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Organizational engines of water productivity, social justice, and environmental sustainability in the Poudre River Basin of northeastern Colorado




Freeman, David M., author
Wilkins-Wells, John, author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Non-profit cooperative associations of irrigators--known as Mutual Companies--divert, transport, and manage irrigation water across the arid landscapes of the Western United States. These local organizations empower people to provide themselves with agricultural water under control. This paper describes general attributes of mutual companies and reports that 18 mutual companies operating canals and reservoirs in the Poudre River Valley of Northern Colorado have evolved organized patterns of water use, exchange, and re-use that contribute importantly to water resource productivity, distributional justice, and environmental sustainability. Daily water re-use ratios average 1.9:1 over a 24 year period (1970-1994) and sometimes rise as high as 3.3:1 in a calendar year. This level of water re-use is made possible by the 18 mutual companies and the arrangements that they have made among themselves and other water users over the last century. By studying the attributes and capabilities of mutual companies, we can distill lessons regarding how human beings can better organize themselves to manage water.


Presented at the 2000 USCID international conference, Challenges facing irrigation and drainage in the new millennium on June 20-24 in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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