Aspinall Unit operations update: Current forecast for inflow into Blue Mesa = 71% of avg

April 15, 2015

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir


From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased from 1050 cfs to 1150 cfs on Wednesday, April 15th at 9:00 AM. This release increase is in response to an increase in diversion to the Gunnison Tunnel. The current forecast for April-July unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 480,000 acre-feet which is 71% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

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 1050 cfs for April.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 700 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 350 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 800 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 350 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.


Aspinall Unit operations update

April 8, 2015

Crystal dam spilling May 2009

Crystal dam spilling May 2009


From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased from 600 cfs to 750 cfs on Wednesday, April 8th at 8:00 AM. This release increase is in response to an increase in diversion to the Gunnison Tunnel. The current forecast for April-July unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 480,000 acre-feet which is 71% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

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 1050 cfs for April.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 300 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 300 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 400 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 350 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


The latest Colorado Water Trust eNews newsletter is hot off the presses

April 1, 2015

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust

McKinley Ditch headgate photo via the Colorado Water Trust


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

Before the Court: Change of Use for Colorado Water Trust’s McKinley Ditch Shares

Colorado’s water-short rivers present complex challenges that require creative solutions. At the Water Trust, we’ve always been inspired to explore new, localized approaches when existing ones don’t fit. For example, our innovative remedy on the Little Cimarron River southwest of Gunnison blends agricultural and non-consumptive water uses for the first time through split season operations. Seasonal lease agreements mean the water could be used for agriculture in the early season through our partners Western Rivers Conservancy, while later in the season more water would remain in the river for environmental benefits. Several Directors on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) praised our project when voting last fall to approve the CWCB’s purchase of the Grant of Flow Restoration Use for the Water Trust’s water right shares in the McKinley Ditch.

“I can tell that this has been a tremendous amount of work because it is novel. And it seems to me that it’s the sort of thing we need to explore so that we can figure out, if agriculture did something just a little differently but not harmful, could there be a benefit for some other use…Being able to move water around to where it’s needed, when it’s needed…by changing things just a little, I think, is hopefully the wave of the future.” ~ Director Patricia Wells, CWCB Meeting on September 12, 2014

In December 2014, the Water Trust and CWCB took the next step towards implementing this experimental concept by filing a joint application with the Division 4 Water Court seeking to add “instream flow use”(ISF) to the Water Trust’s shares of the senior McKinley Ditch water rights. Once this added use is approved by the Water Court, the Water Trust’s water rights can be used by the CWCB to keep water flowing in the Little Cimarron River, accruing benefits to almost ten miles of Colorado streams, from the McKinley Ditch headgate to the Gunnison River.


Aspinall Unit update: The Gunnison Tunnel to turn on Tuesday

March 30, 2015
Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased from 500 cfs to 600 cfs on Tuesday, March 31st at 9:00 AM. This release increase is in response to the start of diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel. On Tuesday morning, the Gunnison Tunnel will begin diverting 200 cfs. The current forecast for April-July unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 590,000 acre-feet which is 87% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

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 1050 cfs for March and April.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 500 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be around 200 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 400 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Montrose: Gunnison Basin Roundtable urges public input to the #COWaterPlan, April 6

March 27, 2015
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Ouray County Plaindealer (Bill Tiedje):

Members of the Gunnison Basin Roundtable are urging the public to attend a scoping meeting on April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose to make suggestions or comments regarding the Gunnison Basin Implementation Plan.

Tri-County Water Conservancy District’s GBR representative Mike Berry explained the BIP will become a part of the Colorado Water Plan.

“The BIPs are the critical information in the state water plan in my opinion,” Berry said.

Berry said the meeting will offer the public a chance to learn more about the Gunnison BIP, including strategies and opportunities for water use in the basin.

“It’ll be an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback,” Berry explained.
Public comments will be considered as GBR representatives finalize the BIP before submission to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The BIPs will then be incorporated into the CWP, which is scheduled for completion in December 2015.
Berry said, “The whole idea behind the Roundtable process is a bottom-up strategy.”

The BIP has identified a number of potential water projects in the basin, including upper basin portions of Ouray County, but Berry said federal funding is currently lacking to make large projects a reality.

“I think our solutions are going to come from other directions,” Berry said, suggesting conservation or demand management water strategies may be more feasible in the near term.

Ridgway and Ouray GBR representative Joanne Fagan said the goal of the BIP process is to determine strategies to meet the water needs of the state.

Fagan agreed that conservation is the “low hanging fruit” to meet growing municipal and industrial water needs.

Fagan said members of the public can read the Gunnison BIP online at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com and can find a list of potential projects under Table 7 in the document.

She described the upcoming meeting as a “more global process” looking at ways to address perceived shortfalls without drastically changing ways of life in Colorado.

According to a March 18 press release, “The GBR was formed by statute in 2005, under the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act; it is one of nine roundtables in Colorado, charged to ‘encourage locally driven collaborative solutions to water supply challenges,’ assess ‘basin-wide consumptive and non-consumptive water supply needs,’ and ‘serve as a forum for education and debate regarding methods for meeting water supply needs,’ according to Colorado Governor’s Office.”

The GBR consists of 32 members representing local governments of the basin and other environmental, industrial, agricultural and recreational interests.

“To encourage locally-driven and balanced solutions to water supply challenges, the plan identifies water projects through targeted analyses of water issues in the basin,” the press release stated. “The BIP includes analyses of water shortages, water availability under variable hydrologic conditions, and various site-specific water supply issues. The ultimate purpose of the plan is to better identify priority needs in the basin and highlight proposed projects that will excel at meeting these needs in the future.”

Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership Coordinator Agnieszka Przeszlowska said her organization is helping to promote the event.

Przeszlowska said, “The BIPs are an opportunity for anyone in the Uncompahgre Basin to provide input on needs or projects that they see value in.”

Summary information regarding the Gunnison BIP will be posted on http://www.uncompahgrewatershed.org/events prior to the April 6 meeting.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Aspinall Unit forecast for spring operations

March 24, 2015
Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The March 15th forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 590,000 acre-feet. This is 87% of the 30 year average. Snowpack in the Gunnison Basin is currently at 78% of average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 551,800 acre-feet which is 67% of full. Current elevation is 7486.2 ft. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 ft.

Black Canyon Water Right
The peak flow and shoulder flow components of the Black Canyon Water Right will be determined by the May 1 forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir. If the May 1 forecast is equal to the current forecast of 590,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the peak flow target will be equal to 4,340 cfs for a duration of 24 hours. The shoulder flow target will be 381 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25. The point of measurement of flows to satisfy the Black Canyon Water Right is the Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel streamgage at the upstream boundary of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the peak flow and duration flow targets in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, will be determined by the forecast of the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir and the hydrologic year type. At the time of the spring operation, if the forecast is equal to the current forecast of 590,000 acre-feet of runoff volume, the hydrologic year type will be set as Average Dry. Under an Average Dry year the peak flow target will be 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days.

Projected Spring Operations
During spring operations, 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 magnitude of release necessary to meet the desired peak at the Whitewater gage will be dependent on the flow contribution from the North Fork of the Gunnison River and other tributaries downstream from the Aspinall Unit. Current projections for spring peak operations show that flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon could be 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 7508.2 feet with an approximate peak content of 730,000 acre-feet.

Downstream flow targets and the projected spring operations to meet them will change with revisions to the forecast and are highly dependent on tributary flows throughout the Gunnison Basin.

More Aspinall Unite coverage here.


@USGS: Certain wastewater management techniques can lead to more mercury in groundwater

March 6, 2015


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