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Ditches

Irrigation ditches wind through the Denver metro area, including the City of Arvada. Many of the ditches were constructed in the 1860s, including the Farmers’ High Line Canal (FHL), Croke Canal and the Church Ditch. Urban/suburban areas have developed around the ditches. Since the ditch water runs seasonally, not everyone realizes their purpose and importance. If you live adjacent to ditches or have questions about ditches, here is an FAQ that can help. 

Ditch FAQs

What are irrigation ditches? 

Irrigation ditches own water rights. The FHL, Croke and Church ditches deliver water seasonally from Clear Creek to Standley Lake (in Westminster). In addition, the FHL and Church continue past Standley Lake.

How can I find out the name of the ditch near me?

Google Maps has some of the ditches mapped and labeled. 

Who owns irrigation ditches?

Each irrigation ditch is an independent company. Individuals and municipalities own water shares that are delivered by the company

How are irrigation ditches different than stormwater ditches?

Stormwater ditches are swales that receive storm runoff from your neighborhood and direct the water to the nearest natural stream, such as Little Dry Creek or Ralston Creek. 

I live adjacent to a ditch. Who is responsible for the maintenance of the area?

If you are an adjacent landowner, the vegetation (including trees) along the ditch is your responsibility. Neither ditch company nor municipalities generally own the land under and along the ditch. Instead, the canal companies have prescriptive easements, which allow them to dictate the use of the land within the easement. The ditch companies prioritize removal of trees and vegetation that impede water flow. The rest is up to you. 

Can I throw yard waste or other trash in the ditch?

Please do not throw anything in the ditches, even grass clippings. Never throw dog poop in the ditch. Keep in mind that the ditches are a vital water source, and you or someone downstream may drink this water (after treatment). Yard waste left piled on the ditch banks tend to promote sloughing of the banks by trapping moisture underneath. 

I have a ditch in my backyard. Can I use the water?

No, not unless you have purchased shares in that ditch company and are a recognized shareholder. Using the water without owning shares is considered water theft. 

For more information:

  • Church Ditch: 303-423-6010
  • Croke Canal: 303-659-7373
  • Farmers' High Line Canal: 303-451-7604