From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Lower Arkansas Valley water users could face a different sort of challenge next year, especially if it’s a wet winter: Finding places to store the water. The possibility was discussed Friday at the annual meeting of the winter water storage program, hosted by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
“I think the way we’re managing reservoirs is shifting a bit,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We need to start planning. If one area gets full, you can’t move the water there.”
The winter water program is a court-decreed plan that allows most major ditch companies east of Pueblo to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15 each year. Rather than irrigating during the winter months, the companies can store the water for use later in the season.
But the storage is not all in one place.
About one-third of last year’s water was stored in Lake Pueblo, with the rest being stored by individual canal companies or in John Martin Reservoir.
Not all ditch companies have storage.
Lake Pueblo has more water than usual going into the winter water storage season because cities were able to beef up their storage in Fryingpan-Arkansas Project space this year. In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation is moving water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo to make room for next spring’s transmountain imports.
If rainfall and snowpack are above average in the Arkansas River basin, Lake Pueblo could fill more. If it gets too full, some water would have to be evacuated, or “spilled,” next spring in order to leave space to contain potential floods.
It’s a problem the valley hasn’t really faced since 1999. In 2011, the Southeastern District got permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to delay releases of water from the flood pool by several weeks because of conditions at the time.
Roy Vaughan, Fry-Ark Project manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, said a spill is unlikely next year if weather conditions remain in the average range. But Lake Pueblo should be nearly filled to the flood pool level by next spring.