The latest “Water Matters” newsletter is hot off the presses from the #Colorado Water Trust

On July 7th, we closed our headgate that takes water from the Little Cimarron for irrigation. The water in the above photo will now bypass our headgate and return to the river. Photo via the Colorado Water Trust.
On July 7th, we closed our headgate that takes water from the Little Cimarron for irrigation. The water in the above photo will now bypass our headgate and return to the river. Photo via the Colorado Water Trust.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

The Little Cimarron and McKinley Ditch

Exciting news from the Gunnison Basin this month! A few weeks ago, the Water Trust implemented a unique project aimed at exploring the effectiveness of water conservation tools and voluntary measures to protect Colorado River Compact entitlements.

You may recall that in 2014, the Colorado Water Trust purchased a portion (5.8 cfs) of the McKinley Ditch to restore late summer flows to the Little Cimarron, while keeping agricultural land in production. Earlier this year, the Water Trust received approval from the Upper Colorado River Commission for a Pilot Program project for our water.

Under the project, McKinley Ditch water was used to irrigate approximately 195 acres of pasture grass from April through July 6th. We’re pleased to report that the pilot project was implemented as planned, and on July 7th, we ceased irrigation for the rest of the season. Water is now being returned to the river for the remainder of the irrigation season.

Water conserved by this pilot project will help improve habitat conditions, and ultimately will benefit both the Little Cimarron and Colorado Rivers. We are excited to be a part of this Pilot Program and are hopeful the study results will lead to a more secure future for Colorado’s rivers.

New seven-year water #conservation plan to be reviewed Tuesday by the Montrose City Council

View along Main Street in early Montrose (between 1905 and 1915). Shows a horse-drawn carriage, bicycles, and two men talking. Signs include: "The Humphries  Mercantile Co. Dry Goods, Clothing, Hats & Shoes" "Montrose National Bank" and C. J. Getz, Pharmacist, Druggist." via http://photoswest.org
View along Main Street in early Montrose (between 1905 and 1915). Shows a horse-drawn carriage, bicycles, and two men talking. Signs include: “The Humphries
Mercantile Co. Dry Goods, Clothing, Hats & Shoes” “Montrose National Bank” and C. J. Getz, Pharmacist, Druggist.” via http://photoswest.org

From The Montrose Daily Press:

Montrose City Council will consider the 182-page document at its regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Public comment will be accepted and following the hearing, a resolution to adopt the plan may be considered.

Drawing the plan began shortly after the Colorado Water Conservation Board determined each public entity distributing 2,000 acre-feet per year or more of water to encourage efficient use of water, according to city documents provided in Tuesday’s council agenda packet.

In the document, the city spells out how the plan will be implemented, monitored, reviewed and revised over the next seven years. It also estimates how much water will be conserved by implementing the plan.

“The goal of the City of Montrose Water Conservation Plan is to increase the efficient use of water throughout the city by identifying challenges and methods for overcoming each,” an executive summary of the plan says…

A complete copy of the plan is available at http://www.cityofmontrose.org/300/Water.

#ColoradoRiver: Aspinall Unit operations update #COriver

Aspinall Unit
Aspinall Unit

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased from 1850 cfs to 2000 cfs on Friday, July 15th. Flows in the lower Gunnison River have been dropping quickly over the last week and are now just under the baseflow target. This increase is intended to raise flows in the lower Gunnison River as well as manage the reservoir content to reach the end of year winter target elevation. The current April-July runoff forecast is now at 91% of average. The current content of Blue Mesa Reservoir is 796,000 acre-feet which is 96% full.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently below the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. This increase should restore flows to a level at or above the baseflow target.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1500 cfs for July.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 850 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 1000 cfs. Flows in the river may be less than 1000 cfs if the maximum capacity of the Crystal powerplant proves to be less than 2000 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

#ColoradoRiver: Reclamation Awards $17.8 Million Contract for Generator Rewinds and Excitation System Replacements for Wayne N. Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit dams
Aspinall Unit dams

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

The Bureau of Reclamation awarded Toshiba America Energy Systems of Colorado a $17.8 million contract on Friday, June 10, 2016, to overhaul two generators, install new stator cores and frames, and improve oil and air cooling systems for its Wayne N. Aspinall Unit. Additional work will include new digital excitation systems for Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal power plants near Montrose, Colorado.

Work performed under this contract will replace update existing equipment to allow generation at full rated capacity and improve responsiveness to the dynamic demands of the electrical grid.

Each of the Unit’s power plants and dams are used to generate hydroelectric power and control water flow in the Gunnison River. The Wayne N. Aspinall Unit has a combined generating capacity of 291,000 kW.

Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal power plant and dams are part of Reclamation’s Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, which retains the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries for agricultural and municipal use. The project furnishes the long-term regulatory storage needed to permit States in the upper basin to meet their flow obligation at Lees Ferry, Arizona, as defined in the Colorado River Compact and still use their apportioned water.

#Snowpack #Runoff news: The Summer Water Picture Not Quite as Rosy This Year — The Crested Butte News

Gunnison River Basin High/Low graph June 1, 2016 via the NRCS.
Gunnison River Basin High/Low graph June 1, 2016 via the NRCS.

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

Snowpack across the Gunnison River Basin is below normal, particularly in the East River Basin where the predicted streamflow for the April through July runoff season is 78 percent of normal.

Spring runoff for the East River is likely to peak within the next few days. “The long-term average peak occurs on June 11, so this year’s peak seems to be on track or a few days earlier than normal,” Kugel said.

Reservoir conditions look to be quite different from last year. Last June, both the Taylor Park and Blue Mesa Reservoirs came within inches of spilling over. This coming summer, Taylor Park Reservoir is projected to reach somewhere between 90 percent and 95 percent of full and Blue Mesa is projected to reach 83 percent of capacity.

Kugel attributes the difference to a slightly better snowpack in the Taylor Park area and a recent 10-day peak flow release from Blue Mesa in accordance with a record of decision for the Aspinall Environmental Impact Study. Water was released for the lower Gunnison River for endangered fish habitat.

“Blue Mesa should start filling again but dropped several thousand acre-feet during the release and is currently at 69 percent of capacity,” Kugel said.

The Taylor Park Reservoir is currently at 72 percent of capacity and is in the midst of its peak release of 450 cubic feet per second (cfs), which started Tuesday, May 31 and runs through Saturday, June 4.

“We do that both to satisfy privately held instream flow rights on the Taylor River and to help flush sediments from the streambed and improve the fishery on the Taylor River. Once the release is complete, it will be stepped back down to 300 cfs over the course of a few days and it should remain at that for the month of June,” Kugel said.

That will make for good flows for several June events featuring local waterways. This year’s Gunnison River Festival, which features the annual river float and fish fry as well as events at the Whitewater Park, will take place just after the 41st annual Colorado Water Workshop.

Originally started by local historian Duane Vandenbusche and Gunnison water lawyer Richard Bratton, this year’s workshop features several authors, including Western Slope writer Craig Childs.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education will also host a two-day tour of the Gunnison River Basin, providing an in-depth look at everything from Blue Mesa Reservoir to local irrigation practices and infrastructure to an organic farm and the Gunnison Whitewater Park.

The tour runs June 21-22; the Colorado Water Workshop runs June 22-24; and the Gunnison River Festival runs June 24-26.

Learn more at http://www.western.edu/academics/undergraduate/environment-sustainability/conferences/colorado-water-workshop.

#ColoradoRiver: Mesa Co State of the Rivers – May 12 at Grand Junction City Hall #COriver

mesacountystateoftheriverscmu

Click here for all the inside skinny.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Black Canyon peak flow target 5,000+ cfs over 10 days

Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn
Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The May 1st forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 525,000 acre-feet. This is 78% of the 30 year average. Based on the May 1st forecast, the Black Canyon Water Right and Aspinall Unit ROD peak flow targets are listed below:

Black Canyon Water Right

The peak flow target will be equal to 3,349 cfs for a duration of 24 hours.

The shoulder flow target will be 300 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25.

Aspinall Unit Operations ROD

The year type is currently classified as Average Dry

The peak flow target will be 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations ROD, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The latest forecast for flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River shows a peak of around 2,000 cfs occurring this weekend. This peak is followed by a couple days of lower flows and then higher flows are expected to return by the next weekend. If the forecast for flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River continues to show a rise, the start of the ramp up towards the peak release may begin next week.

It is expected that the ramp up to the peak release will take 8 days. The current projection for spring peak operations shows flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon in the 5,000 to 5,500 cfs range for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. If actual flows on the North Fork of the Gunnison River are less than currently projected, flows through the Black Canyon could be even higher.

With this runoff forecast and corresponding downstream targets, Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an elevation of around 7499.0 feet with an approximate peak content of 654,000 acre-feet.