Grand Valley Irrigation Company Lateral Responsibilities and Rights

A lateral is any ditch or pipeline that carries water from the canal to one or more shareholders. Under GVIC’s service area, nearly all of the laterals are operated and maintained by the shareholders who obtain water from that lateral. GVIC’s responsibility for maintenance, operation, and conveyance cease once the water leaves the canal easement area.

Most laterals under our service area are unincorporated. This means that there is no legal entity or corporation (sort of like an HOA, but for an irrigation ditch) which has authority over that lateral.

Even on an unincorporated lateral, any shareholder on that lateral has a right-of-way across other properties granted under state law to travel up the ditch to operate and maintain the lateral.

A lateral (and its easement) may not be modified apart from the consent of the easement owners, according to Colorado Supreme Court case law. On an unincorporated lateral, the easement owners comprise all shareholders on the lateral. Even if the lateral traverses your property, you may not modify the lateral apart from the consent of the shareholders.

Because there is no governing entity over an unincorporated lateral, it may often lead to conflict between shareholders on the ditch concerning how the water is being used. The first step in resolving such conflicts is to do the work of communication with neighbors. Often, a resolution can be found simply by discussing what the issues are on each side.

In circumstances where a resolution cannot be reached, it may be helpful to reach out to the District 72 water commissioner.

A lateral may become incorporated when the owners of sixty percent or more of the area of lands served by the lateral agree to incorporate (CRS § 37-86-108).

GVIC always encourages shareholders to consider incorporation. An incorporated lateral has several significant benefits over an unincorporated lateral:

  1. Your lateral becomes a legal entity with a clearly stated purpose and rules governing what members can and cannot do.
  2. You have a businesslike process for making group decisions about the lateral.
  3. The corporation has contracting ability, and individuals may no longer be personally liable on such contracts.
  4. You have an established process for collecting fees (assessments) from water users and enforcing compliance with the lateral’s rules.
  5. Water deliveries can be regulated, scheduled, and enforced by the lateral corporation. This will help eliminate disputes among the water users.
  6. Government agencies and private companies can work with one organized and managed legal entity regarding improvements on the lateral.
  7. All landowners on the lateral can equitably share the responsibilities and costs for maintenance and administration.
  8. You have a clearly defined process for adding new landowners to the lateral.
  9. Property owners have an additional selling point when potential buyers know that the lateral is organized and works efficiently.

You can learn more about incorporating in these PDFs:

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