As Colorado’s population continues to grow, the state’s ditch and reservoir companies must keep up-to-date so that they are able to prosper in the years to come. The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance (DARCA), organized as a non-profit organization, was formed in 2001 to assist the state’s ditch and reservoir companies. DARCA aims to help these businesses and their shareholders find cost effective solutions to problems such as: heightened regulatory controls, growing urbanization as well as many other problems that are now facing these historic businesses.
The office of DARCA is located on the farm of its Executive Director, John McKenzie. McKenzie’s farm has been in his family for 120 years, which allows him to bring an agricultural passion and perspective to the mission of DARCA. As well, DARCA is governed by an 11 member board of directors who come from both sides of the Continental Divide. Having board members from both the Front Range as well as the Western Slope allows for much needed collaboration. “Many of the growing pains that the Front Range water providers have experienced are currently being faced by ditch and reservoir companies on the Western Slope and we try to help one another out,” says McKenzie.
As ditch and reservoir companies have found that dealing with water issues in Colorado is not only complex but can be costly, DARCA aims to lessen that burden. McKenzie says, “One of DARCA’s goals is to enhance the financial viability for our member ditch companies so that these companies can lower the assessments to their members and have more money available for much needed infrastructure improvement.” Typically, ditch companies do not have the in-house knowledge necessary to protect their rights, and often have to hire experts, which can be a very expensive undertaking for these limited resource organizations. “DARCA is in the business of transferring timely and useful information from those who have it to those who don’t — and business is good,” says McKenzie.
The ditch and reservoir businesses are not the sole beneficiaries of the services that DARCA offers. The farmers and ranchers that rely on the ditch water to grow food, fiber, and forage benefit when the ditch companies operate more effectively and thus lower the cost of water for their agricultural operations.
The ditches and reservoirs are also very good for the local communities. Many of our urban neighbors do not realize that the “stream” running through town is not a natural stream but in fact is a manmade ditch. Additionally, most of the reservoirs in the state have been constructed to deliver water to our farms. “In addition to providing water to farmers to grow food, ditch companies have constructed an artificial landscape of reservoirs, waterways and riparian corridors that enrich local communities,” says Mr. McKenzie.
In return for receiving the knowhow to help ditch and reservoir businesses deal more effectively with the issues faced while running their organizations, members of DARCA pay modest membership fees.
DARCA is holding its 11th annual convention, “Water of Food; Food for Life,” on March 6-8 at the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo. This event will allow farmers, ranchers, ditch company personnel, and other water professionals from around the state to network and exchange information. Everybody in the Colorado water community is welcome and encouraged to attend. ❖