July 24: Agriculture, Irrigation & Recreation

Running the River: Recreation, Reclamation and River Districts

In 1937, the Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado River Water Conservation District to manage the use, development and protection of the river and its tributaries. Representing 15 West Slope counties, the CRWCD’s mission is largely to make sure that the people and places it speaks for are getting a fair shake, and enough river water is staying in the basin. In Glenwood Springs, the river district - and the area’s recreation economy - are abetted by a small, unassuming hydroelectric power plant, originally built in 1886. Why would such a tiny diversion play such an outsized role? In a phrase - the doctrine of prior-appropriation. We learned all about water rights, in-stream flow, and the small-but-mighty Shoshone Power Plant, and heard from the recreation community about why their business is so important - to them, and to the state of Colorado. 

Plumbing for Plants: Agriculture and Irrigation in the Grand Valley

Unless you know to watch for them, you could easily overlook the hundreds of miles of canals, ditches, and laterals that crisscross the Grand Valley, siphoning water out of the Colorado to supply the region’s farms, orchards, ranches, and other needs.  These complex systems are the lifeblood of a generations-old industry in the valley, but some producers are fearful that growing demands elsewhere - both upstream and down - may threaten their most precious resource. We met with members of the Talbott family, who have been Grand Valley agriculturalists for over a century, as well as representatives of Kokopelli Produce, organic producers of fruits and vegetables. We also heard from an irrigation manager about how this labyrinth of pipes and straws actually works, and from the water users’ association about how producers are entertaining new ways to benefit from their long-held water rights - ways that may not having anything to do with growing food.