Here’s the release (Kate Ryan, Mark Harris, Max Schmidt, Kevin McAbee, and Scott McCaulou):
Responding to drought and summer long low flow conditions on the Colorado River, a coalition of groups and funders led by the Colorado Water Trust, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, and the Grand Valley Water Users Association is acquiring and releasing 1800 acre feet (586 million gallons) of water from a West Slope reservoir. An anonymous donor came forward with this water supply just in time to keep the river flowing at healthier levels in the critical 15-Mile Reach just East of Grand Junction.
Partners in this emergency action include the Colorado Water Trust, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, Colorado River District, Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Bureau of Reclamation. Philanthropic and funding partners include the anonymous donor and Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
The coalition has arranged for a release of water from Ruedi Reservoir to the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, and Colorado rivers. The water will reach the Grand Valley Power Plant in Palisade on or around August 26. After generating clean energy, the water will return to the 15-Mile Reach where it will support healthier streamflow. At times over the next week and a half, the coalition’s contributions will make up almost a fifth of the streamflow in this critical location. The flows will support four species of endangered fish, including the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail, and razorback sucker, as well as supporting agricultural water deliveries and the regional recreational economy.
“The corporations and individuals that stepped up to allow us to make these large additions to the Colorado’s flow are the community-minded heroes of this drought year. In the future, ever more creative ways will have to be found to share the water that Nature gives us, with each other and with Nature itself,” says Andy Schultheiss, Executive Director of the Colorado Water Trust. “In the end, the villain is climate change, which isn’t going away anytime soon and we will have to find ways to adapt to it.”
This is the second time this summer, and the fourth time in the past three consecutive summers that Colorado Water Trust has purchased water stored in Ruedi Reservoir for release to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River to help maintain healthier streamflow and water temperatures. Purchases since 2019 will result in delivering over 4500 acre-feet of water to the Colorado River. Colorado Water Trust works closely with Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District to identify when there is available capacity in the power plant canal. Colorado Water Trust also works closely with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program to determine when the 15-Mile Reach needs supplemental water most to support the fish. When these two conditions overlap, Colorado Water Trust releases the water purchased out of storage for delivery to the power plant and then the 15-Mile Reach.
“Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association have been collaborating with the Colorado Water Trust and their contributing partners for last several years. Our partnership helps those of us in the Grand Valley and 2200 other water diverters maintain Endangered Species Act compliance. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Colorado Water Trust,” says Mark Harris, General Manager of Grand Valley Water Users Association.
“We are extremely grateful to the Colorado Water Trust for providing releases to support endangered fish during this challenging water year. These releases will improve habitat in the 15-Mile reach during an especially stressful time of year. The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program believes that collaborative conservation can enhance populations of endangered fish while also meeting water user needs. Efforts by the Colorado Water Trust, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, and Grand Valley Water Users demonstrate that with creative thinking and hard work, partnerships can find solutions that support humans and the environment,” says Kevin McAbee, Acting Program Director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
The Roaring Fork Conservancy also helps to inform Colorado Water Trust of conditions on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers to so that releases will complement flows on the stream sections between Ruedi Reservoir and the Colorado River. This year, the water released from Ruedi Reservoir will serve a few purposes before it supports the health of endangered, native fish in the Colorado River in the 15-Mile Reach. The water will bring flows in the Fryingpan River closer to their average, and will cool water temperatures on the Roaring Fork River. Finally, on the Colorado River, the water will generate hydropower, helping to produce clean energy.