The next MCD board meeting, open to the public, is on December 11, 2017 at 5pm.
To promote long-term sustainable use and protection of the Mancos River Watershed. We provide educational, financial and technical assistance to meet these conservation goals.
Mancos Conservation District
What is the Mancos Conservation District?
Conservation districts trace their formation to the 1930’s when they were originally designated Soil Conservation Districts because national attention was focused on the soil erosion crisis of the Dust Bowl. From that point, soil conservation districts have evolved into a “unique” unit of local government that utilizes state, federal and private sector resources to solve today’s natural resource problems ranging from soil conservation to water quality and conservation, to flood control, to wildlife habitat, to forest management and beyond.
A Brief History of Mancos Valley Water
Prior to European settlement, the Mancos Valley was a mosaic of pinyon and juniper woodlands, gallery riparian forests of cottonwoods and willows, grassland, ponderosa pine forests, and, in the dry or salty places, cold desert scrub. When the first permanent settlers arrived in 1874, Dick Giles wasted no time in filing for Number One Priority water rights from the Mancos River – the appropriation date was July lst, the ditch was the Giles Ditch. By mid-1892 priority water rights numbering up to 46 had been appropriated and nearly as many ditches were constructed to deliver the water to the ranches and farms of the booming valley of the upper Mancos River. It soon became apparent that only those with priority rights 1 through 10 or 15 could get irrigation water beyond the point of final snow melt in early summer. The solution was to build reservoirs from which water could be released after flow declined in the River. Most of the early reservoirs were small and served only a small number of residents. It wasn’t until 1949 when the Jackson Gulch Reservoir was completed that water became generally available to supplement the short-term flow of adjudicated water. The reports that justified construction of Jackson Gulch Reservoir in 1942 note the large loss of water caused by inefficient application and seepage from the ditch system. The problems of water wastage by seepage and inefficient application have yet to be resolved.
The Mancos Valley Water Conservation Project seeks to:
What is the Mancos Valley Water Conservation Project?
The Mancos Conservation District has established a principal goal of increasing the efficiency of water delivery from the Mancos River and its tributaries;
- to the livestock and crops of the Mancos Valley’s nearly 400 landowners with water rights,
- to wildlife, and
- to support restoration of the river channel.
The early phases of the Conservation Project are already underway. NRCS technicians are mapping ditches, photographing and evaluating existing diversion and distribution structures, and estimating the amount of water that is being lost. When this descriptive phase is completed, we will have an estimate of the costs associated with upgrading the distribution system.
Early results suggest that we will qualify as a salinity control project area and be the beneficiaries of cost-share programs in the amount of several million dollars to manage better the distribution of Mancos Valley water. The mechanism that will be used to reduce loss will depend on circumstances but might include piping water to users, lining or otherwise sealing open ditches, and re-routing and combining the water from adjacent ditches. Individual ditches will then decide whether or not to enter into an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) cost-share agreement to upgrade control structures and distribution systems to water users and critical habitats.
To qualify for government cost-share, ditches must organize and agree how to maintain and operate upgraded facilities. It is also necessary for us to take steps to manage our water to ensure that everybody gets their fair share when they need it and to share equitably the responsibilities and costs for ditch upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. These goals are best accomplished by individual ditches organizing as non-profit corporations.