OCID is calling a Board Meeting on June 6th at 5:30PM, at the Town of Orchard City Community Room, to discuss Potential Allocation Changes and anything else that comes before the board. 

In the mean time you should check out the water ordering form HERE!

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New Property Owner Information

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Overview

The Surface Creek Valley lies on the southern slope of the Grand Mesa extending all the way to the Gunnison River. It includes the towns of Cedaredge, Eckert, Cory, and Austin.

Irrigation water is primarily supplied by snowpack from the Grand Mesa. Water is suppled to users either directly as flow water from streams or stored water in reservoirs on the Grand Mesa and in Fruitgrowers Reservoir.

Two entities help manage the irrigation water in the Surface Creek Valley. The first, Grand Mesa Water Users Association (GMWUA) facilitates the water in the reservoirs on the Grand Mesa. The second, Orchard City Irrigation District (OCID) manages stored water in Fruitgrowers Reservoir along with flow water within the system.

Orchard City Irrigation District (OCID)

In 1939, the Orchard City Irrigation District was created as an irrigation district serving approximately 2700 irrigated acres.

OCID consists of a Board of Directors along with staff members who manage and distribute the water in the system. This water consists of stored water in Fruitgrowers Reservoir and flow water in the Fogg and Butte Ditches. (At the time that OCID was created, those landowners who wished to include their land within the district had to declare the number of acres of their land that they wished to be irrigated by OCID provided water. At its inception, the collective number of acres declared for irrigation within the district was just over 2700 acres. The reservoir was only intended to provide supplemental irrigation water (about one-half) of the water deemed necessary to raise a crop on the lands served.) Depending upon where you live in proximity to the OCID boundaries water may be supplied from either one or both sources.

The OCID’s boundaries extend south from Eckert to the Gunnison River. State Hwy 65 is the district's western boundary. An imaginary line running north from Austin to Fruitgrowers Reservoir is the Eastern Boundary.

Fruitgrowers Reservoir

Fruitgrowers Reservoir is located two miles east of Eckert. It was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and is managed by the Orchard City Irrigation District.

The reservoir holds 4100 acre-feet of water for landowners in the OCID district as well as water to fulfill contracts established when the reservoir was built.

Bird watchers relish Fruitgrowers Reservoir for the migratory Sandhill Cranes that pass through annually as well as other bird watching opportunities.

More general information about the reservoir can be found here at the USBR website. USBR also has a more in depth history of Fruitgrowers Reservoir.

Fruitgrowers Reservoir Dam

Fogg and Butte Ditches

The Fogg and Butte Ditches are the main ditches that transport water from Surface Creek and Fruitgrowers Reservoir to landowners in the Orchard City Irrigation District. They are maintained by the Fogg Ditch Company and the Butte Ditch Company, respectively.

Both ditches have a divergence point at Surface Creek above Fruitgrowers Reservoir and proceed in a generally southern direction towards the Gunnison River. The Upper Fogg and Upper Butte refer to the areas on the ditches north of Fruitgrowers Reservoir where landowners can only receive flow water from Surface Creek, not reservoir water from Fruitgrowers. The Lower Fogg and Lower Butte refers to areas south of Fruitgrowers Reservoir, land within OCID boundaries, where landowners can receive both flow water and reservoir water.

Flow water running through ditches is typically measured in cubic feet per second (cfs).

Land and Reservoir Water

If your land is within OCID, water stored in Fruitgrowers Reservoir is considered attached to that land and cannot be separated from it. The volume of irrigation water that attaches to that land is based upon the land’s size in terms of irrigatable acres. For example, a .75 acre parcel may be accompanied with .75 acres of OCID. That water stays with the land, even if such water is not mentioned in your deed. There are no separate stock certificates issued for ownership of OCID water.

It is important to note that Fruitgrowers Reservoir was originally only intended to provide supplemental irrigation water, or about one-half, of the water deemed necessary to raise a crop on the lands served.

Stell Pond

Fogg and Butte Ownership

Ownership in the Fogg Ditch Company and the Butte Ditch Company IS evidenced by stock certificates. The certificate holder is entitled to both flow water that may be available to that ditch company and a right to carry water in that ditch. That “carrying right” includes the water in Fruitgrowers Reservoir to which that certificate holder may be entitled as a result of owning land within OCID. Those certificates are not necessarily tied to a particular parcel of land; they are tied to the person identified on the certificate as the stock’s owner. Landowners without shares in either Butte Ditch Company or Fogg Ditch Company are not entitled to water owned by either of those companies nor, with rare exception, are they entitled to have delivered to them any water from the Fruitgrowers Reservoir.

IF YOU OWN LAND within the Orchard City Irrigation District, you should also have a stock certificate showing your ownership of shares in either the Butte Ditch or Fogg Ditch.

Entitlement of Volume of Water

The size of your land dictates the proportionate volume of water stored in Fruitgrowers Reservoir to which you are entitled. While it is stored, water is measured in terms of acre feet. Specifically, one acre of water is one foot of water spread over one acre of land. Larger acreages are entitled to more water from Fruitgrowers Reservoir than smaller acreages. When the water is moving from its stored location to a landowner, it is measured in terms of cubic feet per second (cfs) which is one cubic foot of water flowing in one second passing a given point. (Typically measured by a device called a weir.) To determine the amount of water to which landowners are entitled, OCID must make required deductions for shrink, or water lost through evaporation and seep, and water that OCID is contractually obligated to deliver. The remaining stored water represents the volume available for distribution by moving water from its stored state and transporting it in its moving state (flow). To do so, water in its stored state (volume in terms of acre feet) is converted to its equivalent in flowing water (cubic feet per second or cfs).

The resulting number is then divided by the number of irrigated acres in OCID such that each OCID acre is allocated a specified cubic feet per second of water. An initial “allocation” is done annually by the OCID board of directors, usually in March. The initial allocation can be changed during the irrigation season as weather conditions change.

Similar to the direct relationship between a landowner’s amount of OCID water and size of their acreage, the number of shares of Butte or Fogg stock a landowner owns directly correlates to the amount of water to which a landowner is entitled from their ditch company.

Other Water

Aside from Orchard City Irrigation District, there are several other water entities in the Surface Creek watershed that own water in the form of stream flow ("decree" water) or water stored on Grand Mesa. Some owners of property located within OCID also own shares in those entities owning water in the streams or lakes of Grand Mesa. Such water, which is NOT the water stored in Fruitgrowers Reservoir NOR owned by OCID, can be a separate, supplemental source of water. Such water can be delivered via either the Butte or Fogg; provided those requesting this “supplemental water” own rights to carry that water through one of those ditches. Such water is administered through the Grand Mesa Water User’s Association (GMWUA) whose office is in Cedaredge.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Your annual water entitlement is tied to the number of acres that you own within the irrigation district. Your land is entitled to a proportionate share of the water in the reservoir that is available to members of OCID. Very generally, your annual allotment is based upon a percentage of water that, in a perfect year, would yield one cubic foot of water per second for each acre of OCID water owned. (In determining the amount of available water to be allocated to OCID members, the Board of Directors must take into account a certain volume of water that OCID is contractually bound to deliver to a handful of landowners within the district. The board must also consider water lost over the irrigation season through evaporation and seep (“shrink”) from the reservoir itself and through the several miles of earthen irrigation ditches through which the water must pass to reach your property.) For example, five acres of OCID entitles a landowner to 5.00 cfs of water per year. However, due to a variety of factors, the amount of water to which you are entitled is less than the ideal of 1 cfs for each acre owned. In the extreme drought conditions of 2021, each OCID acre was allocated 10% of the acreage owned. Thus, a landowner with 5 acres OCID was initially entitled to .5 cfs for the entire irrigation season.

At the start of each irrigation season (generally the first part of April) a volume of water expressed in terms of cfs is credited to your “water account.” Like a checkbook, each order of water reduces the water remaining in your account by the corresponding amount ordered. That water account may be supplemented by water added to the reservoir (rain or runoff) or by water rented from or pooled with others (see below in the Q&A question “Can I rent water from others or rent water to others?”). In cases, the water account may be changed by a modification to reservoir allocation. This allocation change may be due to unexpected changes to conditions at the Fruitgrowers Reservoir e.g., hot, dry, persistent winds increase evaporation beyond the anticipated amounts. (If, after the initial allocation is set and your water account is credited with a volume of water, your water account can thereafter be “recharged” if the reservoir fills to its capacity e.g., excess water pours (“spills”) into the reservoir’s spillway and into OCID’s distribution ditches. While the reservoir is spilling, water that you may use on your land is NOT charged against your water account. Hence, the term “free water.” However, the amount of free water that you can take is subject to restriction by the ditch rider. Once the reservoir stops spilling, any water that you use thereafter is charged against your water account. Note, if you are in the midst of using “free” water when spilling ends at the reservoir, any water that you use thereafter is charged to your water account.) You may contact OCID via email (admin@ocidcolorado.com or by telephone call (970-835-3168) at designated hours to obtain your “water report” detailing the initial balance in your account and withdrawals from it.

Answer on How: The administrative and physical delivery of your water is in the hands of three part time employees. Two of those employees are ditch riders with the job of delivering your water. The ditch riders are charged with generally maintaining the ditch systems within OCID and opening valves at the reservoir for water to enter transmission ditches. Once in the ditches (Fogg or Butte or supplementary ditches connecting the two) the water moves down those ditches to a point where the ditch rider opens (“turns”) another valve (“headgate”) through which the water flows into smaller ditch (“lateral”) that ultimately delivers water to your property. (A flow water measuring device is installed at each headgate so that the proper volume of water (measured in cfs) is turned into the lateral for delivery to each OCID member along that lateral who has ordered water.) Control and operation of the valves at the reservoir and all headgates is solely in the hands of the ditch riders. “Laterals,” which serve several landowners whose parcels generally adjoin one another, are maintained by and the responsibility of all landowners whose property is served by that lateral. Each headgate and each lateral within the distribution area are assigned names which will become important to you when ordering water. For example, water is turned out of the reservoir by the ditch rider into a main ditch (Butte and Fogg are the most central) and travels down that ditch to another valve (headgate) eg. “Butte #1” where it is “turned” by the ditch rider into the lateral that serves your property. From the headgate at the intersection of the main ditch and your lateral to where the water enters your property, the responsibility for that water and its management including measurement, rests with the landowners along that lateral.

Requests for water, referred to as an “order,” are taken by a part-time water administrator whose job is to maintain a database that includes information about each landowner within the irrigation district and the volume of water to which they are entitled. Upon completion of the order taking process, the administrator organizes and delivers those orders to the ditch riders. The water administrator is also charged with communicating information to and from the OCID board of directors and ditch riders to members of the irrigation district. To expedite delivery critical information to landowners, it is vital that landowners provide email information to the water administrator and frequently check the OCID website.

Answer on When: Depending upon moisture and weather conditions, water can be available as early as April and may run through the end of October. Within those time frames, water can be ordered at specified times and on specified dates as established annually by the irrigation district’s elected board of directors. In previous years, water could be ordered as often as three times per week during a two-hour period. In the drought year of 2021, water ordering was limited to once per week over a two-hour period.

OCID’s water storage and delivery system was designed to deliver large volumes of water to large parcels. Sizable amounts of water are lost to evaporation and seep from a relatively shallow Fruitgrowers Reservoir and the miles of earthen delivery ditches. Seepage loss results in small orders of water rarely reaching their intended destination. As a result, OCID has imposed minimum water order requirements of at least .25 cfs per day for at least a two-day ordering minimum.

Please state (1) the name of the owner of the parcel to which the water is to be delivered, (2) the headgate number through which the ordered water is to flow, (3) the volume of water per day (expressed in cfs), and the number of consecutive days for which the water is to be delivered (generally two days minimum with a seven-day maximum).

Yes. While water allocated to your parcel of land cannot be permanently transferred from that land, you can temporarily assign (rent/lease) your water to others who own land within the irrigation district. Conversely, you can temporarily rent/lease water from others in the district for use on your land. The terms of your rental/lease are strictly between you and the other party. Once an agreement has been reached, notify OCID of that agreement using the Notice of Water Assignment form so that the volume of water that can be debited/credited against the water accounts of the lessor and the lessee. Fill out the form completely; ensuring that it is signed by both the lessor and the lessee. Submit the form to OCID well BEFORE you place a water order so that OCID records may be updated before your order. Email the completed form to admin@ocidcolorado.com. Alternatively, you may mail it to OCID, PO Box 330, Eckert, CO 81418.

Remember:

  1. Confirm with OCID the number of acres of OCID water available for rent. That is, OCID records may reflect that you own 4.3 OCID acres. You think that you own 4.8 OCID acres. You submit to OCID Water Assignment Agreement for 4.8 OCID acres. OCID will only debit/credit your account for the 4.3 OCID acres reflected in its records. Moreover, the discrepancy likely will delay delivery of the water that is being leased until the ownership records can be reconciled with OCID records.
  2. There is no guarantee of the volume of water that can be delivered. Particularly in drought years, the allocation of water (cfs) per OCID acreage can change during the irrigation year. For example, an allocation of 10% made by OCID at the start of the irrigation season can be increased or reduced during the year based upon water availability in Fruitgrowers Reservoir.

Yes. In fact, water pooling among those landowners owning 4 OCID acres or less whose water is delivered through a common headgate, is the very best way to ensure that you can use irrigation water on your land and to stretch its use to maximum. Here is why:

As mentioned above, there is a minimum water order requirement of .25 cfs per day for at least two days. To enable all lot owners in a subdivision to share and benefit from the water allocated to each lot in the subdivision, lot owners in many subdivisions designate one lot owner to order water for all. This allows those in the subdivision to collectively share among themselves water that OCID delivers to the subdivision. Applying that principal to small landowners receiving water through a common headgate, several landowners can join together to order their water and allocate it among themselves pro rata, as water is delivered by OCID. The arrangement requires both cooperation and coordination among neighbors but, at its best, allows landowners with small acreages to receive water that due to minimum order requirements, they otherwise could not receive. To notify OCID of a pooling agreement, all sharing parcel owners must fill out and sign the applicable portions of the Group Water Ordering Agreement form. The form should be submitted to OCID well BEFORE a water order is placed so that OCID records may be updated before the order is placed. Email the completed form to admin@ocidcolorado.com. Alternatively, you may mail it to OCID, PO Box 330, Eckert, CO 81418.

Remember:

  1. Confirm with OCID the number of acres of OCID water available to each member of the pool.
  2. Confirm with the ditch rider the headgate through which your water is delivered and confirm that all prospective members of your “pool” receive their water through your headgate.
  3. Confirm with your ditch rider the overall volume capacity of the ditch (“lateral) carrying water from the headgate to the property of those in your pool. You do not want to submit a pool order for more water than your lateral can carry. Moreover, there may be others along your lateral who are not in your pool but who order water at the same time as you submit your pool order. This situation could lead to ditch capacity issues.

In district water users pay for their OCID and ditch water through their property taxes. Landowners who are north of the irrigation district and who own shares of Fogg or Butte stock are billed by OCID early each spring for their water.

OCID as an irrigation district can issue a special assessment when the board, after careful consideration, deems that additional funding is necessary for the completion of required maintenance and work. The current assessment of $200.00 per OCID parcel is to fund a repair of the main valve used to control the flow of water from Fruitgrowers Reservoir; this repair is mandated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation.

While someone “borrowing” your water is not unheard of, the usual culprit is fluctuations in evaporation and seep loss that occurs during the day. For the ditch rider, whose workday may start at 2:30am, he begins by opening the reservoir valve to commence water on its journey; a journey that can take as many as six hours to reach the OCID landowner. For you to receive the water that you ordered the volume discharged from the reservoir must include sufficient water above the amount ordered to absorb the evaporation and seep loss that will occur enroute. Then, during the day as temperature rises and humidity decreases the shrink rate increases and the water volume decreases. Compounding the problem is that the time lapse between when the ditch rider adjusts the flow to compensate for the increased shrink and the perhaps six hours that it will take for that adjustment to show up in water at your property line.

You should be ready to receive water at any time after you place an order. This is due to the unpredictable schedule of the ditch rider. Ready to receive your ordered water includes having your valves open and ditches cleaned before the water arrives. If you have not received a water order around 9am, check the headgate through which water is turned into the lateral serving your property. If the headgate is plugged with sticks, debris or even moss, you are authorized to remove the obstacle. You are not authorized to open or close the headgate; only the ditchrider may do that. At the headgate, there should be a “ticket” or piece of paper specifying the names of those ordering water through that headgate for that day and the amount of water requested. If there is no ticket at the headgate or your name is not on that ticket, call the ditch rider at 970-835-3168.

Yes. On occasion the ditch riders will need to perform maintenance on some or all of the delivery ditches. In some years, moss accumulation in the ditches can impede water flow. On those occasions the ditch riders may close the ditch for a day or two to remove accumulated moss or debris.

The best way a new landowner can get involved with OCID or their ditch company is to attend the annual meeting as well as board meetings. Often, opportunities to assist the organizations are discussed during the meetings and you can volunteer. Additionally, being an informed landowner helps the organizations most efficiently serve their landowners / shareholders.