Popular ditch inventories remain private despite being publicly funded

Aspen Journalism: Inventories of irrigation ditches across the Western Slope have become common in recent years and water managers say they have merit.

But there is no requirement that the individual studies — which look at things such as efficiency and opportunities for repairs and upgrades — be made public, even though they are often paid for with public money. This doesn’t sit well with some who say the public has a right to know exactly how taxpayer dollars are being spent and how one of the West’s most precious and dwindling resources is being used.

“(Agriculture) is where 80% to 90% of the water gets used, and if we were more efficient, we could leave more water in the river — that’s the bottom line,” said Ken Ransford, recreation representative to the Colorado Basin Roundtable and who also acts as Aspen Journalism’s legal adviser. “If you can’t see how 80% to 90% of the water is being used, then you will never be able to say whether you’re using water efficiently or not.”

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