CREDIT: HEATHER SACKETT/ASPEN JOURNALISM Kathleen Curry, owner of Peterson Ranch in Gunnison County, stands by a fence on her ranch on a breezy summer day. Peterson Ranch has an agreement to temporarily loan its agricultural water to the state’s instream flow program for the benefit of Tomichi Creek.
A Gunnison County family ranch plans to use a relatively new tool to help keep water flowing in a chronically dry section of creek while still irrigating their hay crop.
In dry years, the Peterson Ranch will temporarily loan some of the water it diverts from Tomichi Creek to the state’s instream flow program, which is aimed at keeping water in rivers for the benefit of the environment. The agreement was approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board this year under legislation passed in 2020 designed to make the water loans more attractive to water-rights owners and effective as a conservation tool.
“We don’t like to see the fish suffer, so we thought this was one way to allow us to continue with our operation and do something for the creek,” said ranch owner, former legislator and Colorado River Water Conservation District board member Kathleen Curry. “For us, it was a way to make a contribution.”