Area governments join forces to boost Colorado River flows | PostIndependent.com

Area governments join forces to boost Colorado River flows

Staff report

Garfield County on Monday joined area municipalities and water districts in a collective effort to contribute more than 1,500 acre feet of unscheduled "contract water" held in Ruedi Reservoir for agricultural and environmental needs along the lower Roaring Fork River and farther downstream on the Colorado River.

County commissioners agreed to join the towns of Carbondale and Palisade, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, and the city of Aspen in the effort, according to a Colorado River District news release.

The River District was first approached by Carbondale with an offer to provide some of the town's unused, uncommitted water in Ruedi Reservoir for downstream needs.

The River District approached other local governments with unused reserves in Ruedi to join in the effort.

"When it comes to drought, we're all in this together" Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington said in the release. "We recognized there were multiple needs downstream that weren't being met, and we wanted to do what we could to help."

The move by local governments follows previous efforts this dry summer that utilized reserves in Ruedi Reservoir to satisfy downstream irrigation needs at the "Cameo Call," a suite of historic agricultural water rights near Palisade in the Grand Valley.

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The Colorado River District and Ute Water Conservancy District previously contributed a combined total of 8,000 acre feet from late July into September. Those contributions were used to substitute water that would have typically come from Green Mountain Reservoir's "Historic Users Pool" (HUP) to satisfy the Cameo Call.

But, according to the River District, the HUP was depleted far earlier than usual due to extremely dry conditions in western Colorado last year.

ExxonMobil followed suit in September by contributing 5,000 acre feet of Ruedi releases to provide water for endangered fish species in what is known as a critical 15-mile reach between Palisade and the Colorado River's confluence with the Gunnison River.

"This was a horrible water year for all of us on the West Slope" said John Currier, chief engineer for the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River District. "This is a good example of folks from both ends of the basin coming together to assist their neighbors and the environment."

An acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or enough water to fill an acre one foot high with water.

Ruedi water contributions

Carbondale: 250 acre feet

Palisade: 162 acre feet

Snowmass Water and Sanitation: 400 acre feet

Aspen: 400 acre feet

Garfield County: 350 acre feet

*An acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or enough water to fill an acre one foot deep with water.

Source: Colorado River District