Bureau of Reclamation starts filling the reservoir April 1, the earliest date possible
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Green Mountain Reservoir is unlikely to fill this year, even though the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is already staking its claim to Blue River water with the earliest “start of fill” on record.
The reservoir at the north end of Summit County is a key piece of the regional water supply puzzle, helping buffer the Upper Blue when senior water rights holders downstream on the Colorado call for water, at Xcel’s Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon and irrigation in the Grand Valley, for example.
Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 43 feet below its maximum level and BuRec has shut the valve on outflows below Green Mountain Dam. Currently, only about 75 cubic feet per second are flowing past the dam and into the Blue River. Those low flows will likely persist until senior water rights holders down stream call for water from the reservoir. Continue reading “Colorado: Green Mountain Reservoir not likely to fill this year”→
National Park Service creates online itinerary for historic water projects
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Water has been a defining force in the American West for eons, first shaping landscapes like the Grand Canyon, then shaping the lives of residents, from the Anasazi to modern-day settlers and developers who live and play in region.
The biggest transformation came in the early 20th century, with industrious and ambitious development schemes that resulted in a network of dams reservoirs, and canals built that provide water for irrigation and hydropower generation.
Even more worrisome to conservation advocates are the projected declines in summer flows. Below Windy Gap Reservoir, July flows could drip by as much as 20 percent, according to the Bureau’s study, which also acknowledged that extensive mitigation measures will be needed to protect West Slope aquatic ecoystems. Click here to read the EIS executive summary.
But the proposed mitigation falls short of what’s needed to protect the Upper Colorado, according to Trout Unlimited, a cold-water fisheries conservation group.
frogs jumped in
sound of water
~by Matsuo Bashô
SUMMIT COUNTY — Water is rippling up as an early issue on the Colorado gubernatorial campaign trail, as Republican candidate Scott McInnis is being watchdogged by the Bigmedia.org blog regarding some water articles he may wrote on behalf of the Hasan Family Foundation, apparently for a fee of $150,000.
I didn’t have to go far to find this graph that appears to tell the story of the river better than thousands of words ever could. It’s a basic supply and demand graph, apparently produced by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and it should be familiar to anyone who has ever taken economics 101. The top pink line shows how much water is in the river, the blue line starting on the lower left shows the demand and usage of Colorado River Water. Simple enough, it would seem, until you notice that the two lines have crossed each other.
What that means is there is more demand than there is water in the river, at least based on a 10-year running average. I happened upon the graph at John Fleck’s environmental blog under the Riverbeat section. The New Mexico-based journalist wrote that the graph has turned up at several recent high-profile water shindigs, as resource managers and residents of the greater Colorado River Basin grapple with the fundamental question: How do we reconcile that increased demand with what appears to be a shrinking supply?
It’ll be worth attending the May 12 river meeting in Frisco, just to see if the graph shows up at there, too.
An age of limits?
Sticking with the same theme, Writers on the Range columnist Dan McCool points out that climate scientists are predicting a 10 to 30 percent reduction in Colorado River flows in the coming decades, and that some researchers say there’s a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead and Lake Powell have a 50 percent chance of going dry by 2021. Both reservoirs are about half full these days. Despite all that, several large-scale water development projects keep rearing up, including Aaron Million’s plan to pipe Green River water from Wyoming to the Front Range.
McCool characterizes the “grandiose schemes” as the last gasp of a dying ethos, and warns that Western water policy is “hopelessly, irrevocably unsustainable” in an age of limits.
Dam-builder Dominy dies
In a different era, when engineers turned those grandiose schemes into reality, the biggest figure on the scene was Floyd Dominy, who died last week at the age of 100.
Dominy called Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell the crowning achievement of his career with the Bureau of Reclamation. Writers on the Range columnist Julianne Couch writes about Dominy here, and the Bureau of Reclamation noted his passing here. More information is also available at Waterhistory.org.