Drought/runoff news: Gunnison River basin suppliers and users are feeling the pinch #CODrought #CORiver

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought, long-term and short-term, is widespread.

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

Inflows into Taylor Park Reservoir were 55 percent of normal in May, and down at Blue Mesa things were even drier. Inflows there were 33 percent of normal, and the reservoir is currently at 60 percent of capacity. With more dry weather in the forecast, the lack of water is posing some real challenges across the valley, including ranching, fire fighting and even road maintenance…

The valley is also being affected by demands from the Uncompahgre Valley, which relies on the Gunnison Tunnel for irrigation needs. The Upper Gunnison District is releasing what is known as the second fill, its storage right from the Taylor Reservoir, in anticipation of a call on the Gunnison Tunnel…

[Blue Mesa Reservoir] is at roughly 7,478 feet—that’s 41 feet below the spillway and a marked contrast to last year, when Blue Mesa was nearly brimming. Davidson said that current projections show the reservoir sinking to an elevation of 7,460 feet by the end of August and 7,448 feet by September. Releases will slow as the irrigation season ends, and the reservoir is likely to stay at that level through December, placing it about 40 feet below the target for that time of year.

From The Durango Herald (Emery Cowan):

Most Fort Lewis Mesa farmers’ irrigation rights were shut off in May, more than a month earlier than usual for most. Their crops are withering and finding places to graze their cattle is getting increasingly difficult, forcing many to make tough choices to survive while they wait, and pray, for rain…

Knowing water would be scarce, Trent Taylor said he cut back on all his spring planting this year. Usually Taylor, owner of Blue Horizon Farm, plants hundreds of acres of wheat to supply his business making whole wheat products. This year, he will be forced to rely on what he stored from last year…

Matt Isgar has produced a fraction of the hay he usually gets and had to cut his crop a month early before it started to die from lack of water. If their hay crop ends up dying this year because of lack of water, many farmers worried they will have to reseed hundreds of acres next year…

Florida Mesa farmer Gary Zellitti’s first hay cutting was one third of what he usually brings in. Zelletti said he is now using storage water from Lemon Dam since his water rights on the Florida River were shut off last month, two months earlier than normal. Because Lemon didn’t fill up this year, he also expects his supply of reservoir water to run out in August, when usually it lasts until October…

Farmers near Delta have faced reduced irrigation and some may be completely cut off in July, said extension agents in the office near Grand Junction. Losing irrigation is especially damaging to fruit tree growers in the Grand Junction area because a lack of water affects the trees roots and fruit production for years afterward, extension agent Curtis Swift said…

But for now, farmers’ only hope is that the summer monsoons will come on strong and early, said Darrin Parmenter, director and horticulture agent at the La Plata County Extension Office.

From Steamboat Today:

Underscoring the extreme drought conditions plaguing Northwest Colorado, city of Steamboat Springs residents and businesses were hit Friday with mandatory water restrictions.

The Stage 2 restrictions, which went into effect immediately, dictate the permissible uses of treated municipal water during times of drought. The restrictions include all water customers of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, City of Steamboat Springs Water District, Steamboat II Metro District and Tree Haus Metro District. Those four districts provide treated water to all of Steamboat Springs and the immediate surrounding residential areas.

In a news release Friday, water officials from each district cited the historically low flows of the Yampa River, discharges from Fish Creek Reservoir that are exceeding natural inflows and the likelihood for continued drought conditions as the biggest factors in their decision to move forward with the mandatory restrictions.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Hot temperatures have created a record-high water demand, causing [Loveland] residents to experience low water pressure in their homes. The city system logged 27 million gallons of water Wednesday – 35 percent higher than a typical June day. To lessen the demand, residents are encouraged to water only on even or odd days, corresponding with address number. For example, people with an even number address should water on even calendar days.