In the midst of the drought, water is causing big problems for one Grand Junction neighborhood. Now, residents are wondering who to blame.
The Paradise Hills neighborhood is nestled next to the Government Highline Canal on the north side of Grand Junction.
"Water that's coming from the canal started right here in the corner of our yard," explains Paradise Hills homeowner Charlie Meredith. "That's where we saw it first appear last year and made a big wet spot and it's gradually gotten worse. It's rotted all the sod out of our lawn."
The grass in his back yard is yellow in color and if it weren't for the pools of standing water, you might think it had dried out. But the water has killed much of the sod and one of his trees. He says that several other trees are on their way out as well.
Meredith has been trying to get a responsible party to take care of the issue, but so far, has not had luck. In the meantime, he has pitched in with the homeowner's association to expand a "french drain" (a ditch filled with aggregate) which ends in a sump pump. The pump returns water to the canal.
"They've got it ditched back over to the french drain and it's hauling it back to the sump and putting it in the canal but the ground water is still too high."
He demonstrated that another small ditch that was dug immediately filled up with water. That ditch flows into the french drain. He says that the water is probably seeping out of the canal and under the drain, moving through the underground shale and into area homes and yards.
Though the HOA is helping, he has already put over a thousand dollars of his own money into fixing the problem. But the problem has yet to be solved.
In fact, the water has reached his crawl space as well as those of his neighbors.
"It's sinking," he said, pointing to his house. "It's dropped about two inches into the ground. And I'd like to get that stopped. I'd like to stay above ground with our home." His insurance doesn't cover issues with groundwater.
If the water weren't enough, it also carries a acrid smell. Residents also complain of booming mosquito populations and mold problems. Even the nearby Paradise Hills Park has standing water and mud in it.
The Bureau of Reclamation shares ownership of the canal and says they are aware that some water may be seeping out.
"This fall we plan to go in and remove some trees and they're (the Grand Valley Water Users Association) going to look to see if we have any cracks and any areas of concern in that area but we cannot do that until the canal is drained," explains Justyn Hock, Public Affairs Specialist for the Bureau of Reclamation.
The Bureau of reclamation says that they are sympathetic to the homeowners, but they can't drain the canal until the fall because doing so now would have huge impacts on all that rely on it for water.
"Farmers wouldn't be getting water for their crops, people wouldn't be able to water their lawns. And when you shut the water off, it takes a long time for the water to actually drop down," Hock said.
She also explained that this year's drought led to low and clear runoff. In a usual year, the runoff is full of silt which tends to line the canals and prevent seepage to some extent.
Colorado's water law states that "ditch owners have a duty of care to maintain ditches," but court decisions have also said that ditch owners are not liable for seeping damages unless construction or operation of the ditch is negligent.
"If I was flooding on my neighbor, I would be held responsible for it and I want whoever's responsible for this to hold their feet to the fire and take care of the problem," Meredith said.
It may be this fall before it is known whether the problem is with the canal or if it is just natural seepage. By then, the only solution may be found in the courtroom.