Whether you are raising corn or cattle, or simply care about your property’s landscape, water rights are essential to your success. In bygone days, landowners could simply dig irrigation ditches to divert water from rivers and streams. Over time, an intricate system of laws has been developed to ensure the proper allocation of water to all stakeholders. If you have any questions or need to protect your water rights, Robert S. McCormick, Attorney at Law can help. For decades, I have represented Colorado property owners, developers and agribusinesses in disputes and found effective solutions for a range of issues related to natural resources. I understand that access is access to free-flowing, abundant water is essential and often urgent. Whatever your particular concern entails, I’m ready to fight for your ditch rights.
Irrigation ditches are used to provide water for agricultural purposes and typically operate from April to October. In Colorado, water rights are not necessarily deeded with the land, and it is quite common for a ditch to belong to a person or a company other than the owner of the parcel it crosses. Therefore, even if a ditch crosses a parcel, the landowner may have no right to access the water in the ditch. The ditch owner, however, has a right called an easement, which allows them to enter the property to perform necessary maintenance on the ditch. The ditch easement may be authorized by deed or simply exist as a historic right-of-way established by custom and practice.
Once water enters a ditch, it becomes the property of the ditch owner, who may be an individual or a company. In some cases, shareholders receive water allocations according to a company’s agreement.
Prior to entering the ditch, stream water is subject to regulation according to diversion rights, based on a system of priority and the amount of water flowing. Control gates are used to ensure proper allocation. When ditch owners do not comply with rightful orders from authorities, such as the division engineer or the water commissioner, enforcement steps may be taken. These include shutting off and locking the ditch or tagging the ditch with an order to set the headgate at a certain level.
Due to the intricacy of the law and the often-intertwined rights of the stakeholders, disputes over ditches often occur. Common disputes include:
When disputes arise, aggrieved parties should not take matters into their own hands. Instead, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately. For decades, I have fought to uphold my clients’ rights in a wide range of matters relating to natural resources. I am well-versed in Colorado water rights law, and can aggressively pursue a viable solution in your dispute.
If you are engaged in a Colorado irrigation ditch dispute, Robert S. McCormick, Attorney at Law can provide the capable counsel you need to protect your rights. Call today at 833-880-7192 or contact me online to set up a free initial consultation. My offices are in Grand Junction and Durango.