125,000 acre-feet stored by the Arkansas Valley irrigators winter storage program– 88% of 20 year average

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The program, established by a court decree in 1990, allows ditch companies to store water from Nov. 15-March 15 each year for use later in the season.

Irrigation season began for the ditches in the Lower Arkansas Valley last week, and water is diverted by ditches according to a seniority system determined by water court. A little more than 125,000 acre-feet of water was stored this year, about 88 percent of the 20-year average, said Steve Witte, Water Division 2 engineer. The total is about 4,000 acre-feet greater than 2010-11.

The two-year period, coinciding with drought conditions across Southeastern Colorado, is one of the driest on record since winter storage began as a voluntary program in 1975. The only drier time since the program has been fully operated among 11 canal companies came in the 2002-05 period during a series of drought years.

About one-third of the water, 42,000 acre-feet is stored in Lake Pueblo. Unlike the past few years, there is little danger of any water in storage accounts being spilled during spring runoff. Water is also stored in John Martin Reservoir and in reservoirs owned by several canal companies. Participants in the winter water program are the Bessemer, Highline, Oxford, Catlin, Las Animas Consolidated, Riverside, West Pueblo, Colorado, Holbrook, Fort Lyon and Amity ditch systems.

The release of water into the Arkansas River has increased flows through Pueblo at Moffat Street to about 150 cubic feet per second from 60 cfs a week ago, according the U.S. Geological Survey stream gage.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

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