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Records of the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company

Identifier: WCHS

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company consists of documents dated 1874 to 2012, with the bulk falling from 1950 to 2005. Many of the company's records were destroyed in the 1976 Big Thompson flood. Some survive here with mold, mud, or water damage. The earliest years of CHS and its predecessor companies are not well documented; however, minute books from 1885 to 2006 are complete. Water records are spottier, covering most of 1926 to 1940 and all of 1950 to 1962. Few stock and financial records survive. Legal records here are not files of the company's lawyers, but do contain letters from them as well as some of the many court cases involving the company, along with documents such as decrees, easements, contracts, and deeds. Little survives from the early secretaries, up until W. R. Keirnes took over in 1955. His files and those of succeeding secretary-manager Delbert Helzer are increasingly voluminous. These files in particular document system improvements -- the Home Supply Watershed Project especially -- as well as increasing urbanization. Keirnes' 1986 history of the company Water: Colorado's Most Precious Asset is present in the collection, along with about 800 photographs of CHS facilities, mostly from the 1980s forward. Additionally, over 500 oversized maps, plans, and drawings depict the system as a whole, various plans for improvement, subdivision plans, and associated maps and plans primarily in the Big Thompson Watershed area.


  • Creation: 1874-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950-2005


Restrictions on Access

Series 1, Subseries 5.2, and Subseries 6.3, along with one folder in Series 2 and two folders in Series 3, are open only to board members of and attorneys for the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company. The remainder of the collection is fully accessible to anyone. However, 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.


Formed in 1882 in Loveland, Colorado, the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company (CHS) delivers water for agricultural purposes through its system of ditches and reservoirs located in Larimer and Weld counties. CHS formed from the consolidation of the Home Supply Reservoir Company and the Home Supply Ditch Company, both originally incorporated in 1881. The two companies quickly realized they would need to use a similar ditch system, so joined to form the non-profit mutual irrigation company, Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company.

The company had good storage water rights, but poor direct flow river water rights. It owned the Home Supply Dam, or the "Big Dam," on the Big Thompson River, and Lone Tree Reservoir (formerly Farwell Reservoir). Farmers with land above Lone Tree had erratic water supply and often no late season water. To address this situation, CHS built Mariano Reservoir (Boedecker Lake) in 1888 as an exchange reservoir with the Big Thompson River.

During the early years of its existence, the company had little money, yet managed to build two reservoirs and 38 miles of ditches. As the company grew and money became available, CHS installed headgates and water measuring devices. In 1894, a late spring flood through the Big Thompson River destroyed the original Home Supply Dam. By the following March, a new sandstone arch dam had been built.

To what extent CHS should build, repair, and improve its irrigation system and how to finance its projects would be some of the company's main concerns throughout the twentieth century. Upon becoming CHS superintendent in 1907, Lon Hagler found a large part of the system in near failure. From 1907 to 1912 and 1915 to 1920, the company worked diligently to repair and improve the system by installing concrete headgates, clay tile outlets, and Cipoletti measuring devices. The economic depression and drought years of the 1930s put a strain on the company, but with Hagler's frugality it survived.

In 1958, the company conducted a system-wide survey to determine requirements to overcome decades of deterioration. The results revealed that an estimated $600,000 would be needed to reach an acceptable standard of safety and efficiency. In 1965, CHS secured a 50-year loan from the Farmer's Home Administration for $650,000 under the provisions of the amended Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (U.S. Public Law #566) to undertake the Home Supply Watershed Project.

Project construction occurred from 1965 to 1972. Work included lining 4.5 miles of a canal that combined the Home Supply Ditch with the Handy Ditch, replacing all concrete check structures with steel-reinforced concrete installations, installing standardized Parshall flumes, and realigning parts of the system to reduce erosion. Six bridges were built for ease of access to the system. A 72-inch reinforced concrete pipe replaced the old masonry arch where the Home Supply Ditch crossed the Handy Ditch. Also, the construction of Lon Hagler Dam created Lon Hagler Reservoir.

These and other improvements enabled the company to continue supplying water to shareholders and withstand forthcoming floods. The destructive Big Thompson River flood of 1976 destroyed CHS secretary Reg Keirnes's house, boxes of company documents stored there, and the company's pick-up truck. However, the company's diversion dam and concrete bench flume survived.

In response to other local floods as well as dam failures across the country, CHS worked throughout the 1980s to comply with federal regulations. The company made necessary improvements to Mariano and Lone Tree reservoirs after passage of the Federal Dam Safety and Inspection Act.

CHS has also had to respond to growing cities, especially Loveland. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, developers sought to build housing projects in and around CHS's irrigation system. This has caused problems as people like to live around water, but CHS requires access to its system. As growth persists, CHS will continue to find ways to work within an urban setting while providing water for agricultural purposes.


19 linear feet (34 document boxes, 5 flat boxes, 2 flat files)

Language of Materials



Formed in 1882 in Loveland, Colorado, the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company (CHS) delivers water for agricultural purposes through its system of ditches and reservoirs located in Larimer and Weld counties. The company and its system, which draws from the Big Thompson River, are well documented through minute books, water records, and files of recent secretaries. Supplementing these are stock, financial, and legal records, as well as photographs, maps, plans, and drawings. Many files document system improvements -- the Home Supply Watershed Project especially -- as well as increasing urbanization. Five entire or partial series are closed to the public. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


Substantial rearrangement took place as the collection arrived with little order. Series were created according to document type or subject.

The collection consists of 9 series in 39 boxes and 2 flat files:

Series 1: Minutes, 1885-2006

Series 2: Stocks, 1885-1966 and 2003

Series 3: Water records, 1895-1898, 1911-2012 and undated

Series 4: Financial records, 1882-1987

Series 5: Legal records, 1880-2005 and undated

Subseries 5.1: Founding documents, 1893-2005 and undated

Subseries 5.2: General, 1880-1974 and undated

Series 6: Secretaries' files, 1874-2012 and undated

Subseries 6.1: Early secretaries, 1898-1953 and undated

Subseries 6.2: W. R. Keirnes, 1874-2005 and undated

Subseries 6.3: Delbert Helzer, 1903-2012 and undated

Series 7: Printed materials, 1965-1997 and undated

Series 8: Photographs, 1967-2008 and undated

Series 9: Oversize, 1888-2001 and undated


The Records of the Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company was donated to the Water Resources Archive by the company in March 2013 with an addition in April 2014.

Online Materials

Some documents, maps, and photographs have been photographed or scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Related Collections

The Water Resources Archive holds several other ditch company collections. The Records of the Reorganized Farmers Ditch Company documents another that irrigates from the Big Thompson River.


Processing was completed in June 2014. All materials were refoldered and reboxed in acid-free supplies. Some materials were cleaned for mold and mud as necessary and possible. For some that could not be cleaned, digital photographs were taken and serve as surrogates (these appear in the inventory with a zero as the box number). Paperclips, binder clips, rubber bands, and rusty staples were removed; plastic clips were used as replacements as necessary. Acid-free paper was inserted as a buffer for acidic papers where possible. Folded documents were unfolded, except oversized items in regular-size folders. Rolled oversize items were flattened. Photographs were rehoused in polyester sleeves and negatives were inserted in acid-free envelopes. Duplicates beyond two copies were removed. Other documents not retained include financial documents containing little information, blank forms, some unidentified photographs, proofs of Keirnes' CHS history, and materials not directly related to CHS, including publications. All documents not retained in the collection were returned to the company.

Inventory Note

Note: Because a small proportion of the collection arrived in titled folders or ledgers, the archivist supplied nearly all the title information. 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 Consolidated Home Supply Ditch and Reservoir Company
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Patricia J. Rettig and Janell Byczkowski
Copyright 2015
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