As the deadline approaches for the seven Colorado River basin states to come up with a plan to conserve water, some Colorado water managers are asking what authority the federal government has in the upper basin and which water projects could be at risk of federal action.
Red Mountain Ditch irrigates about 380 acres of grass pasture on Red Mountain and in the exclusive Starwood neighborhood with Hunter Creek water rights that date to 1889.
Since the Crystal flows through Gunnison County and the town of Marble, advocates say getting those residents and elected representatives on board will be key to moving the effort forward.
The goal of the program is to use voluntary, market-based approaches to encourage agricultural water users — who often own the biggest and most senior water rights — to put water back into Colorado’s rivers during critical times.
Updated Bureau of Reclamation data downgraded the reservoir’s volume of water stored by 443,000 acre-feet, based on a recent sedimentation study.
The plan says Colorado will continue the slow but steady transformation of moving water from agriculture — by far the largest water user — to cities, with nearly 14,000 acres of irrigated land expected to be urbanized, one-third of that in the Grand Valley.
The actions taken in the 2022 Drought Response Operations Plan will add about 1 million acre-feet, or 16 feet of elevation, to Lake Powell. But these actions are not enough.
The problem from which all others stem, including the changing fish communities, and the reason Powell is so low in the first place is the climate-change-driven supply-demand imbalance, Schmidt said.
For several locations — the Roaring Fork at Glenwood, the Crystal, the San Miguel and the Colorado at Cameo — the peak came so early that it was outside the window of what’s considered normal.
But to complete the final 3,600 feet, the ditch company is turning to public sources of money because they say the project will have the public benefit of keeping between 0.5 and 1 additional cubic feet per second of water in Hunter Creek.