such change will not injuriously affect the rights of others, a
decree shall be entered allowing said party to make such change.
SEC. 2. Upon the granting of such decree as provided for in the first section hereof,
the party desirous of making such change shall cause to be prepared two accurate:
maps showing the old and new ditches, the surrounding lands, and the lands of
other owners in the vicinity, in the same manner as required in the case of original
appropriations of water, and shall file one of said maps and a certified copy of the' ":I
decree with the county clerk of the county in which the head gate of the ditch, as
sought to be changed, is situate, and another copy of said map and decree shall be 1
filed with the State engineer, whereupon said State engineer shall issue a notice to
the water commissioner having jurisdiction over said ditch, notifying him of the
change made, and thereupon said water commissioner shall allot the priority right
to the use of water to the new ditch which formerly was allotted to the original ditch,
and shall recognize such change in the distribution of water.
SEC. 3. It shall be lawful, however, for the owners of ditches and water rights
taking water from the same stremn to exchange with, and loan toL each other for a;
limited time the water to which each may be entitled, for the purpose of savingcrops
or of using the water in a more economical manner: Prodided, That the owner or'
owners making such loan or exchange shall give notice in writing signed by all the
owners participating in said loan or exchange stating that such loan or exchange has
been made, and for what length of time the same shall continue, whereupon mid
water commissioner shall recognize the same in his distribution of water.
SEc. 4. In the opinion of the general assembly an emergency exists, therefore this :
act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.
Approved, April 6, 1899.
The first two sections of the bill are generally approved, as taking w
out of the hands of the irrigation officials the power to order a change iI
from one ditch to another, and as rendering any surreptitious change
invalid. Of course, the great good accomplished is that it gives notice
to all who could be injuriously affected that they have the right to
appear and object; and, too, after the order of change has been:
granted in accordance with law the decree under the change is not!
liable to be assailed, and so the title is as good and permanent as
though no change had been made. Another good feature is that
map of the old and new ditches and the lands thereunder must be
filed; this tiling becomes a valuable document for reference to
aLaws 1890, p. 235.
irrigation officials and to those looking up titles to water for lands in
that vicinity, and amends in some degree the lack of such filings in
the early days. The necessity for obtaining a transfer decree before
the change is made makes it possible to ascertain many matters of
fact, and so affirm or deny statements made for or against the transfer.
The question of the capacity of the old ditch is not the least impor-
tant of these, affecting the amount which in justice might he trans-
ferred. The old ditches could seldom carry their full decrees, and so
a measurement on the ground during the existence of the old ditch is
certainly necessary. In many of the old transfers, by the time a suit
was brought to set it aside or limit it the old ditch had so filled up
and changed that its original capacity could not be determined. The
determination of seepage water, which contributed to fill the old ditch,
can likewise be determined accurately only at the time of transfer,
and not some years later.
The principal objection urged against these sections is that they are
too severe in their requirements for notification and entail a consid-
erable expense. This is probably true, but transfers are serious mat-
ters, and not to be lightly entered into, but after due consideration,
soberly, and in the fear of litigation. There appears no way to secure
perfect right of either original decree or of transfer excepting to make
all persons who could possibly have a claim on the water parties to
the suit, and the matter of cost is nothing compared with the feeling
of perfect peace engendered by the knowledge of unassailable title.
It has recently been enunciated by one of the district judges that
the above law simply states a method of procedure which was the only
legal way of making a transfer before, and is only in accordance with
the law passed in 1881 prescribing the procedure for obtaining decrees.
It is a great pity that this fact has transpired only after twenty years
of costly litigation, and that the above law was necessary to call the
attention of the legal profession and of learned judges to these now
A valid objection against a law which puts obstacles in the way of
transfer is that all such changes tend to more economical use of water,
or to its application to more productive land, and should be encouraged.
Any legitimate transfer has one of these for its object. The abandon-
ment of the old bottom lands and the redemption of warm, productive
mesas is of benefit to the community as a whole. The application of
water to more productive land, producing as it does a greater return,
enhances the value of the water, and the more valuable the water the
more carefully and economically it is used, and the greater its duty.
By transfer several ditches can be consolidated into one; the cost of
repairs and maintenance diminished, as well as the loss by seepage and
evaporation. This saving by lessening seepage and evaporation is
more considerable than appears at first glance, for not only is the
exposed surface diminished, but as transfers are almost always sp-t
the waste encountered by traversing a broad, sandy riverbed:. t..
lower head gates is eliminated entirely.
Section 3 of the act quoted above was the most discussed ,s d t!
most highly praised or bitterly condemned of any law ever p i
relative to irrigation, and its praise or blame rested on whether th&B.
individual was benefited or conceived himself to have been hurt
That the law in its practical application both benefited and hurt irrigal:
tion there can be no doubt; but it was in the interpretation of the law:'
by the different commissioners and superintendents that the benefitor" !
harm lay. The section was intended to sanction the exchange and
prorating of water in times of emergency and to enable a ditch of late
priority to obtain water late in the irrigating season for the preserva-
tion of orchards and small fruits and for domestic use, where itwould
require only three or four days' run to give the orchards or other.
crops an Irrigation that would probably last them the rest of the sea-
son. It was also deemed proper and desirable where a ditch had a
small but early priority, not sufficient to reach the end of the ditch on
account of loss by seepage and evaporation that it should be permitted
to agree with-another ditch in similar circumstances to loan its water
for a short time to such other ditch, and in return should receive the
water of that ditch for a like time, and each could with combined heads
force the water to the end of the ditch.
The law sanctions the exchange of water between ditches and reser-
voirs. It is very often impracticable for a ditch company to have its
reservoirs so located that the stored water is available for use on its
land. If, however, it is allowable for it to give its stored water to a"
ditch lower on the stream and receive at its head gates water from the
river on that ditch's priority, a distinct gain results. Also, reservoir
construction is encouraged and no one is injured, as the amount of
water diverted at the time of exchange is not increased. ', d
The commissioners and the superintendent of one division gave3helO
most liberal interpretation to the law. They decided that as th Iaw"':.
read "the water commission shall recognize the same" (notice of'
agreement of exchange) in his distribution of water, they had no:
discretion in the matter, and as a consequence transfers were made
whenever and however best suited the contracting parties. It is more .
than suspected that actual sales of water were made by some parties i.
having old priorities. The effect of such a proceeding is readily.seeni i
priorities were practically suspended and decrees nullified; ditch No.
1 "loaning" water it could not use to ditch No. 3 deprived ditch No. 2 :
of water which would otherwise have been in the river and available
for the filling of decrees. Crops were not only "saved," as allowed'.
by the law, but planted, grown, and matured on "borrowed" water i
Under so liberal a ruling, the management of a ditch could deprive -
consumers thereunder of water they actually needed. They would
probably not have the assurance to cause any loss of crops, but they
could considerably inconvenience and embarrass the users and sell the
surplus to some needy canal. For some unaccountable reason and
contrary to all previous practice, the ditches injuriously affected
accepted this interpretation and suffered in Spartan silence so far as
appeal for redress to either the State engineer or the courts were con-
cerned. In another division the superintendent assumed an exactly
oppositeposition, and ordered his commissioners to recognize no notices
of transfer. The courts have not been able to pass on the constitution-
ality of the act, and it seems that this superintendent was equally in
error with the one already mentioned." The three other superintend-
ents who had occasion to pass upon the law agreed that in its workings
it was of the greatest benefit in the saving of crops and in the eco-
nomical use of water. As no complaints were made of the exchanges
in these divisions, we may assume that the users were pleased with the
Some law is necessary, so long as human nature is as it is, to enable
those in authority to prevent the selfish from playing the dog in the
manger." To be sure, there is a law prohibiting waste, but it is not
to the public interest for a man to use water to irrigate stubble land
to bring up wild oats, or to wet the land for the next season's plow-
ing when an orchard, the result of years of labor, is in danger of
being ruined; and if a man in a neighborly spirit sees fit to libandon
his third crop of alfalfa and loan his water for the purpose of saving
crops, it is public policy to allow him to do so. The law properly
interpreted and executed can be of great benefit and at the same time
not interfere with vested rights. If the conditions recited in the sec-
tion are adhered to, and if the broad principle of noninterference with
the rights of others is kept in mind, no one can object; to get any ben-
efit, however, from the law one must be just and reasonable in deter-
mining the rights of others. Theoretical and inconsequent damage
should not be allowed to prevent the good which might be done.
The condition specifically stated in the section that the loan is made
for the purpose of saving crops should be rigidly adhered to. The
loan is not for the purpose of making crops, but for saving those
already practically matured. To be saved an article must necessarily
be in existence. As already pointed out, the exchange may result in
a great saving of water, and when a loan or exchange is made, if it is
a loan or exchange contemplating a return in like amount, gifts and
sales of water are excluded. Again, the loan is for a limited time.
This clause is, I admit, indefinite, and might be expressed more clearly
aThe supreme court of the State has recently upheld the constitutionality of the
act. New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Company c. Water Supply and Storage Com-
pany, 68 Pac., 781.-ED.
i : .
C .. .:
by saying for one irrigation; and such an interpretation of "a
time" is very proper; anything less would be nothing; anything1.i
would be precluded by the clause "for the purpose of saving Cro;p ,i'i
When more than one irrigation is needed to save a crop, then iiit
crop is not sufficiently advanced to be considered as in existence, or!
rather to have value sufficient to justify the upsetting of the status of.
the river to save it.
It would not be wise to repeal the law, as was attempted during the
last session of the legislature, but it should be so amended as to make -
it more definite in its phraseology; but any such law must of neoe-
sity depend for its beneficial application upon the good judgment of
the water officials.
The laws passed by the legislature of 1901 were, one by Senator
Clayton, providing penalties for not maintaining good head gates and
rating flumes, the penalty being that the water could be shut out until
the law was.complied with. It also prohibits the storing of water
when the same is required for direct irrigation. This section is hardly
applicable as between reservoirs with rights senior to the ditches using
the water direct. If the owners of a reservoir of old priority have
enjoyed its use for years, it is unreasonable to suppose that a recent
ditch can interfere with that use. The act further provides that reser-
voirs situated on the bed of a stream through which a natural flow i
passes must have a survey made and its contour lines run, and must
place a gauge rod therein to mark the depth of water in the reservoir.
The second act provides that any interference with head gates or:
measuring boxes is a misdemeanor, "and that any person who shall
be found using water taken through any such head gate so unlawfully:
interfered with shall prima facie be deemed guilty." This law makes
it possible to convict water thieves without having to catch them in
the act of tampering with the head gates. .Heretofore convictions
have been few, because it was often impossible to prove who individ-
ually committed the act of raising the head gate. In its operation it :
should be a good law.
The third law provides for the formation of irrigation districts, .
methods of holding elections, issuing bonds, etc. The law has had no 6
test as yet, and no criticism of its effects, therefore, can be made.
On the Big Thompson nearly all the litigation has been by parties
on the north side of the river against those on the south side. The'
Loudon and the Loveland and Greeley companies joined interest
against the Handy and the Home Supply companies, the other an,
smaller ditches being drawn into the controversy.
In the descriptions of the ditches attention has been called to so
of the peculiarities of the decrees, and, in the table below are sum-
marized the findings and decrees. The wide divergence between the
quantities of water granted and the capacities of the canals and needs
of the land has been responsible for nearly all the litigation. The
first table is a summary of the report of the referee appointed to take
testimony and report findings upon which the court should render its
decree. The second table is the decree of the court supposedly based
on the report of the referee.
Claims presented to referee and his findings on which decree by the judge was rendered.
Name of ditch.
Big Thompson and
Big Thompson Irri-
Loveland and Gree-
Loveland and Gree-
Loveland and Gree-
Loveland and Gree-
Loveland and Gree-
Big Thompson and
Rist and Goss........
Hill and Brush......
George Rist o.........
Home Supply ......
Fall per N i" Amount Amount Under
l.rior- decreed. chimed. ditch.
528 30, 000
195 3, 500
a 0.026 cubic foot = inch.
b Full capacity.
cNot sufficient data to render a decree.
dAll in one application.
I Capacity 103 cubic feet.
a Barnes Ditch.
h 7.8 feet recommended by referee.
112.6 recommended by referee-branch Loveland
k17.3 recommended by referee.
19. 1 cubic feet recommended by referee.
Cn Capacity 78 cubic feet.
v Amount carried 4.7 cubic feet.
oAmount carried 124 cubic feet.
p Amount carried 74 feet.
rq Amount carried 15.6 feet.
I... : .
Sutenment of priorities of the dilches -in waLter district No. 4 from the decrees of t i
:... I::. :.i
Name of ditch, canal, or
which water is
Big Thompson Ditch ...... Big Thompson ..
Big Thompson and Manu- .....do ..........
facturing Co.'s Ditch.
Mariano Ditch............. .....do...........
Big Thompson and Manu- .....do...........
facturing Co.'s Ditch,
Farmers' Irrigating Canal......do...........
Big Thompson Irrigating .....do.........
Loveland and Greeley Ca- .....do...........
Loveland and Greeley Ca- .....do...........
Big Thompson and Platte .....do...........
Rist and Goss Ditch.............do...........
Hill and Brush Ditch ............do ...........
Big Thompson and Maniu- .....do...........
facturingCo.'s Ditch, sec-
Loveland and Greeley Ca- .....do..........
nal, first enlargement. .
Farmers' Irrigating Canal, .....do ...........
Loveland and Greeley Ca- .....do ..........
nal, second enlargement.
Loudon Irrigating Canal .. .....do...........
Big Thompson and Manu- ....do...........
facturing Co.'s Ditch,
George Rist Ditch............do...........
Loveland and Greeley Ca- .....do...........
nal, third enlargement.
Loveland and Greeley Ca- ....do ..........
nal, fourth enlargement.
Kirchner Ditch ........... Buckhor Creek.
Perkins Ditch...................do ..........
Hillsboro Ditch ........... Big Thompson...
Rist and Goss Ditch ....... ....do ..........
Big Thompson and Platte .....do ..........
River Ditch,tirst enlarge-
Loudon Irrigating Canal, .....do..........
Handy Ditch ...................do..........
Hillsboro Ditch, first en- .....do..........
Farmers' Irrigating Canal, .....do ..........
Loveland and Greeley Ca- .....do ........
nal, fifth enlargement.
South Side Ditch ..............do ..........
Handy Ditch, first enlarge- I.....do ..........
Loveland and Greeley Ca-
nal, sixth enlargement.
Perkins Ditch, second en-
Home Supply Ditch .......
Hillsboro Ditch,second en-
Loudon Irrigating Canal,
..... do ..........
Dateof appro- Amount
May 1, 1873
NOTE.-The rights to water from Little Thompson Creek,
decree, are omitted in this table,
which were included in the or
.. .2 =
.. 2 .i -
Staten nt of priorities f 1reserroirs in w'eter dvitrh't N\A,. 4, from tlith drrres of flu' district
Name reservoir. kenpriati apropra-11
.ri tionl in dis-
( ubir f(rt
Rist............................. Big Thompson ................ Srpt. 15,1S74 5, 210, t65 1
M ariano ......................o .......... .................. Oc l7, 1 O. 5,000I 2
Bennetts......................... Strain and LittleThomp[son Feb. 25, 1H, 1,267, 00 3
Big Thompson................. Big Thompson................ May 1, isw1 44,000,000 4
Farwell........................ do......... ......... ..... Au 31,1w 4(0.000,000000 5
Loudon......................... .....do ........................ Feb. 24.1 83 '0,000,000 6
Examination will show there was apparently no rule adopted by the
judge or referee for estimating the amount of water the ditches car-
ried or the amount of water necessary to irrigate an acre of land.
The judge has in some cases followed the referee's recommendation and
in others ignored it. The referee, in turn, generally accepted as cor-
rect the statements of the claimants, but in others he did not, though
there appears to be no reason for the distinctions. In some cases he
allowed an amount sufficient to irrigate all the land under the ditch;
in others he confined the amount to the land actually irrigated. In
some he allowed water for land which by an extension and enlarge-
ment of the ditch might be irrigated. In one case at least he allowed
water to only the land actually irrigated, ignoring the fact that the
ditch for nearly its entire length could carry a volume sufficient for
all the land under it, that work was rapidly prosecuted, and that this
land was irrigated at the earliest practicable date. In this case he did
not take into consideration the extent and difficulty of construction,
but divided the decree into several parts, each of date when water was
actually applied without reference to the time of beginning construc-
tion. In another case, contrary to the statements made in the applica-
tion and request for two decrees of different dates, he granted one
decree aggregating in amount the total of the two and of date of the
FIRST SERIES OF CONTESTS.
The Handy Ditch, intended and located to cover nearly all the land
on the south side, is by the decree granted a flow of 31.2 cubic feet
per second to irrigate 15,000 acres of land. The priority of the bal-
ance, 141.23 cubic feet per second, was dated three years later, as the
.company had not been able to begin and complete a ditch capable of
carrying the total amount through its entire proposed length the first
year .after work was begun. This action allowed 260 cubic feet per
second for various ditches and enlargements to intervene between the
The officers of -the Handy Ditch, ignorant that the referee had taken
it upon himself to divide their decree without notice to them, and,
being unaffected thereby on account of the abundance of water in thI
river and the small amount withdrawn by the older priorities, allowed::
nearly the full four years within which an appeal from the decree:
could be made to lapse. The decree was granted May 28, 1883, and i
not until the fall of 1886 did the water commissioner find it necessary
to turn water from the Handy Ditch to fill decrees between the two .7
dates of the decrees of the Handy Ditch. Investigation disclosed the
true state of things, and suit was immediately brought by the Handy '
Company to set aside the decrees; brought, however, in the district
court of Larimer County. Thus in its effort to save its right, the
Handy Company precipitated, in the spring of 1887, a legal contest
not yet ended. The case was entitled "The Loudon Irrigation and
Canal Co. et al. v. The Handy Ditch Co. et al." (22 Colo., p. 102.)
The suit was originally brought in the district court of Larimer
County and in effect was an attempt to set aside the decrees for the
entire district. The Handy Company, believing that the decrees of
the older ditches were excessive and that they were entitled to have
their entire decree of one date-the date of the beginning of construc-
tion-instead of two dates, sought relief by the above action.
The defendants (The Loudon et al.) denied the jurisdiction of the
Larimer County court and alleged insufficient cause of action, which
latter contention the court upheld, but claimed jurisdiction. Upon
appeal to the supreme court, that tribunal reversed the lower court
in the matter of jurisdiction, sustaining the law of 1879, section 19,
which gave exclusive jurisdiction to the' court where the decrees were
first rendered, which in the case of district No. 4 was the Boulder
County district court. The case does not touch the point whether one
district can reopen the decrees of another district after four years have
elapsed. It simply says that any action growing out of the decrees
must be tried before the court which rendered the decrees and within
four years of the date of such decrees.
The effect of the decision is to establish more firmly the validity of
a decree. If at any time after four years an adjudication could be opened
up, and especially if before another court, the adjudication would be
of slight avail, and title to water could not be finally and firmly settled.
When it is remembered that months and years of labor have been
spent in arriving at a decision, it would be folly to allow the work to
he a subject of question for all time. It would be eminently proper
to allow a certain time to elapse to test the practical workings of the
decrees before making them unassailable; but, very properly, there
should come a time when decrees are established beyond the possibility
Upon being remanded, some new points were brought out, and so:
the case reached the supreme court a second time under the title ofi
"The Handy Ditch Co. v. The South Side Ditch Co. et. al." (26 Colo.,i
In this second trial before the Larimer County court the Iandy
Company still contended that that court had jurisdiction and showed
that, acting under the law of 187s1, I"rocee(dings were begun in that
court by the appointment of a referee and the taking of considerable
evidence prior to the institution of proceedings under the law of 1S81
by the Boulder County court. On this point, however, the Larimer
County court held, in view of the decision of the supreme court in the
previous case, that the Handy Company, being a party to the proceed-
ings before the court of Boulder County and having acquiesced in
the same, were bound by its decrees. The supreme court affirmed the
decision of the lower court, and the four years having elapsed within
.which to begin proceedings before the Boulder court, this phase of the
SECOND SERIES OF CONTESTS.
In- the meantime, however, the Handy Company, anticipating the
adverse decision, sought to remedy their misfortune by taking advan-
tage of the condition of the decrees and to turn to their benefit what
had been an injustice to them. They therefore purchased an old ditch
and the land under it, abandoned the irrigation of the land, and sought
to transfer the water. This proceeding inaugurated the second series
of contests, the interests of the contestants, however, being the reverse
of that in the first series. It now became vital for the Handv Com-
pany to uphold and maintain the justice and validity of the decrees
and for the north side ditches practically to break and set aside the
The Handy Company, in view of the court decisions in the first
cases, had rather the better of the situation, while its adversaries were
in something of a dilemma from this cause. They, however, avoided
the real issue by admitting the correctness and validity of the decrees,
but contended that immediately after and ever since the decree was
issued the use of the water had been abandoned in whole or in part;
that the area irrigated was small, and on account of increasing seepage
had constantly grown less since the time of the decree. Much evidence
was introduced by both sides to show the amount of water required
for such lands. The evidence introduced by the Handy Company was
very similar to that given before the referee when the decrees were
rendered, not only in regard to the ditch in question, but for the very
ditches constituting the opposition.
The evidence of the opposition was in direct and glaring contrast to
That given by them in obtaining decrees, and the only reason it did not
react on themselves was that since the adjudication they had so enlarged
their canals and so extended the use of the water that the full amount
decreed was in time used. On the other hand, there was no enlarge-
ment or extended use of the ditch in question.
The case coming on appeal by both the defendants and plaintiffs to the
supreme court is known as The Handy Ditch Co. v. The London Irri .
gating Canal Co." (62 Pacific Reporter). The facts in the case were .
The Handy Ditch Company purchased the Big Thompson Irrigating.
Ditch and the lands under it, some 800 acres, abandoned the latter, and
applied to the superintendent of irrigation to transfer the water to the :
Handy Ditch some 10 miles above the head gate of the old ditch. The Il
amount of the decree was 78 cubic feet per second, dated February 25, ;
1865, being the fifth decree in the district, and commonly known as
"No. 5 ditch." The superintendent allowed but 40 cubic feet per see-
ond to be transferred, as he contended that the old ditch could not carry
much more than one-half of its decree. On appeal to the State engi-
neer he caused the ditch to be measured and levels run, from which
the estimated capacity was shown to be from 100 to 150 cubic feet per
second. He therefore ordered the full amount to be transferred. In
the meantime, however, the north-side ditches had brought suit, as
stated, in the Larimer County court, which court held that the evi- 3
dence showed that not more than 20 of the 78 cubic feet per second
had been used of late years. It excluded evidence which tended to I
show that much or all of the 20 cubic feet per second used was seepage I
and return water which entered the river between the old and new
points of diversion, upholding the argument of the Handy Company
that the decree was not for water which might, at some date subse- '
quent to the date of the decree, have found its way back to the river,
but for that which constituted part of the original supply in the stream. !
In its appeal to the supreme court the Handy Company urged that
the finding was in error, in that the evidence did not warrant the -
reduction from 78 to 20 cubic feet per second, and that the court erred
in not admitting evidence as to the size and capacity of the ditch. The i
defendants appealed on the ground that evidence was excluded which |
would have shown that whatever water had been used by "No. 5"
ditch was water which entered the river as seepage below the head gate
of the Handy Ditch, and if any water was transferred that it would be
withdrawn from the original supply in the stream, and the use of which .
they theretofore had enjoyed.
The supreme court affirmed the decision of the lower court so far ,:
as it related to the amount of water used by the "No. 5" ditch, but'i
remanded the case with instructions that if a new trial was had it should
embrace only the question of whether the 20 feet found to have been:si
used by No. 5" ditch was in whole or in part seepage water and noti
available for the filling of decrees of the Loudon or other older ditches.:
The decision of the supreme court will probably stand, namely, thai
20 of the 78 cubic feet decreed to the "No. 5" ditch will be transferred
to the Handy. With the final determination of this suit the litigati
will end, though in the district court at present are some six suits
which the north side ditches are seeking to prevent the transfer of
water from the Big Thompson Ditch and Manufacturing Company's
Ditch and the Big Thompson No. 1 ditch to the Handy, Home Supply,
and Hillsboro ditches.
The suits are simply a continuation of the efforts of the south-side
ditches to overcome the disastrous effects of the decrees which gave
excessive amounts to the old ditches, allowing enlargement and in-
creased use to an extent which has seriously affected the water avail-
able to fill their priorities.
NEW LOVELAND AND GREELEY LAND AND IRRIGATION COMPANY P. HOME
[62 Pacific Reporter.]
Both parties to this suit own large and valuable reservoirs under
Their respective canals-Lake Loveland under the Loveland and Gree-
ley Canal and the Mariano and Lone Tree reservoirs under the Home
Supply. The action was'brought in the district court of Boulder
County to establish the relative right of priority of these reservoirs.
The Loveland and Greeley Ditch priorities as decreed are prior to
those of the Home Supply. The relative dates of construction of the
reservoirs, however, are reversed, the Home Supply reservoirs being
in 1882 and 1889 and the Loveland Lake in 1893, each exercising due
diligence after commencement of work on the reservoirs in prosecut-
Sing the same to completion.
The Loveland and Greeley Company claimed the right under its
ditch decree to divert the amount of its decree at any time and for any
purpose which was more effective or economical; that is, to have the
right to store water during the nonirrigating season on its ditch decree,
the reservoir being a part of its system and its construction contem-
plated at the time the several priorities were obtained, though it did
not begin construction for some ten years after the decree was ren-
Sdered fixing the ditch priority and some twenty-eight years after the
date of its first priority.
The Home Supply Company claimed that its reservoirs were con-
structed and in operation ten and four years prior to the construction
of Lake Loveland; that the right of storage attaches when the actual
work of construction of the reservoir is begun and prosecuted with
due diligence, and not when the feeder to the reservoir was begun,
unless the two are closely connected in point of time, in intention and
The court held that the mere intention is of itself insufficient to give
a vested right, but must be manifested by the completion of the gen-
eral plan and a beneficial use within a reasonable time.
The Loveland and Greeley Company relied, however, mainly on
decree fixing the priority of right for agricultural purposes, whioe
"fairly interpreted" would give it the right to store water in reser-
voirs it might thereafter construct. The court says, "There are.twei
sufficient replies to this contention. First, it was not within the jurisw-.
diction of the court in the proceedings leading up to the decree to,:
make an absolute and unconditional decree of priority for a reservoir ,i
not then begun or constructed, and in the second place the decree:::j!
itself does not purport to do so," but expressly excludes appliances
not then in existence. In such cases as this it would seem unjust that i
a late ditch which had provided itself with the means of supplying its "
deficient early rights should, after the enjoyment of that means for a
number of years, be subject to an old priority seeking to enlarge its
diversion of water from the stream by means of storage.
LOWER LATHAM DITCH COMPANY V. LOUDON IRRIGATING CANAL COM-
PANY ET AL.
[Pacific Reporter 60, p. 629.]
This suit was to test the relative rights of priority in two districts.: "
dependent on each other: Whether ditches in district No. 4, from the' l
Big Thompson River, were or should be subject to the rights of prior :
appropriation below on the Platte River in district No. 2. .
The users on the Big Thompson obtained an injunction restrairinig ,
the water commissioner from complying with the order of his superior, 7
the superintendent, to close out ditches on the Big Thompson in order 3:
to supply such priorities on the Platte River as were earlier than those
on the Big Thompson. The water commissioner notified the plaintiffs ;,
of the action and forwarded to them his notifications, etc., expectingA,
them to defend their rights. They, however, allowed the case to go'!
by default, but subsequently brought the present action to compel al:
recognition of their older rights. .. :
The defendants pleaded that while the plaintiffs were not parties to ):
the injunction suit, nevertheless they had notice, and so were bound by :
the decree. Also that for a number of years the ditches on the Big:::l
Thompson had used the water now asked for by the ditches on the':j
Platte, who, with a knowledge of this, had nevertheless allowed the.
practice to continue without protest, permitting improvements to bl
made in district No. 4 under the belief that there was water in su.
cient quantity and not subject to the priorities below, and though i:
need of the water to fill their priorities the ditches of district No. ,
had allowed their rights to lapse. They set forth also that even shou.n
the water be turned out of the Big Thompson ditches to fill those
the Platte, it would do so slowly and after great loss in volume.
The district court of Larimer County sustained these positions, whi
however, the supreme court reversed, holding that the plaintiffs were
not parties to the injunction suit, though having knowledge of the
same, and that if a failure of one diverting water from a stream to
protest every time a shortage in his supply is occasioned by another
withdrawing water to which he is not entitled is to be construed as
acquiescence amounting to abandonment priorities would be of little
vaiue." Also the fact that a considerable loss in volume would occur
through evaporation and percolation was not sufficient reason for
depriving the lower ditches of their rights of priority.
This case confirms the practice and belief that rights on tributaries
and on the main stream, though in different districts of the same divi-
sion, are subject to prior rights of all other ditches of the division.
In looking over the water conditions in Colorado, examining the
causes of the legal contests and difficulties of administration, no one
thing seems to be entirely responsible, each succeeding cause or error
depending on what had preceded and on what followed to produce the
full measure of difficulties. Each mistake seemingly had a chance of
correction, but, instead of a correction, only additional errors were
First, the absence of records, filings of statements in the early days
was a bad beginning, second, the laws of 1879 and 1881 relative to
decrees fell short of their intention to supply the deficiency in records;
third, the adjudication of water rights failed to eliminate the errors
made possible by the incompleteness of the laws of 1879 and 1881 and
added others; fourth, subsequent litigation perpetuated and exagger-
ated these errors.
The law relative to filings passed in 1881 has a few faults-namely,
that it came almost twenty years too late to do much good, and there
is no provision for an official examination and acceptance of the filings,
and that the courts have held it to be unconstitutional in that non-
compliance therewith can not deprive an appropriator of his constitu-
tional right to the use of water.
Filings are of little value except as evidence of time when the claim
was made and of intention. Filed in the county recorder's office, they
are not indexed with reference to the land covered, and nowhere
appear in the abstracts of the land. There is no method in use for
abstracting water rights, and it is impossible to determine who the
owners are or to what land the water is applied. This looseness of
the record of ownership of decrees, as well as undecreed ditches, has
led to much litigation. Not only is the irrigator constantly threatened
by the dangers incident to water supply and control, but is sur-
rounded by an atmosphere of doubt as to the exact status of his title
and the rights upon which the success or failure of his efforts depend.
There being no official examination and acceptance of these m
filed, what is the result of the uncontrolled and indiscriminate filingi
District No. 4 has suffered little from filings as compared with o~a
districts since adjudications were had. On page 47 is a summary of .i
filings made since 1887, which shows claim for nearly three times. th
average flow of the stream for ditches alone, and for reservoirs ai
nearly 7,500,000,000 cubic feet-more than the entire flow in the river
for an average year. In addition to this, it must be remembered that
the amount of water actually decreed to ditches only by the court
(see table of decrees, page 64), and which are prior to these claims, in
nearly 200 cubic feet per second in excess of the maximum recorded
flow of the river during the last twelve years and exceeds the average
recorded flow for the month of June by 1,657 cubic feet per second.,
Now, add to this reservoir decrees to the extent of 15,000 acre-feet;,:
This tendency to make excessive filings and claims was encouraged by!
the condition of the decrees, they being, as indicated, far in excess of:.:
the amount available, while, in point of fact, after the old ditches wereli
filled there remained in the stream and subject to appropriation conil
siderable unused water.
It was very unwise in the beginning not to have some control and:i
restriction of these filings. One man files on "all the surplus and.:
unappropriated water" without doing any work other than a rough::
survey, and, too, after the waters have been filed on to ten times th&
discharge of the stream. Another files on "50,000 cubic feet peril
second," when the stream, in its wildest moments of storm, meltiIng
snow, and cloudburst, never carried one-tenth that amount; and there
those absurd "filings" stand like specters, intimidating bona fide set-i
tiers and legitimate corporate enterprise and casting doubt upon the&:
title to water of existing ditches.
The law of 1881 was intended to determine the rights to water of:i
different claimants and to fix those rights; to bring to a stop, as it
were, the old order of things and to start a new, with the past definitely
settled and the future controlled. The records to this time depended'
on the memory of the "oldest inhabitant," who was passing away.,:
The difficulties of a just determination were great, but.their impor-a:
tance was greater, though hardly appreciated by either the claimants
or the courts. Each appropriator presented his claim, and his neighb
bors and friends corroborated his statements. Almost never was anyA
one's claim questioned or examined by others interested. The o
question gone into with any thoroughness was the date of priority
the size, length, capacity, and location were mere statements.
acreage to be irrigated, while generally given, was guessed at, as
the amount necessary to an acre. The location of the canal and.'
ownership were in no more definite form. Especially noticeable:..
the absence of any State control or any effort on the part of the
to protect the interests of those who were to come after. A ]
foot of water per second" had no meaning to some; others maintained
that 12 "inches"" was a foot; otlhrs still that 144 or 1,728 was cor-
rect. It would appear from the results that the majority favored the
12 inches to a foot idea, resulting in decrees three times what was
It is strange that the judge or referee, who presumably knew of the
conflict of opinion and of the wide range of statements relative to what
was necessary to irrigate an acre of land and what constituted an
"inch," did not avail himself of the services of a competent engineer,
who would report on each ditch, classify the land under each, estimate
the acreage, measure the canal, and ascertain its capacity and the
amount it probably used. The expense would have been much less
than the witness fees or the time value of the gratuitous witnesses.
Had we at that time had a State engineer who, without bias or prej-
udice, employing the same methods of measurements and standards
of classification, was authorized to make reports, the judge would have
had reliable, uniform data on which to base his decrees; instead of
such information he relied on the statements of interested parties, who
were ignorant alike of standards or methods of measurement. During
the last year a man who has been irrigating for, at least thirty years
demanded in all seriousness and good faith 2,1000 inches of water for a
320-acre farm. About 200 inches were turned into his ditch and he
reported that he was getting his 2,000 inches all right. He is a type
of the witnesses testifying before the referee-honest and with the
best of intentions. The result of all this was, naturally, excessive
decrees and indefinite and conflicting terms, as in the decree previously
given. The peculiarities of the decrees in district No. 4 have been
discussed, but all the above reasons and those previously mentioned
do not explain, nor can they excuse all the mistakes made. No man,
no matter how good a judge or attorney, is competent to render
decrees unless he has had practical experience in the handling and dis-
tribution of water, and for this reason it seems necessary either to
remove the settling of priorities from the judiciary or to supply them
with such expert aid as is necessary.
A board consisting of men trained in the service who recognize its
needs, the difficulties and dangers likely to arise, and who can and will
make examination on the ground to settle disputed facts, seems far
'superior to a judge who has had at most little practical experience with
water, who is accustomed to handling civil cases with rules of pro-
cedure scarcely applicable to irrigation cases, and who in the press of
other work can not take the time necessary to become personally
familiar with the case on the ground as well as in the court room. To
a In Colorado an "inch" is the volume which will pass through an orifice 1 inch
square under a pressure of 5 inches, measured from the top of an orifice, and varies
somewhat with the number of "inches" sought to be measured; 38.4 inches is the
accepted equivalent of a cubic foot per second, however.
2817-No. 118-02- 6
go on adding reasons for such a change, in view of the condition of the '!1
decrees already rendered by the courts, is entirely unnecessary. If
the customs and laws are so firmly grounded as to preclude the possi-
bility of the change indicated, a law requiring the State engineer to H
examine and make report on the ditches of a district before decrees
are entered would meet most requirements. In the old districts, how-
ever, where the decrees have become fixed, the State engineer should
be required to examine each ditch, reservoir, and decree, and upon his
report to the district judge, after proper hearing, excess decrees should
be declared abandoned.
Enlargement is productive of more evil than transfers. Transfers
are open, subject to examination and question. Enlargement is a slow,
insiduous, intangible process of taking more and more water from the
river and of depriving later appropriators of benefits which they have
before enjoyed. The simple process of cleaning a ditch, if well and
thoroughly done, may be made in a few years to double the capacity.
An examination and record of the present ditch capacities would pre-
vent much of this and declared abandonment, resulting in practically
a new set of decrees, would stop it altogether.
The decrees all contain one element so indefinite that one is at a loss
how at this time to apply a remedy, though in future decrees this
might be more specifically stated-that is the time element. A decree
purports to establish the maximum amount of water that can be
diverted at any time. It is left to conjecture, however, for what length
of time the water is so run. Under the conditions existing at the
time appropriations were made for the early ditches, and extending
even to the time of the decree, the water was used quite differently
from what it is at present. The crops were all early maturing and
required little late water. Now, however, both early and late crops
are raised, the result being that instead of having little use for water
after July it is now demanded for August and September as well.
Formerly water was run on the land perhaps one week in the month;
now with larger ditches, larger and more diversified crops, it is run
every day in the month. This, then, is an increase in the length of
the season and of use from an intermittent to a continuous flow, with
the result of a largely increased acreage irrigated and actual volume
diverted though the number of cubic feet per second may be no
This enlarged use is made possible by the segregation of the land i
and water under the rulings of courts and brings up a consideration of
the fourth item in the summary on page 64.
Numerous cases have been tried in the State in which the right to
transfer water has been confirmed. With the conditions of excess
decrees, it is to be expected that the excess, when water becomes val-:
uable, will, if possible, be used. The water becomes an article of sale
and purchase, and, while as stated in the section on laws, transfer, '
extension, and enlargement are benefits to the community as a whole,
confiscation of the property of the individual results for the benefit in
particular of the holders of an old decree and of the conillunity in
general. With decrees more definite as to length of time and use and
limited in quantity to the needs of the land irrigated, transfers would
be a benefit as they would encourage consolidation of ditches and
economy of use. Conditional decrees could be granted dependent on
the completion of extensive works and the actual reclamation of the
land within a reasonable period.
In the administration of the irrigation department, one must con-
tend with the acts of those who believe themselves to have been
wronged and who by force seek to maintain their rights. but discre-
tionary power of the officers has been so curtailed and limited that
they are often forced to do things against both their judgment and
inclination. Every irrigation official should be clothed with more dis-
cretionary power, and the decisions of the State engineer should stand
until the courts decide adversely, instead of being overruled by injunc-
tion. An official who is sworn and under bonds to do his duty is
enjoined from doing this duty. The presumption of impartiality is as
strong in him as in a judge; his ability to judge of a case is superior;
he is familiar with the law and customs; he knows, by long exercise
of his duties, the priorities, the needs, and the rights of the ditches;
he knows almost by instinct the effect of certain actions and decisions;
he has knowledge which neither laws nor decrees, nor books, nor rec-
ords can give; he has seen the effects actually worked out on the
ground; he is vitally interested in the good conduct of his office, and
he is subject to immediate removal in consequence of any misconduct.
It is simply absurd that the court should presume without investiga-
tion, and in ex parte proceedings to set aside his rulings.
In the foregoing pages, as far as possible, facts as ascertained from
personal observation have been given, and criticism of doubtful
points has been avoided. An attempt has been made to give an out-
line and something of a history and the sequence of events which led
up to the legal contests, said by some to be only the beginning, but
which are more probably the beginning of the end. Other nations have
had nearly the same questions and difficulties to meet, and found the
solution of their troubles and worked out their own salvation. With
them it required centuries for final settlement. In the United States
the progress made in Colorado in one short generation gives no reason
for discouragement. An efficient system of administration has been
worked out, and a system of adjudication has been adopted, which
needs only a better knowledge of the requirements of irrigation prac-
tice to make it satisfactory.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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