From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Summer arrived a bit late water-wise, but the rest of the year looks to be hot and dry, even though it began cold and wet.
The Bureau of Reclamation today is releasing more water from Crystal Dam to boost fast-falling flows in the lower Gunnison River, the agency said.
The increased releases are needed to keep the lower Gunnison at levels required to support endangered fish and the timing of this year’s increased release is a bit later than last year, probably by a couple weeks, said bureau spokeswoman Justyn Liff.
Releases from Crystal Dam increased from 1,850 cubic feet per second to 2,000 cfs today.
Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest impoundment in the Aspinall Unit of reservoirs on the Gunnison, is 796,000 acre-feet, or 96 percent full. The releases are also intended to begin lowering the reservoir to meet wintertime goals.
On the Colorado River, the winter snowpack disappeared quickly and for the past two weeks, most streams and rivers were flowing at half of normal, said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
“Runoff curves dropped very steeply this year,” Treese said.
Lake Powell, the all-important holding area for water sent down by the Upper Colorado River Basin states to Arizona, California and Nevada, is 57 percent full and the reservoir has received 95 percent of the water it typically receives during the water year, Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
Ute Water Conservancy District is seeing the end of the runoff, as well, after a long, slow melt, said Steve Ryken, assistant general manager.
Ute, which draws water from the top of Grand Mesa, is the largest supplier of domestic water in the Grand Valley.
“This has been our best year since 2011,” Ryken said. While the snowpack wasn’t a record, it did come off slowly, filling reservoirs, such as Mesa Lakes, which hadn’t filled since 2011, Ryken said.
“The Jerry Creeks have been spilling and we’re just getting ready to draw them down,” Ryken said.
The Colorado River, which has been running about 2,500 cfs near Palisade, is about to dip sharply to about 1,500 cfs, as the last of winter snow melts away, Ryken said.
“It’s starting to hit,” Ryken said.