Silver Lake Ditch community

The Silver Lake Ditch serves a number of communities. Paid-up historic shareholders can use the water directly, but other people benefit from using the water indirectly. Immediate neighborhoods benefit but many other communities of people do as well.

The Ditch crosses Open Space and Mountain Parks land at several locations, where people and dogs enjoy the water. It replenishes wetlands and enables the birdlife at Mesa Reservoir, and it contributes to the habitat around Wonderland Lake. It provides riparian habitat for wildlife all along the front range, as well as for people.

Shareholders are property owners whose property has water rights to use the water that the ditch (or a ditch lateral) carries. Shareholders pay an annual fee to the ditch company to maintain those rights. Water rights are protected by law. Any use of water from the ditch by non-shareholders can be prosecuted, and any excess use by shareholders can be prosecuted. The ditch is administered in such a way as to ensure that it continues to serve as a resource for all.

Silver Lake Ditch shareholder rights were established when the ditch was created during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Properties with rights at that time are the only ones that can be actual shareholders. The ditch company is not allowed to add shareholders, and shareholders are not allowed to sell the rights as something separate from the underlying land.

If a property abuts the ditch or a ditch lateral, there are certain ditch company rights and restrictions that the property owner should know about.  The ditch constitutes a right of way, or easement, across the landscape. The ditch company has the right to maintain the ditch, clean up along the ditch, or make repairs to the ditch, even if it goes through a person’s property, and even though that person is not a shareholder. This is in the interests not only of shareholders but of all people who benefit from the Ditch.

Property owners may not build structures over the ditch or lateral, nor infringe upon the ditch easement by building too close to the ditch or a lateral. This prohibition includes temporary structures, such as dams in particular, that can cause loss of water to shareholders downstream and water damage to property. If a property owner intends to landscape or build near the ditch, he should contact the Silver Lake Ditch Company to discuss plans and avoid any legal ramifications.

In short, the Ditch is a resource enjoyed by many people in Boulder, not just owners of Ditch shares. All are privileged to have this resource wending its way from Boulder Canyon northward along the foothills.