Frequently Asked Questions


Does the property have irrigation water?

What kind of water am I buying?

Adjudicated water, sometimes called flood or river water, comes directly from the diversions of the Florida River. Adjudicated water rights are generally transferred by water stock certificates from the ditch company. Assessments for delivery of adjudicated water are billed annually by the ditch company.

Project water is water stored at Lemon Dam. This water is stored in acre feet, but all flowing water is delivered in cubic feet per second (c.f.s.). Project water rights are usually transferred on the land deed. Assessments for project water are billed with your property taxes.

Is the property in a subdivision, or do I share a headgate?

In most subdivisions, there is a designated water person who calls the ditch rider for water for the entire subdivision. Where several landowners share a headgate, the principle of cooperative delivery also applies. It is impossible to deliver less than one quarter c.f.s., so smaller users receive delivery together to ensure everyone gets their water. Subdivisions will often have a shared rotation schedule.

How do ditch companies operate?

The Florida Consolidated Ditch Company is a non-profit corporation established to deliver water to owners. The ditch company has a board of directors, a secretary to handle the office business, two ditch riders, who controls the actual water flow. An annual shareholder meeting is held to elect directors, establish the budget, and to discuss any other shareholder concerns. Operations are governed by the By-laws of the ditch company, and Colorado corporate law.

Do I have enough water to irrigate my land?

One c.f.s. flowing one day is the equivalent of two acre feet in one 24-hour period. A general rule of thumb: it usually takes one c.f.s. to irrigate 80 acres.

There is a ditch running across my property, but I don't own any water rights. May I use some of this water to irrigate?

Sorry, but no. The only landowners who have a legal right to use the ditch water are those who own shares in the ditch company or project water. It's hard to see that water right there and not use it, but remember there are heavy fines and potential incarceration for theft of water.

Is it okay to plant my garden next to the ditch?

The ditch company holds either a descriptive easement (established by historic usage) along both sides of the ditch. According to state statutes, the ditch company may use as much land along the ditch banks as they need for maintenance of the ditch. Don't be surprised if you see a trackhoe going along the ditch bank, or the spoils of cleaning operations placed on the ditch bank. Any structures or plantings within 15 feet of the ditch are usually prohibited.

I own one share of the water. How much is that?

One cubic foot per second of water is equal to 448 gallons of water per minute. There are 40 shares in one c.f.s.. One share is equal to 0.025 c.f.s., or about 11 gallons per minute. In one 3-inch measuring box, this is about 1/8 inch. 

Water Rights on the Florida Mesa

Since the 1860's The Colorado Doctrine has defined the four essential principles of Colorado water law:

  • All surface and ground water in Colorado is a public resource for beneficial use by public agencies and private persons.
  • A water right is a right to use a portion of the public's water resources.
  • Water rights owners may build facilities on the lands of others to divert, extract or move water from a stream or aquifer to its place of use.
  • Water rights owners may use streams and aquifers for the transportation and storage of water.

Practical application of The Colorado Doctrine means that water can be moved from where it is found to where it is needed, based upon a priority system of "first in time, first in right". Peaople who live along the Florida River usually have diversions from the river to their lands. Away from the river, landowners are dependent upon the irrigation ditches to deliver their water.

As the river rises in the spring, each right is filled in order of priority as the flow increases. As the river drops, the rights go "out". In dry years, later priorities may not be filled, and within a priority, water may be allotted on a pro rata basis.

Before Lemon Dam was built, farmers would often run out of water in the middle of the growing season. Now, the ditches also deliver "Project" water, which is stored at the dam until it is needed. This water is measured in acre-feet. One acre-foot of water will cover one acre of land to the depth of one foot, and equals 325,851 gallons. Lemon Dam stores 40,100 acre-feet of water in a normal year.

The Florida Water Conservancy District administers the project water, and it is delivered through the ditch system. Call your ditch rider when you are ready to receive your water. Only the ditch rider has the authority to monitor usage, and only the ditch rider can open and close your headgate (or subdivision or pipeline headgate).

When you call for water, allow at least 48 hours before you expect to use your irrigation water. It takes five hours for the water to get from the dam to the main ditch gate, and eight hours to get to the middle of the ditch system. Then it will take four or five hours to adjust the headgates along the way. Especially during busy times, ditch riders need cooperation and patience in order for everyone along the ditch to receive their water.

When you buy property with irrigation water rights, you have no right to use water until the shares have been transferred on the books of the ditch company. Local title companies usually coordinate this at closing. Email the ditch secretary or contact any director with further questions.

Beware!! Canals, ditches and drains are very unsafe, and no one, especially children should play in or near them!



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