Water from a West Slope reservoir will be added to Colorado River

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 12:20 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - With the Colorado River running at exceedingly low levels, a coalition of groups and funders led by the Colorado Water Trust, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, and the Grand Valley Water Users Association is working to purchase and release 391 million gallons of water from a West Slope reservoir to keep the Colorado River flowing at a healthier level in the critical 15-Mile Reach just east of Grand Junction.

The water will be released from Ruedi Reservoir to the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, and Colorado rivers to generate clean energy in the Grand Valley Power Plant, and subsequently to increase 15-Mile Reach flows. The flows will support four species of endangered fish, including the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail, and razorback sucker, as well as supporting agricultural water deliveries and the regional recreational economy.

This is the third time in the past three summers that Colorado Water Trust has purchased water stored in Ruedi Reservoir for release to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River to help maintain healthier streamflow and water temperatures. Purchases since 2019 will result in delivering over 2700 acre-feet of water to the Colorado River. Colorado Water Trust works closely with Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District to identify when there is available capacity in the power plant canal. Colorado Water Trust also works closely with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program to determine when the 15-Mile Reach needs supplemental water most to support the fish. When these two conditions overlap, Colorado Water Trust releases the water purchased out of storage for delivery to the power plant and then the 15-Mile Reach.

This year, the water released from Ruedi Reservoir will serve a few purposes before it supports the health of endangered, native fish in the Colorado River in the 15-Mile Reach. The water will bring flows in the Fryingpan River closer to their average, and will cool water temperatures on the Roaring Fork River. Finally, on the Colorado River, the water will generate hydropower, helping to produce clean energy.

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