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Records of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company

Identifier: WMVI

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company consists of documents dated 1886 to 2010, with the bulk falling from 1900 to 1960. The collection includes indexed files, field books, ledgers, maps, plans, and artifacts. Pre-1920 records document the Montezuma Valley Irrigation District, predecessor of MVIC. The collection contains significantly more information about the irrigation system itself than the operation of the company, with the exception of finances. A very small amount of meeting agendas and minutes can be found here. In contrast, more than 400 oversized maps, plans, profiles, and drawings depict nearly all aspects of the system, from major reservoirs to minor gates. Note that some facility names or spellings have changed over the years including Totton/Totten and Hermano/Hermana. This guide uses names as given in the documents.


  • Creation: 1886-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1960


Restrictions on Access

Any files or items containing plans of any dams or dam structures are restricted to only MVIC employees, board members, or attorneys. Also, the collection is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


Since 1920, the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company (MVIC), a mutual ditch company, has played an important role in the expansion and operation of agriculture in Colorado's Montezuma Valley. The arid climate of southwest Colorado necessitates some form of irrigation for agriculture and settlement, and the influx of European settlers starting in the 1880s drove a large need for more water and an organized irrigation system.

Before the creation of MVIC, other companies developed irrigation projects in attempts to bring new water into the valley. One of the early companies, the Montezuma Valley Water Supply Company, which was backed by eastern investment, started construction on a mile-long tunnel to bring water from the Dolores River to the Montezuma Valley in 1885. In 1889, the Montezuma Tunnel was completed and the water began to flow into the valley; however, farmers and ranchers had spent significant time excavating the tunnel and had not prepared their lands for the water. With few customers, the Montezuma Valley Water Supply Company did not last. Other water supply and irrigation companies filled the void but also struggled to recruit customers and generate income.

In 1902, farmers and ranchers formed the Montezuma Valley Irrigation District (MVID) after becoming frustrated with the irrigation companies. In 1907, the district acquired the irrigation system through a "floated" bond. Part of the bond included money for an overhaul and expansion of the system including the construction of two large reservoirs. After signing a contract with MVID, the Empire Construction Company began enlarging Narraguinnep Reservoir and building Groundhog Reservoir in 1907. However, Groundhog Reservoir washed out shortly after the beginning of construction and was not finished until the 1930s.

MVID continued to have problems with faulty construction and inadequate plans for the reconstruction of ditches, flumes, and tunnels. Indebtedness also plagued the district as many landowners did not pay their toll charges. After a federal court in Denver ruled that each member of MVID was considered to be in debt as long as the district remained in debt, the members had little incentive to pay their fees. The problems and politics of this mutual liability led to the end of MVID in 1920.

The same year, George Carlson, ex-governor of Colorado, proposed a plan to create the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company that involved individual liability for irrigation debts. The district members overwhelmingly accepted this plan and MVIC was incorporated on November 1, 1920. MVIC did not accept federal money until the 1930s, when it formed the Montezuma Valley Public Irrigation District in order to obtain money from the Public Works Administration to rebuild Groundhog Reservoir. When completed, the reservoir added 5,000 to 6,000 acre feet of water to the irrigation system each year. Throughout the next few decades, MVIC continued to enlarge and improve its system by replacing many of the wooden headgates with steel and concrete, enlarging canals, expanding Narraguinnep Reservoir, and completing Totten Lake.

The need for a larger reservoir that would capture the floodwaters of the Dolores River was foreseen as early as 1900, but not until 1977 did the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation break ground on an expansive project including the construction of McPhee Reservoir. After many technical setbacks and threats of funding loss, McPhee Dam was completed in 1984 and the new Dolores Tunnel was completed in 1985. The Dolores Project benefitted MVIC as it received additional storage that extended the irrigation season into October.

Headquartered in Cortez, MVIC continues to operate and provide southwest Colorado farmers and ranchers much needed water to increase productivity and diversify crops.


35+ linear feet (21 document boxes, 7 record cartons, 11 flat boxes, 2 tubes, 1 bag, 4 flat files)

Language of Materials



Since 1920, the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company (MVIC), a mutual ditch company, has played an important role in the expansion and operation of agriculture in southwest Colorado's Montezuma Valley. The collection includes indexed files, field books, ledgers, maps, plans, and artifacts. Pre-1920 records document the Montezuma Valley Irrigation District, predecessor of MVIC. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


Other than the indexed files, materials in the collection arrived with little arrangement. Series and subseries were largely imposed by material type.

The collection consists of 5 series in 39 boxes, 4 flat files, 1 bag, and 1 tube:

Series 1: Files, 1889-2004 and undated

Subseries 1.1: Indexed files, 1889-1973 and undated

Subseries 1.2: Early files, 1902-1970

Subseries 1.3: Later files, 1951-2004

Series 2: Field books, 1905-1928 and undated

Series 3: Ledgers, 1903-1975

Series 4: Oversize, 1886-2010 and undated

Subseries 4.1: Rolled oversize, 1886-1947 and undated

Subseries 4.2: Flat oversize, 1892-2010 and undated

Series 5: Artifacts, undated


The Records of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company was acquired by the Colorado State University Water Resources Archive on November 2, 2012. Randy Carver of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company donated the collection.

Online Materials

The documents in Subseries 1.1, 1.2, some field books in Series 2, and selected maps in Series 4 have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.


Processing was completed in February 2014. The collection was completely rehoused in acid-free materials. Some items were cleaned for mold, and in some instances of extensive damage, covers of bound volumes were removed. Two field books and three timebooks had such extensive damage they could not be saved. Photographs of some of the removed covers and irrecoverable items have been saved to the library's server. Rubber bands and most metal fasteners were removed and replaced with plastic clips as needed. Blank self-stick notes were removed. Documents in the indexed files were unfolded, flattened, and rehoused in acid-free folders. Newspaper clippings were inserted between sheets of acid-free paper. Maps were cleaned and flattened when possible; some were housed in an acid-free tube. Duplicates past the first two were removed and returned to the donor along with paid certificates of indebtedness that were also recorded in the ledgers. Other files removed include those with information related directly to employees or personal financial information.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. Estimated pagination is preceded by an "e." Two identical copies of the same item are indicated by the phrase "2 copies" at the end of the entry, following the number of pages of each copy.

Guide to the Records of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Patricia J. Rettig and Janell A. Byczkowski
Copyright 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA