While issues related to water management are often controversial, water efficiency is one solution where many of us find common ground. The McCormick Ditch improvement project and a recent irrigation efficiency audit in Crested Butte are good examples of how we can collaborate together on projects benefiting the local community and our environment.

Earlier this fall, the Town of Crested Butte, High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA), and Western Resource Advocates (WRA) collaborated to pipe the McCormick Ditch from 6th to 7th street as part of an ongoing effort to improve local water delivery infrastructure. Water diverted from Coal Creek by the McCormick Ditch is used for various municipal uses, including irrigating Rainbow Park. Before piping was completed the open ditch presented significant maintenance challenges and lost a portion of the water diverted from Coal Creek to seepage, evapotranspiration, and exotic weeds.

Piping the McCormick ditch will result in water efficiency savings that will leave more water in Coal Creek, a safer ditch system, cost savings for cleaning and maintaining the ditch, and a lower likelihood of blockages that have in the past caused flooding issues.

The piping project is part of a continued effort by the Town of Crested Butte to improve water efficiency on the entire McCormick ditch and in town irrigation systems. In August, the Crested Butte Parks and Recreation Department partnered with WRA and the Center for Resource Conservation to conduct an audit of the Town’s irrigation system to maximize irrigation efficiency. The assessment found irrigation systems to be in overall good condition and identified minor areas for improvement.

HCCA and WRA would like to commend the Town of Crested Butte on these voluntary efforts to improve our water use while working to incrementally protect our Gunnison Basin headwaters.