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Water: Scrambling to sustain Colorado River flows

Cooperative releases from headwaters reservoirs will help sustain environmental and recreational values

A NASA satellite captured this image of the Colorado River flowing through Utah.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With some of the lowest stream flows on record for this time of year, Colorado water managers are wrangling every last drop and trying to make them all count.

Upstream storage and diversions have exacerbated the low flows resulting from a meager snowpack and early runoff. As a result, water temperatures in parts of the Colorado River recently have already reached temperatures close to 60 degrees, which is borderline dangerous for trout. Those temperature readings were measured at a gage in the Pumphouse area, according to Jim Pokrandt, communications specialist with the Colorado River District.

Average Colorado River flows through Glenwood Canyon this time of year are about 6,000 cfs, but this year, the river has been flowing at less than 20 percent of that, at about 1,100 cfs.

Looking to raise stream flows, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating under the Shoshone outage protocol, which helps sustain flows along the Colorado River mainstem with water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir — even when Xcel’s Shoshone power plant isn’t exercising a senior water right that historically keeps at least some water in the river during dry seasons and years. Continue reading

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