@USBR needs to draw down Blue Mesa to meet winter target, water for Lake Powell

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Blue Mesa this week was brimming at 99 percent full and it was far from alone among Colorado River Basin reservoirs.

Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs below Blue Mesa on the Gunnison River were 96 percent and 90 percent full, respectively.

“It’s going to take a lot of work” to reduce Blue Mesa’s level to 70 percent of full, or 580,000 acre-feet of water, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist Eric Knight said Thursday.

Typically, all three reservoirs are well depleted by this time of year to meet irrigation demand, as well as feeding more water into Lake Powell, the largest storage unit in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

This year, however, river managers learned late that there was more snow in the high Colorado mountains than they had believed when deciding how much water to release early on this spring, officials said during a regular update on management of the Aspinall unit.

Several factors contributed to the underestimation of snowpack, not least of them the warm March in the Colorado Rockies and the fact that some snow-monitoring gauges were covered with snow, incapable of providing accurate information, officials said.

Recent storms in the high country also have pumped more water into the reservoirs.

River managers have to balance the need to release more water out of the Aspinall unit with making sure that the Gunnison doesn’t overflow its banks in Delta.

At the same time, managers also have to get as much water as possible into Lake Powell, which can hold some 24 million acre-feet of water but which now holds about 15.2 million acre-feet.

The Bureau of Reclamation this year is to release 9 million acre-feet of water into Lake Mead.

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