The history of irrigation is significant in the western United States, which has now experienced over 150 years of irrigation development. When considered fully, the history of Western irrigation goes beyond agriculture and extends to engineering, economics, business, sociology, law, politics, ecology, and more. The historical understanding to be gained from any of these viewpoints depends on the preservation and accessibility of original records created by irrigators. In the West, ditch company records are the earliest and best source of irrigation history. This article examines to what extent historical records of Colorado ditch companies have been preserved in and made accessible through public archival repositories. It also contextualizes ditch companies and their records and makes recommendations so such records can be available for a variety of research.

Author Biography

Patricia J. Rettig is the archivist for the Water Resources Archive at Colorado State University. She earned her MLS at the University of Maryland, College Park and worked in the Archives and Manuscripts Department there. She has been with the Water Resources Archive since its formation in 2001.