————————————————————————————————— Helpful Information on Irrigation and Water Rights | Florida Consolidated Ditch Company

                         Irrigation and Water Rights on the Florida Mesa

                                                   By: Phil Craig

Water rights and water law are very complicated and would take volumes to explain. This is a simple explanation which gives water users a basic understanding of water issues.

On the Florida Mesa system, there are two types of water of which a person may have rights to either one or both. The first is called adjudicated water which is sometimes referred to as direct flow, flood water, or river water. These are water rights that come directly from river diversions and were established before Lemon Dam was built.

People who live along the river generally own the water right and have diversions in the river to put water on their places. People who live away from the river are generally served by a ditch company. The ditch company owns the water right and the users own shares of stock in the company which entitle them to the use of a certain amount of water.

Colorado water is set up on a priority system, which simply means that the first person or entity that applied for a water right from a river received the number one priority. The second received the number two, and so on. As the river rises in the spring, each right is filled as the river reaches enough flow to meet them. On dry years some of them will not be filled. Rights will remain “in” as long as the river remains high enough. As the river begins to drop, the rights go “out”.

On the Mesa, there were four major ditch companies that served most people. Each     company has its own priority number for a certain amount of water. The Florida Farmers(A Shares), Florida Canal (B Shares), Florida Enlargement ( C Shares) and Florida Coop( D Shares). The four ditch companies consolidated into one company in 2014 creating Florida Consolidated Ditch Company.

The amount of water a share of stock equates to forty shares equal one cubic foot per second of flow or “cfs”. All moving water is measured in cubic feet per second. It is measured out of the dam, into all of the canals, and at each individual headgate.

The second type of water is referred to as “Project Water”. This is water that is stored in the dam, and released as people call for it. Before the dam was built, farmers would often run out of water in July or August, and still have lots of growing season left. The project was originally intended to make up this shortfall and to supply water to some people who did not have any before.

Unlike adjudicated water, it can be drawn and used when needed, and left in storage when not. Also unlike adjudicated, project water is a quantified amount. Each person has a certain amount of acre-feet. An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover  one acre, one foot deep. It is the equivalent of 325,851 gallons. On good years when the  lake fills and there is a 100% supply, everyone gets their full amount. In bad years they· will get a percentage of the available amount.

The water is still measured in cubic feet per second and then converted to the actual acre-feet a person uses. If you are drawing l cfs, you will consume two acre feet per day. As an example let’s say you have 30 acre-feet of water. If you order ½ cfs at your headgate, you will consume one acre foot every 24 hours. Under this example, you could run water for 30 days and then you would be out. If you draw 1 cfs, you would have water for 15 days, and so on.

The Florida Water Conservancy District administers the project water, but it is delivered by the ditch companies under a contract with them. This means you call your ditch rider to deliver whatever type of water you have. Only a ditch rider can open and close headgates. They will monitor your usage and shut the water off when your adjudicated or project water runs out.

If you have questions or problems, contact the ditch manager or a board member of the ditch company that serves your property.