Irrigation districts and private irrigation companies are entities which own water rights and distribute water. However, the two entities are different in structure.
Irrigation districts are created pursuant to local elections authorized by a county commission upon petition of land owners. Generally, an irrigation district is created for the purpose of new irrigation development or acquiring existing irrigation projects, but they may be created for other reasons. Irrigation districts hold water rights and own diversion facilities and infrastructure, and they are governed by a set of by-laws that are created by a board of directors who are elected by district members. The districts are public, involuntary, semi-municipal fee-collecting entities controlled by local landowners. Irrigation districts are typically formed to raise money for large irrigation projects that might not be feasible for individual irrigators or private investors. Irrigation districts may employ staff to deliver water and maintain water diversion and delivery infrastructure. Irrigation districts assess patrons for operation and maintenance of the diversion and delivery system, and all related expenses including personnel costs.
Private Irrigation Companies
Private irrigation companies are commonly referred to as irrigation companies, canal companies, mutual ditch companies (or "ditch companies"), and reservoir companies. These are privately-formed, non-profit, fee-collecting companies that furnish delivery of water for irrigation purposes. A company holds water rights and members own shares in the company. Water is normally allocated annually by share, and shareholders pay assessments for maintenance of water conveyance infrastructure and related expenses. The size and number of ditches or canals administered by such companies vary. Private irrigation companies typically elect boards of directors and often adopt by-laws. Larger companies generally employ several people. Reservoir companies are private companies that own water rights to store water in reservoirs and deliver water from reservoirs to company patrons.