Ditch riders keep the water flowing

A picture named rockyfordditch

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Jason Blevins):

[Edd] Perkins is one of hundreds of Colorado`s ditch riders, guardians of the state`s aquatic arteries. Their job veers from mud digging and weed pulling to complex scheduling and negotiating as they patrol the thousands of ditches that ferry water from Colorado`s hills to basins. It is a job that hasn`t changed much in 150 years — and that includes worrying when the water doesn`t run.

“The underlying premise in Colorado is that there isn`t enough water,” said Bob Carlson, a 21-year water commissioner for Colorado`s District 6. “Demand exceeds supply. That was true in 1882 and it`s true today. That`s why these guys work so hard today. It`s a very limited resource.” In Boulder, issues are resolved at the Burger King where twice a week, Carlson holds a sort of water traffic court over a plastic table. Power company representatives, municipal leaders and watershed guardians are typically on hand. Ditch riders gather around, their phones chirping with shareholders hoping for water to flow. Each day is different as Carlson adjusts the amount of Boulder Creek and South Boulder Creek water each ditch can carry…

It was out-of-luck gold miners who turned their picks toward ditches in the late 1800s. Their work set the stage for today`s Front Range growth. Ditch riders keep the show going. “They realize the real gold in Colorado is water and that`s why we have an economy here today, because we have figured out how to use the water for farms, ranches and people,” said Bob Crifasi, water resource manager for Boulder and longtime ditch rider who serves as president for four regional ditch companies. “The guys who run the water realize that the trees and green vistas we have in the cities are only there because of their effort to keep water moving down ditches. A lot of it is about really having an appreciation for what has gone into making Colorado an urban oasis.”

More Colorado water coverage here.

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