Rio Grande Basin: Aquifer recharge underway

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Division Engineer Craig Cotten explained that the currently low water levels in the river are the result of recharge diversions this fall…

“We are still diverting some water in some ditches,” Cotten said on Tuesday. He clarified that the water being diverted now is solely in ditches that are able to take water for recharge. Those diversions will end in about a week, at the end of November. The Rio Grande will then begin to show higher levels…

One of the reasons for the recharge diversions this fall was expressly to reduce the amount of water that will be over delivered downstream as part of the interstate Rio Grande Compact, Cotten explained…

If the water division had not allowed more water to be diverted in the Valley, Colorado would have ended the year with a higher over-delivery downriver. Water delivered over the amount obligated through the Rio Grande Compact would be stored in the Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico where it would remain as “credit” water for Colorado. “We do lose some for evaporation,” Cotten explained. That would be like putting money in savings but having less in the account when the depositor was ready to draw the money back out. “We think it is better to keep the water up here and recharge the aquifers,” Cotten said.

More Rio Grande Basin coverage here.

Fryingpan River: Late summer releases from Ruedi hurt trout fishing but helped the Colorado Pike minnow and other fish in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it released water purchased from Ruedi by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when the agency demanded or “called” it in August. “We don’t have a lot of flexibility there,” said reclamation bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb. “That’s their water. They can call for it when they want.” The Fish and Wildlife Service is running a recovery program for four species of native fish in the Colorado River: The pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail club and humpback chub. Water is needed during dry times to enhance habitat in what’s called the 15-Mile Reach, a stretch of the river in the Grand Valley near Grand Junction.

The reclamation bureau’s data shows there were 33 days with flows at or above 300 cubic feet per second on the Fryingpan River between Aug. 5 and Sept. 24, when the water was needed for the recovery program. The flows exceeded 400 cfs on 21 days and topped 500 cfs on eight days. Anglers prefer flows below 250 cfs. Wading into the river is nearly impossible at higher flows and fishing the gold-medal trout stream is difficult when it exceeds that level…

[The Ruedi Water and Power Authority] , along with Basalt town government, invited the reclamation bureau to a meeting to discuss the operations. Lamb said the bureau accepted the invitation and is waiting for the local governments to set a time and place. “These are important concerns and we know that,” Lamb said. But she also stressed that the reclamation bureau doesn’t have a lot of control over the issues that upset anglers, fly shops and the local governments. The Fish and Wildlife Service has contracts for Ruedi Reservoir water. It can use 5,000 acre feet annually, and an additional 5,000 acre feet four out of any five years. There is also a special agreement that allows the federal agency to use an additional 10,825 acre feet for the endangered fish recovery program. All told, the Fish and Wildlife Service can call up to 28,825 acre feet of Ruedi water per year for the recovery effort. It’s not unusual for that entire amount to be demanded, but the timing varies. The tendency is for the water to be called in late summer and early fall, Lamb said. This year was different because the water was demanded earlier.

Work at the Shoshone Power Plant created lower flows on the Colorado River at the endangered fish habitat at the same time that hot, dry weather was reducing flows, Lamb said. As a result, the Ruedi Reservoir water was required earlier.

More endangered species coverage here and here.

New watershed group for the Colorado River in Garfield County?

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Chris Treese, external affairs manager for the Colorado River District office in Glenwood Springs, told the Garfield County Commissioners on Nov. 9 that he and others are hoping to create a watershed working group that will focus on this particular part of the Colorado River Basin. A group of 26 participants started meeting on Sept. 18, according to the group’s four-page draft mission statement. “The fact is, we have groups throughout the state covering every watershed,” Treese said in a telephone interview on Nov. 23. He pointed to the Roaring Fork Conservancy, which keeps an eye on that watershed, and other, existing watershed organizations that already cover much of the Colorado River basin, and on whose turf the new group does not plan to tread…

…he added that “We recognize that water is a scarce and valuable resource in the West, and it takes stewardship to manage that resource effectively.” From the potentially massive water needs of the still-embryonic oil shale industry, to water-quality concerns linked to current gas drilling in Garfield County, to basic population growth impacts, to the invasively flourishing Tamarisk plant that is choking out native plant life along the edges of rivers, the group is looking at a variety of issues, Treese said. “We don’t even have a name for ourselves yet,” he joked, although the draft mission statement refers to the “Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership Exploratory Purpose and Scope.”

Although he is working with a number of area groups and individuals, Treese said his primary partner in the effort is Clark Anderson of the Sonoran Institute, a western lands and conservation group with offices in the U.S. and Mexico, including one in Glenwood Springs. Anderson said the group, which currently is made up by representatives of government, energy industry, nonprofits, environmentalists, ranchers and other facets of the local political landscape, is still “figuring itself out.”[…]

On Oct. 29, the group issued a “stakeholder information letter” inviting any interested individuals or organizations to contact Treese ( or 945-8522), Anderson ( or 384-4364) or any of a half-dozen of the group’s organizers. Both Treese and Anderson predicted that it will not be long before the group concludes either that there is no need for its efforts and disbands, or that it is time to come up with a name and a mission statement and declare itself. Treese said the next meeting of the group is not scheduled until after New Year’s Day.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.