New users’ FAQs

Headgate, with Sarah Avery helping the ditch rider clean out sticks

What are my water rights?
The rights of each user depend on shares. The shares go with specific pieces of land and cannot be bought or sold as separate from the land. One acre of land that has Silver Lake Ditch shares gets one acre’s worth of water. The shares receive a proportionate percentage of the total amount of water supplied by the Ditch, which fluctuates from year to year. As a rule, however, when the Main Ditch is carrying a ‘full head,’ it provides roughly 7.7 gallons per minute per lateral acre. Direct users of water, who take directly from the Main Ditch, are administered by the Board and comply with Board allocations of water. Lateral users of water, who take from the laterals, are administered by lateral chairs and comply with their allocations of water.

How can I use the water?
Different users employ various ways to maximize the benefit of Ditch water. These include sprinkler systems, siphon systems, and flood irrigation. See the list of people and companies who can advise on how best to proceed for your situation. [M note: to be added.]

Who do I talk to about problems or concerns?
If you are a lateral user, first call your lateral chair. See the list. If you are a Main Ditch user, first call the Ditch Rider.

What is special about Ditch water?
Unlike water provided by a municipality, Ditch water is not processed. That is, it carries no chlorine or cleaning agents and is instead full of nutrients. Second, it is far cheaper than municipal water. Third, it comes straight from the mountains and is part of a living ecosystem.

How much water is guaranteed?
The Ditch must be maintained in order for users to get any water at all. Maintenance involves the entire length of the Ditch, from the head gate at Boulder Canyon to the final lateral. The citizens who own Silver Lake Ditch water rights are therefore also responsible for maintaining those rights or there is no water. Water rights come in two forms, direct flow and storage rights. See discussion of these two forms of water rights below.

Where does our water come from?
Physically, our water comes from Boulder Creek. It enters the man-made Silver Lake Ditch at the head gate in Boulder Canyon. By starting out at a higher elevation, and gradually getting lower as it traverses the front range, the Ditch is able to get water all the way to Mesa Reservoir north of Boulder.

Robert LaManna at the headgate, with Boulder Creek in the background











In terms of water rights, our water comes from two sources: direct flow and storage rights. Direct flow rights come from Boulder Creek and were filed in 1888. The Ditch is allocated 10
cubic feet per second from Boulder Creek until the spring runoff is over and our direct flow
rights move out of priority. Our rights are ‘junior,’ since the first diversion of water from Boulder Creek was in 1859.
Storage rights come from the Silver Lake and Island reservoirs. The men who started the ditch company built the Silver Lake Reservoir in 1887 and Island Lake in 1890. These were some of the earliest storage rights filed in Boulder County and so are quite ‘senior.’

Who can we contact to set up a watering system?
Contact Tim Ostwald, Maintenance Manager, and see the list below [M: to be added.]

How can I help?
Join the Adopt-a-Ditch program! Adopt a specific section of the ditch with either financial or physical assistance. Call Lucy King, telephone 214-674- 7327. Second, call the Ditch Rider or the Maintenance Manager for ongoing major maintenance projects.