Even the best ditch could only deliver water if the river had flow. The Poudre surged with springtime snowmelt for a few months, only to have insufficient flows later in the season. Northern Coloradoans needed to store the abundant spring flow; reservoirs provided a solution.
As the snow melted, these artificial lakes held the water. They allowed junior water suitable holders to release water from their reservoirs to senior water suitable holders in exchange for the junior water holders being able to divert a like amount of water from the Poudre.
In 1875, Fort Collins’ Warren Lake became the Poudre Valley’s first irrigation reservoir. Steady reservoir expansion continued into the twentieth century.