Fremont County: A look at a ditch rider

Here’s a look at Joe Lippis’ career as a farmer and ditch rider on the Fremont Ditch, from Charlotte Burrous writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

In 1970, Fremont Ditch started the first improvement project between Brewster and McCumber lanes. Since then, the entire ditch has been concrete-lined or piped to save water loss and to keep the maintenance cost of cleaning a dirt ditch at a minimum for shareholders, Lippis said. It has not been smooth sailing for him either, encountering various problems as a ditch rider. “There are two kinds of irrigators,” he said. “There are people who irrigate, and there are people who just run water. There is a big difference…

Some farmers still irrigate the same way the pioneers did in 1862. This causes taking too much water and misusing water shares, he said. On one hand, Lippis enjoys being outside, he said though he is aggravated by problems associated with it. “I like being of service to the people,” Lippis said. “I just don’t like the frustrations it can bring on. I don’t like the phone calls I get from disgruntled people in Florence on the lower end of the ditch, who don’t have any water.” If the ditch company had an allocation system to measure water, there wouldn’t be these kinds of problems. He again cautioned residents to not take more than their fair share…

“Riding the ditch is a thankless job, but somebody has to do it,” he said. “If I quit riding the ditch a third time, it will be permanent.”

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