A coalition led by the Colorado Water Trust, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Grand Valley Water Users Association is acquiring and releasing 586 million gallons of water from Ruedi Reservoir to the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.
The effort, organizers say, is intended to offset the impacts of drought and low flow conditions that have existed throughout most of the summer.
“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,” a Colorado Water Trust press release explains. “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.”
Partners in what organizers are describing as “this emergency action” also include the Colorado River District, Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Bureau of Reclamation. Philanthropic and funding partners include and Bonneville Environmental Foundation. An anonymous donor helped cinch the water supply acquisition.
“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,” Colorado Water Trust Executive Director Andy Schultheiss said in a statement. “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. 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. 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, the release explains.
Additionally, the Roaring Fork Conservancy advises Colorado Water Trust of conditions on the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers in order to ensure water releases will complement flows on the stream sections between Ruedi and the Colorado River. This year, 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,” the release notes.