‘Farming on the high, arid desert plains of Eastern Colorado forced people to be imaginative’ — Rick Kienitz

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Rick Kienitz):

Before beginning a job for a municipal water provider, I, like most people, thought no further about where my water came from than from the kitchen faucet.

I knew water came from streams and aquifers and that the beginning of the water cycle was rain and snow, but I would rarely think of how that water finally made it to my house. The idea that somehow water had to make the long trek from a snowy mountain top to my home did not concern or worry me.

Increasingly, water scarcity and a growing population’s demand causes people like me to think more about where that all-important resource comes from. Seeing the process and the complexity of providing water to a large city made me not only appreciate the value and importance of water in Southern Colorado, but also had me wonder where that water supply originally came from.

Farming on the high, arid desert plains of Eastern Colorado forced people to be imaginative. Men like T.C. Henry and David K. Wall built canals and laterals to carry water from the rivers further inland to irrigate crops. Although these canals were massive undertakings and could move large amounts of water, the farmlands were also enormous and water was not always available, especially during times of drought.

Farmers using these canals began to develop supplemental water supplies in order to grow crops during dry years. These great engineering feats used expansive tunnels and pipelines, as well as natural contours, draws and saddles in the Continental Divide to transport water and irrigate farmlands hundreds of miles away.
Since many of these supplemental systems became too expensive for farmers to maintain and operate, many are now part of municipal water systems and supplies.

Still, it took the vision, ingenuity, resourcefulness, skill, and hard work of these farmers to devise and build these systems. The Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. — which was originally developed to bring water through a series of tunnels to irrigate farms in Crowley County — now provides water to a number of cities including Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Pueblo West and Aurora.

The Busk Ivanhoe system used the old Carlton railway tunnel to bring water across the Continental Divide to farm land in Otero County under the Highline Canal. This system now provides water to Pueblo and Aurora.

These are just a couple of examples of the many amazing engineering and infrastructure projects developed by early farmers and entrepreneurs that continue to provide water for farming and also help supply water to thousands of people in cities and towns.

We, as citizens, owe much to the resourcefulness, hard work and forethought of those before us.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

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