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Ditches and Reservoirs in Jefferson County, 1873-1971

Identifier: Series-177

Scope and Contents

Plat maps and statements of claim to water rights for ditches, reservoirs and water supply sources located in Irrigation Division No. 1, South Platte River Basin, and recorded in the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Includes Water Districts 1 (South Platte: Greeley to Balzac); 2 (South Platte: Denver Gage to Greeley); 3 (Cache La Poudre River); 6 (Boulder Creek); 7 (Clear Creek); 8 (South Platte: Cheesman to Denver Gage); 9 (Bear Creek); and 23 (Upper South Platte).

Plats list property owners’ names.


  • Record Keeping: 1873-1971

Conditions Governing Access

Archives collection material is non-circulating, requires staff retrieval and is available for use by appointment in the reading room.

Biographical / Historical

Colorado was the first state to provide for the distribution of water by public officials. In 1879, the state was divided into ten water districts, nine in the South Platte valley, and one in the Arkansas drainage. In each district, a Water Commissioner divided the water according to priorities of the various ditches within the district, in accordance with the Prior Appropriation Doctrine of first-in-time, first-in-right. The priority of each ditch was determined by the district courts based upon the date the ditches were constructed and the water placed to beneficial use.

The Office of the State Engineer was created in 1881, whose primary responsibility was to measure the water in each stream from which water was diverted for irrigation. Three water divisions were created made up of water districts located within the South Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande basins. Within six years, the remaining four water divisions were created. In 1887, the state created a Superintendent of Irrigation to supervise Water Commissioners within each division.

By the beginning of the 1890s, many stream systems were over-appropriated. Ditch companies were actively constructing reservoirs to store winter flows and spring runoff. In addition, new sources of water were being pursued, which included transmountain diversions and pumping of ground water. Changes of water rights, exchanges, transfer of water rights and "loan statutes" were issues that had to be addressed by the Office of the State Engineer by the turn of the century.

Today, all water rights are administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources in division offices located in the seven major river basins of the state. Water commissioners in each office ensure the priority system is followed, enforcing the decrees and water laws of the State of Colorado.

(History from the Colorado Division of Water Resources website at, October 18, 2013)


30.1 Cubic Feet (897 total documents: 240 flat files in 8 flat file drawers, 14 flat/rolled loose maps, 7 post-bound volumes, 3 indexes)

Language of Materials



Plats, maps and statements of claim to water rights for ditches, reservoirs and water supply sources recorded in Jefferson County.


Various types of arrangement, remaining in the order recieved. Content list is in alphabetical and then chronological order for ease of discovery.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred to the custody of the Archives in 1998, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2021 by the Clerk and Recorder, Recording Department or gathered from undocumented collections.

Processing Information

Processed by Ronda Frazier in March, 2019

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Jefferson County Archives Repository

3500 Illinois Street
Suite 2350
Golden CO 80401 United States