River district approves water supply measures | SummitDaily.com

River district approves water supply measures

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Colorado River Water Conservation District’s board of directors approved two plans this week to keep water flowing in the Colorado River Basin as the drought of 2002 enters into the historical low-flow months.

Anticipated “calls” on Western Slope rivers during the winter could shut off some domestic water users and prevent many small Western Slope reservoirs from storing critical winter water.

West Slope senior water rights holders are working to eliminate the threats posed by a call on the river. A call takes place when senior water rights users exercise their rights over junior rights holders. When the call is put in place, those with junior rights must cede their use of that water so that senior water rights holders get their allotment.

The first agreement will end the use of water for power generation by Redlands Water and Power Co. from the Gunnison River near Grand Junction until river flows increase with next spring’s runoff.

Redlands Water and Power will be compensated for the loss of power generation revenues, which pay for operation of the water system. The deal removes the Redlands’ senior call on the Gunnison.

A Redlands call would shut off junior water users when river flows are at their lowest and would make it almost impossible to fill reservoirs throughout the Gunnison Basin for next year.

People who will feel the effects of this agreement the most include those in the low-lying areas of Mesa County, up through the Uncompahgre Plateau and North Fork of the Gunnison and into the upper reaches of the Gunnison River in Gunnison County.

An agreement earlier this summer successfully curtailed Redlands’ water usage heading into the heart of this year’s drought, thus allowing additional water to be stored in upstream reservoirs.

The second pact involves a voluntary reduction of water use at the Cameo hydroelectric plant east of Grand Junction.

If plant officials were to exercise their full right to Colorado River water, water users stretching up into the Western Slope’s winter resort regions would have their winter water supply threatened during the ski season.

This reduction is being negotiated with the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Redlands and Cameo agreements are the latest in a long series of arrangements the river district and other Western Slope water users and management agencies crafted to keep water flowing to the greatest number of water users.

The uninterrupted flow of water for many West Slope households has been made possible by numerous cooperative arrangements throughout the Western Slope during the worst drought year in the recorded history of Colorado.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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