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1147 24 Road, Grand Junction, CO • Open Monday-Friday 7:30am-4pm

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Grand Valley Water Users Association

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A Brief History of Grand Valley Water Users Association 

National Reclamation Act of 1902

Water would be essential for the development of the arid American West. The United States Congress passed the Reclamation Act in 1902 to build infrastructure for irrigation water and hydropower. The Reclamation Service (later renamed Bureau of Reclamation) partnered with local organizations in western states and territories to complete these waterworks. The projects were funded through the sale of federal land in western states and repayment of project costs by the beneficiaries.

Grand Valley Water Users Association

In 1905, Colorado’s General Assembly authorized the formation of local water associations to enter into repayment agreements with the Reclamation Service for construction of irrigation infrastructure. That same year, Grand Valley Water Users Association (GVWUA) was organized as a private Colorado not-for-profit corporation and it remains so today.

Grand Valley Project

GVWUA and the Reclamation Service developed the Grand Valley Project. This federal project irrigates the higher ground north of the Colorado River in the Grand Valley of Mesa County, Colorado. GVWUA has operated the Grand Valley Project since its completion and repaid the cost of its construction.

Grand Valley Project Facilities

  • Grand Valley Diversion Dam – aka the Roller Dam – on the Colorado River in DeBeque Canyon
  • Government Highline Canal, which is 55 miles long
  • 130 miles of laterals
  • More than 100 miles of drains
  • Partnership in a hydroelectric power plant

In recent years, nearly all of the laterals have been reconstructed as pressure-piped laterals. They deliver irrigation water to more than 1,000 individual locations. Much of the Government Highline Canal is lined to prevent seepage and to reduce salinity and selenium loading in the Colorado River.

Irrigation Water Delivery

GVWUA diverts water at the Roller Dam on the main stem of the Colorado River east of Palisade, Colorado in DeBeque Canyon. This water is delivered to:

  • Orchard Mesa Irrigation District
  • Mesa County Irrigation District
  • Palisade Irrigation District
  • Vinelands Power Plant
  • Grand Valley Water Users

The five-mile Canyon Canal portion of the Government Highline Canal travels through three tunnels before entering the Grand Valley northeast of the town of Palisade. 

Before entering Tunnel Three, the water for the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Vinelands Power Plant is directed under the Colorado River and Interstate 70 into the facilities of the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District. 

At the outfall of Tunnel Three, GVWUA diverts water from the Canal into the Stub Ditch for the Mesa County Irrigation District and the Price Ditch for the Palisade Irrigation District. GVWUA also provides water to both Districts through Main Canal Headgates on the Canal between Tunnel Three and Indian Wash east of 28 Road.

Delivery of irrigation water to GVWUA water users begins on the west side of Indian Wash near 28 1/2 Road and continues westward, ending near 5 Road. 

The Government Highline Canal provides irrigation water to approximately 25,000 acres in the GVWUA service area and approximately 15,000 acres in the other irrigation districts listed above.

Links to Learn More

  • Rocky Mountain PBS Colorado Experience: Western Water – and Power

Colorado Experience: Western Water—and Power – YouTube

  • Palisade Historical Society: Irrigation History

Irrigation History | Palisade Historical Society (

  • The Bureau of Reclamation: A Very Brief History

Bureau of Reclamation (

  • Grand Valley Project

Grand Valley Project (

View of the dam looking downstream June 1916
Roller Dam in June 1916

GVWUA observes these holidays:

New Year's Day

Presidents Day

Memorial Day

Independence Day

Labor Day

Thanksgiving Day

Day after Thanksgiving

Christmas Day