Salazar Awards $20.1 Million to Four Western Colorado Irrigation Districts to Improve Irrigation Systems, Reduce Salinity in Colorado River

Projects to benefit water users, delivery systems; generate construction jobs

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that $20.1 million in combined federal funding has been awarded to four irrigation districts in western Colorado. The funding will improve irrigation delivery systems by reducing the amount of salinity in Colorado River water.

The cost-share awards, between the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation and the western Colorado irrigation district companies, will fund installation of more efficient water delivery infrastructure, including lining of canals and laterals, and conversion of existing laterals into pipe delivery systems.

“Salinity is a costly issue for water users on the Colorado River, and these four projects, when completed, will prevent more than 23,000 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River every year,” Secretary Salazar said. “The funding will create jobs and benefit both local and downstream water users by providing cost-efficient, low-maintenance water delivery systems that ultimately reduce salinity in the Colorado River.”

Recent studies conducted by Reclamation show that quantified economic damages caused by salinity in the U.S. portion of the Colorado River Basin are estimated be over $400 million and could exceed $500 million per year if additional salinity control measures are not implemented.

“High salinity levels cause a whole host of problems – from reducing farm yields to damaging municipal water systems and household pipes and fixtures,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor. “We are providing a targeted investment to Colorado projects from our Basinwide Salinity Control Program to address these serious issues. These important projects will provide a long-term investment in our water infrastructure and will have the added benefit of creating jobs for the region.”

Four western Colorado irrigation districts are the recipients of this salinity control funding:

  • Stewart Ditch and Reservoir Company of Paonia, Colo., - Awarded $6 million to place about 11.5 miles of Stewart Ditch Project irrigation canals into pipe, which will prevent more than 10,900 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River annually. Construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2012 and conclude in 2015.
  • Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association of Montrose, Colo., - Awarded two grants totaling $7.4 million for projects in the Gunnison Basin. The grants will be used to place 31.7 miles of irrigation laterals into pipe within the East, Loutzenhizer, and Selig canal systems in the Uncompahgre Valley, which will prevent more than 8,000 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River each year. Construction is slated to begin in the fall of 2011 and conclude in 2016.
  • Grand Valley Irrigation Company of Grand Junction, Colo., - Awarded $2.8 million to line about 104,000 linear feet of portions of the Independent Ranchman Canal, Upper Mainline Canal, and Mainline Canal, and place 4,100 feet of the Mesa County Ditch near Grand Junction, Colo., in pipe. Lining these canals will reduce about 1,700 tons of salt annually from entering the Colorado River. Construction is slated to begin in the fall 2011 and conclude in 2015.
  • Minnesota Canal and Reservoir Company of Paonia, Colo., - Awarded $3.9 million to place 5.2 miles of irrigation canals in the Minnesota Ditch Project into pipe and prevent more than 3,200 tons of salt from entering the Colorado River annually. Construction is slated to begin in the fall 2012 and conclude in 2014.

Using a formula developed in 2009 by the Council of Economic Advisors to calculate the impact of Federal investment, the four projects are estimated to create about 218 direct and indirect jobs.

The Colorado River and its tributaries provide municipal and industrial water to about 27 million people and irrigation water to nearly four million acres of land in the United States. The river also serves about 2.3 million people and 500,000 acres in Mexico. Salinity is a major concern in both the Unites States and Mexico, affecting agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users. Potential economic impacts from salinity damages on Mexico's portion of the Colorado River Basin have not been quantified.


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