Colorado Water 2012: Water law and Chaffee County water history from The Mountain Mail

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Here’s the first article in their year-long series examining water issues in the Upper Arkansas Valley from Joe Stone writing for The Mountain Mail. From the article:

Along the western edge of the valley, the peaks of the Sawatch Range reach heights exceeding 14,000 feet above sea level and receive far more precipitation than the valley floor. As a result, approximately 80 percent of regional water comes from mountain snowpack that accumulates during winter and flows downstream as warmer temperature melts the snow. These characteristics of geography and climate created challenges for early settlers and fostered development of a water management system unique in the United States…

Early settlers found good farmland in the Lower Arkansas Valley and diverted water from the Arkansas River into the Rocky Ford High Line Canal. The canal has an 1861 water right senior to Upper Arkansas Valley water rights and, therefore, continues to affect Upper Ark water rights…

The oldest ditch in Chaffee County is the Trout Creek Ditch with an 1864 appropriation date. Other early ditches included the 1864 Thompson Ditch on Cottonwood Creek and the 1870 Hayden Ditch near Coaldale.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

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