Colorado River powers Grand Valley

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PALISADE, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- Colorado is the only state that doesn't have any water that flows into it. Water only flows out because of the mountains, and that makes Western Slope irrigation systems pretty important. Business owners, elected officials and some Colorado Mesa University students got tours of how those systems work Saturday.

"We've learned how dependent our valley agriculture is on water," Grand Junction City Councilman Bennet Boeschenstein, said.

The Colorado River is abundant in life, and a huge economic driver for the Grand Valley.

"Without water, (farmers) wouldn't be able to grow the great peaches that we love," Molly Mugglestone, Colorado Policy Director, Business for Water for Stewardship, said.

The river brings people to the Grand Valley, bringing in about $9 billion a year to the state, and bringing water to crops.

"And that's very important when you're growing a very expensive crop, to have a good water supply," Max Schmidt, Manager Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, said.

But how does the water get from the rivers and mountains to the crops?

"Water doesn't go as the crow flies, it goes as the contour flies," Schmidt said.

It takes some big tanks and a little help from gravity. The water they pump out serves 6,000 users and 9,000 acres of land, with no electricity. It's at the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District where all the Grand Valley canals meet.

"(A canal) is an irrigation water conveyance, and that's about as technical politically as you can say it. It's just a big ditch that delivers the water to wherever we need it," Schmidt said.

The canals are over 100 years old and still delivering water all over the Grand Valley. The water goes to irrigate peaches, grapes and other Western Slope crops. There are about 200 miles of canals throughout the Grand Valley.

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