San Juan Water Conservancy (#NM) official says status of local watersheds is better than other areas of Southwest — The Farmington Daily-Times #CRWUA2022

New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via

Click the link to read the article on the Farmington Daily-News webisite (Mike Easterling). Here’s an excerpt:

A presentation for San Juan County commissioners on the status of local watersheds on Sept. 6 illustrated that while the Four Corners region remains locked in the grip of a long-running drought, it is in relatively good condition compared to other parts of the Southwest. The 14-minute presentation delivered by Aaron Chavez, executive director of the San Juan Water Commission, was designed to bring commissioners up to speed on the health of the county’s two main watersheds, those associated with the Animas and San Juan rivers.

New Mexico Drought Monitor map September 6, 2022.

But Chavez, who is beginning a two-year term as president of the Colorado River Water Users Association, also devoted a significant amount of attention to the status of that watershed, which serves as a crucial water supplier to tens of millions of residents of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico…Chavez began his presentation by noting that while last winter’s snowpack in southwest Colorado was close to normal, it did not yield the kind of runoff one might have expected because the soil moisture content in the region was down substantially after years of substandard precipitation…

Nevertheless, most of the indicators Chavez examined this year were an improvement over the recent past, he said, as he noted the Four Corners area has had a good monsoon season this year that has helped make up for the relatively poor spring runoff. Most river basins in the area, he said, are at 90% to 100% of average…

According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cited by Chavez, Navajo Lake was 55% full as of Aug. 24 — a level that was roughly equal to other local reservoirs, as Vallecito Lake northeast of Durango, Colorado, was at 49% and McPhee Reservoir north of Cortez, Colorado, was at 53%. The good news was that Lake Nighthorse west of Durango was listed at 99% full…But those figures stood in sharp contrast to the Southwest’s two mammoth reservoirs fed by the Colorado River. Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona was only 26% full, while Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona was at only 28% of capacity.

#Bayfield adopts plan to manage #conservation during #drought — The #Durango Herald #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Vallecito Lake via Vallecito Chamber

From The Durango Herald (Shannon Mullane):

Town outlines increased fines for periods of extreme drought

Bayfield has adopted the town’s first official drought management plan, creating a system of conservation restrictions and fines that would take effect during drought periods.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the drought plan during a board meeting Tuesday. The plan defines drought conditions and designates the corresponding response. In the most extreme drought conditions, the response will include strict conservation measures and increased fines.

No residents commented on the plan during the meeting, but several called Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington to express concerns about the fines, she said.

“Residents are just like, ‘Are you serious about these fines?’ They’ve always been there, but we’ve never really enforced them,” Tarkington said. “We do mean business. If we get that concerned about our water situation, we will go there.”

The plan outlines three drought phases: sustainable conservation, serious drought and extreme drought based on local conditions and water use.

Under sustainable conservation, the town restricts when households can use irrigation water. The restrictions include fines of $50 for the first offense, and $100 or $500 for second and third offenses.

During serious drought, the town helps high water users decrease use, discourages water-intensive landscape changes and initiates public awareness efforts. The same fines apply.

During an extreme drought, like 2002, all outside irrigation is reduced and all daytime irrigation is prohibited. Fines jump to $100 for a first offense and $200 or $500 for second and third offenses…

During six of the last 20 years, Southwest Colorado has found itself in a serious or extreme drought, according to criteria outlined by the plan.

Seven times over the last 20 years, Bayfield’s water allotment from the Los Pinos River has been restricted or cut off to ensure entities with more senior water rights could get their full allotment.

The town has water stored in Vallecito Reservoir, but increasing its use of the standby supply would lead to increased water bills for users.

The drought plan is meant to help town officials manage drought years like this one without increasing the water bill for residents, said Katie Sickles, town manager, in a previous interview.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Precipitation (storage) news: San Juan River seeing increased flows

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From The Durango Herald:

[Wednesday, July 8] Declining river flows in the San Juan Basin are leading the Bureau of Reclamation to increase water releases from Navajo Reservoir to 800 cubic feet per second…The increase goes into effect today at 4 a.m…”We’re releasing what’s required for irrigation,” about 610 cubic feet per second, [Vallecito Reservoir Superintendent Hal Pierce] said. Lemon Reservoir was releasing water at 175 cubic feet per second Tuesday.

From the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank):

McPhee Reservoir is sitting at an active capacity of 217,000 acre-feet, with a maximum capacity of 229,000 acre-feet. The result is an approximate 12,000 acre-feet decrease, or an almost 3-foot drop in elevation, said Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District…

In June, McPhee sat completely full until the 10th. Last year, the reservoir stayed full until July 19. “The reservoir did not stay full as long (this year) because we didn’t have the snowpack that we did in 2008,” Preston said. “But since the water usage was more moderate because of the cool, cloudy weather, we are only about six days ahead of where we were in 2008.”[…]

“The good news is that we filled this year for the second year in a row,” Preston said. “We are in good shape to meet all of our allocations for 2009…

Jackson Gulch Reservoir is also in good shape for the season, said Mancos Water Conservancy District Superintendent Gary Kennedy. The reservoir’s active capacity sits at 10,000 acre-feet and is roughly 200 acre-feet from full now. The reservoir was very close to full for July 4, which Kennedy said is unusual for this time of year.

Vallecito Reservoir: New fees in the offing

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From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

User fees are in the works at Vallecito for things like vehicle and boat trailer parking as part of Pine River Irrigation District’s new contract to manage recreation for the Bureau of Reclamation on the lake and bureau land around it.
But the details of where and when fees will be charged are a work in progress…

[Business owners and residents] most immediate concern was parking for the fireworks over the lake on July 4, as well as the Vallecito Service League’s annual arts and crafts fair that weekend.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.