Acequia water rights, derived from original Spanish land grant settlements in south central Colorado, are the oldest in the state. The cooperative ditch management method of water resource oversight has many social, environmental and economic benefits. This system, however, is more vulnerable as it lacks a clear legal status in Colorado’s system of water rights administration. Colorado Open Lands is a statewide land trust dedicated to protecting the natural heritage and open spaces in the state. Since 2009, COL has been dedicating significant resources to a long-term vision using conservation easements and other tools to protect acequia water rights and traditional forms of management.
In support of this effort, the Gates Family Foundation trustees have approved a $75,000 grant over two years to develop local capacity for acequia users to increase the level of certainty and long-term protection for the continued operation of these systems. An informed community of water users will allow people to make decisions about the future of their water management approach in an environment where water is increasingly scarce.