Here’s a primer of sorts about irrigation and the operations of ditch companies, from Nancy Argo writing for The Durango Herald. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
Because the arid West does not receive enough natural rainfall each year to adequately grow crops, agricultural landowners began to control water from rivers and reservoirs for irrigation. The Colorado Constitution provides that the waters of every natural stream are the property of the people of the state of Colorado who have the right to divert the unappropriated water of any natural stream to beneficial use, thus creating a “water right” that may be decreed by a court. Because lands where water is used are often located away from streams and rivers, ditches may be constructed to carry the water to agricultural land.