Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Melvin and Camille Getz recap the recent “100 Years of San Luis Valley Reservoirs” event in the Valley. Here’s an excerpt:
The San Luis Valley, inhospitable in many ways such as climate (cold winters, windy springs) and elevation averaging 7500’ with surrounding mountains isolating it from the rest of Colorado, was blessed with rich soil and seemingly unlimited water over 100 years ago. Melting mountain snow rushed down into the valley in spring, filling rivers, streams and irrigation ditches that had been constructed all across the valley. There was no way to control the water. It was used when it was available, which was not usually when farmers needed it most; then the severe drought of the 1890s affecting all the other communities dependent on the Rio Grande as much as the San Luis Valley caused an international crisis. The United States government, hoping to avoid a lawsuit from Mexico, imposed an embargo on reservoir construction.
With its removal, the floodgates of hope and ambition opened to initiate an amazing number of projects on the upper Rio Grande or its tributaries. Although sites had been located and water rights secured earlier, in 1907 engineering plans were drawn, financing arranged which was all private — no government money involved — workers hired, and the construction began. By 1914 nine major storage projects had been completed and were in operation.
More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.