Thursday, May 1, 2008

There’s Water in Our Ditch and It Hasn’t Rained … What’s Up?

Its that time of year again – time to irrigate the crops that keep the Valley so green and the aesthetic wonder that it is. Throughout the Valley is a network of conveyance ditches that bring water from the Carson Rivers (East and West Forks) to the property where it is to be put to beneficial use. Look around and you’ll see them everywhere, even in town. It sounds like you have such a ditch on the edge of your property. Yes, it hasn’t rained, but the ditch is full of water because it is being transported from the river to somewhere down the ditch from you so it can irrigate crops.

Water is important for keeping the Valley green, but more importantly it is an essential component of agricultural production. The rancher’s living and the well being of their livestock is dependant on it. It is taken very seriously by the ranchers and should be respected by all Valley residents. The Carson River was the subject of the longest running court case in the history of the U.S. Filed in 1925, it was resolved in 1980 with what is known as the Alpine Decree. That the litigants stayed on task for that long demonstrates their passion and zeal for this most important resource. That passion has not waned among those that have the benefit of surface water rights, but is now better managed among them by the dictates of the Decree and the oversight and decisions of the Water Master.

Ranchers work hard to maintain the ditch network. You see them burning the weeds to allow the water to flow better. You will also see them removing silt build up to keep the flow at its optimum. Water is precious in the desert and the ranchers work hard to get as much to their property as possible with as little loss as possible. Each branch of the river has a Federal Water Master representative to direct the water flow – who gets the water, how much they get, and when they get it based on historic use, priority, and the water flow in the river. Neighboring water users work together to coordinate the most efficient use of the water around the clock during the irrigation season. If you are a new owner of a water righted property and aren’t sure about what to do ask your Seller, your neighbors and the Water Master for your property. They will gladly help you understand protocol, custom and the law so you can enjoy your asset and assimilate nicely in the neighborhood.

Our Advice: Be clear whether you live near an irrigation or a drainage ditch. If you live near an irrigation ditch be careful with your children and animals. Water can be in the ditch unexpectedly. The water can move rapidly and goes through many culverts along the way. Your child or pet can have a difficult time extricating themselves from the water if they happen to fall in. Also, if there is a culvert on your property it is in your best interest to keep it clear of obstructions. Not only can it cause water to back up and flood your property, by maintaining it and helping the ranchers you remove the need for them to enter your property to maintain the ditch, a right they have.

In case you are wondering, no, you can’t use the water going by your property as it belongs to someone else. Enjoy the flowing water, a treat in our high desert environment. Note the joy of the flora and fauna, wild and domestic, as the water spreads the essence of life throughout the Valley. Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, or , 775-781-5472.

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