The Montezuma County Road Department has found a solution to a water supply problem for road maintenance.
For decades, the county has been tapping into its 20 shares of Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. water to wet down roads for blading and dust control.
Trucks were pumping out of various canals in proximity to roads that were being worked on. Only a fraction of the total shares were used each year.
But in March, 2017, the county was informed by the privately owned irrigation company that using the water for roads is in violation of the company’s water decrees, which specify that water must be for agricultural use only.
The county decided to cut back on road maintenance, and costs increased because the county had to haul water from sources farther away. But recently the county negotiated a solution with the Dolores Water Conservancy District to obtain water for roads.
The water district, which manages McPhee Reservoir and its associated canals, granted permission for the county road department to draw water from the Towaoc Highline Canal, which runs from the McPhee south toward the Ute Farm and Ranch operations.
The water district is donating approximately 10 acre-feet of water per year, but is charging minimal canal transport costs.
“We do the same thing for Dolores County,” said Mike Preston, general manager of the water district. “Waiving costs for a little bit of water to keep roads in good shape is part of our service to the community.”
Montezuma County Road Department Manager Rob Englehart said that the agreement is appreciated and will help keep county roads maintained.
However, he prefers to pull water out of the irrigation company’s canals because it is more efficient and cost-effective, Englehart said.
County and Montezuma Valley Irrigation attorneys are looking into whether the water decree can be adjusted to allow municipal and industrial use of the county’s water shares for road maintenance.
“We understand that they cannot violate their water decree, but whether it can be changed, we will have to wait and see,” Englehart said.
In the meantime, Montezuma County is leasing its water shares to a farmer and the Cortez Cemetery District for irrigation purposes.