Art & Heritage: Windsor’s water history
October 3, 2012
At the end of a summer with record heat and drought, water conservation and overall awareness of where the town's water comes from is as important as ever. Water is a confusing topic in the West. Windsor is not exempt from the historical idiosyncrasies of water law that Colorado was founded on. Sitting at the heart of Colorado Water Law is Article 16 of the State Constitution, better known as "Prior Appropriation." "Prior Appropriation," essentially states first in use, first in right. Many people are surprised when they find out that in addition to a set number of water "shares" the town holds in Windsor Lake, the town purchases its water from three additional providers, including the North Weld County Water District, the city of Greeley and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District. Each of these districts holds prior appropriation to water sources the town directly benefits from.
The "shares" or allotments of water in Windsor Lake are owned by the Kern Reservoir and Ditch Co., of which the town owns majority shares. The Kern Reservoir and Ditch Co., formerly the Lake Supply Ditch Co., has a long history in Windsor. As early as 1903, the Lake Supply and Ditch Co. had secured first in right of Windsor Lake. Today, it is used solely for recreational purposes and as a non-potable irrigation reservoir. Windsor entered into its agreement with the city of Greeley for mountain water drawn from the Poudre River near Bellevue in 1908. Other early Windsor residents benefited from private wells drilled on their property. Some of these private wells still exist today.
Water in Windsor is as precious a resource as it was over 122 years ago at its incorporation. To learn more about Colorado water law and its history, visit the Colorado Division of Water Resources, http://www.water.state.co.us. Meanwhile, enjoy watering the lawn a little less this fall!
Carrie Knight is the Art & Heritage manager for the town of Windsor.