Climate change and drought conditions are now the norm for agricultural producers, and shareholders in the Billings Ditch are no exception. When ditch infrastructure is not operating at its most efficient, major problems can develop for irrigators trying to access their water, especially at low flows seen throughout most summers. The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP), a non-profit organization whose mission is to restore the Rio Grande river and watershed health, has partnered with the Billings Ditch Co. to identify and mitigate head gate and canal issues.
The drought stimulus funds gave the RGHRP and their partner expanded capacity for improvements beyond the original project scope and helped them hire local construction companies for all of the work. Now, the infrastructure supports efficient use of flood irrigation, which creates wetlands and wet meadows for wildlife use, and stabilizes the bank for improved fish habitat and aquatic connectivity. The timeliness of the funding created the opportunity for increased drought resilience and gives huge benefits to the agricultural community as they look toward a future impacted by climate change.
“We want to help everyone understand that agriculture is the backbone of the San Luis Valley, and at the same time, agriculture is connected to the health of the river and health of the aquifers. It’s powerful working in the SLV with everyone in the agricultural community who are committed to our water resources.” - Emma Reesor, Executive Director of RGHRP
Organization: Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project
Location: Monte Vista, CO
Grant Program: Drought Resilience Grant
Grant Amount: $78,000
Organization Type: Watershed Restoration Non-Profit
Funding Use: Equipment, materials, engineering consulting for ditch improvements