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Water in the West

Dr. Jeff Sellen is the Director of Environment and Sustainability Program at Wester Colorado University. Before talking to us he showed us an irrigation ditch running through campus which eventually supplies water to the city of Gunnison. After this brief tour we moved inside where he gave an interactive presentation on water west of the continental divide. He started by giving us an overview of ancient puebloean agriculture. They used the Three Sisters- corn, beans and squash, which each play an instrumental part in the success of each other. Corn, a heavy consumer of nitrogen was planted at the base and then surrounded by beans which climb the stock and fix nitrogen into the soil. Then the squash is planted to provide shade around base which limits the loss of water through evaporation and stunts the growth of weeds. Then he went on to talk about the how water was managed in the East with the Riparian Rights, but were then adapted to fit the lack of water in the West. Colorado adopted the prior appropriation system that based everything on seniority. At the end Dr. Sellen drove home the point that water has always been a precious resource in the west and growth of the megadrought has continued that trend.