From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):
A report given to the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) on March 29 was approved by the board, leading to future considerations to be considered for the district’s West Fork reservoir and canal water rights.
The report, crafted by Wilson Water Group (WWG), reviewed the district’s water rights portfolio and other storage studies to “understand opportunities and limitations” based on original decrees, previous diligence efforts and other storage locations.
WWG was hired by the SJWCD via a board decision at a Sept. 21, 2020, meeting for a cost of $19,050.
According to the report, not only were studies done for alternative uses for the West Fork reservoir and canal water rights of the district, but analyses were done to estimate water available to the San Juan River Headwaters Project reservoir water rights and to a junior storage right.
Currently, the district has a West Fork canal water right that is specifically 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) of conditional water that includes decreed uses of irrigation, industrial and municipal.
The report notes that this right will be abandoned by the water court if not used or perfected at the time the San Juan River Headwaters Project facilities are constructed.
The SJWCD also has a water right associated with the second enlargement of the Dutton Ditch, the report describes.
This water right is 20 cfs that in- cludes decreed uses of irrigation, municipal and domestic.
This right will also be abandoned by the water court if not used or perfected at the time the San Juan River Headwaters Project facilities are constructed, the report notes.
“A significant physical limitation to development of the Dutton Ditch Second Enlargement water right is the location; there is not reliable wa- ter supply available on these smaller tributaries except during the runoff period primarily in May and June,” the report reads.
Additionally, the district has a 50 cfs conditional water right at the San Juan River Headwaters Project pumping station, the report indicates.
“This right cannot be diverted if the San Juan River at Pagosa Springs streamflow gage shows flow less than 100 cfs from March 1 to August 31 or less than 60 cfs from September 1 to February 29,” the report states. “Besides the potential cost versus benefit imbalance of pumping water for potential storage at this location, the water available in many years can be significantly limited by the stipulated flow requirements at the San Juan River at Pagosa Springs streamflow gage.”
The SJWCD also has 1.1 cfs of absolute water rights associated with shares in the Park Ditch Company at the Park Ditch, the report notes.
This water right notes that the Park Ditch must be the location to divert water to store in the San Juan River Headwaters project, among other stipulations.
According to the report, the district has storage water rights at the West Fork reservoir, which is about 24,000 acre feet in conditional water rights.
“The stipulation subordinating the West Fork Reservoir storage rights to upstream water rights senior to a December 31, 2013 is significant; as it essentially changes the water right appropriation date to January 1, 2014 as to any water rights located upstream,” the report reads. “The requirement to move the water right downstream of Boot- jack Ranch to a likely off-channel reservoir site is not as limiting, because permitting an on-channel reservoir at any location on the San Juan River would be a significant challenge. The uses under the storage right may be limiting, as it does not include the authorization to release water to the San Juan River to meeting environmental or recre- ational needs.”
The SJWCD also has 6,300 acre- feet of conditional storage rights at the San Juan River Headwaters proj- ect site and another 4,700 acre-feet on first fill and 11,000 acre-feet on refill of conditional storage rights.