In early September, 30-foot sinkholes caused the East Mesa Ditch – which pulls up to 41.8 cfs of water from the Crystal River – to collapse, cutting off about 34% of the 740 acres of hay and alfalfa it irrigates south of Carbondale from water. Laurine Lassalle created an interactive map showing parcels irrigated by the East Mesa Ditch. While an emergency loan up to $418,140 from CWCB was approved Sept. 20, the ditch repair is the impetus for greater conversations about water conservation, infrastructure improvements, and partnerships between Pitkin County Healthy Rivers, CWCB and ag users.
But first, East Mesa Water Co., which operates the ditch, needs to conduct a geophysical investigation to avoid more sinkhole issues in the future. The ditch company, which has 12 shareholders, also plans to ask for grant money from the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s Community Funding Partnership as well as the Healthy Rivers program.
The story is another example of potential collaborations between environmental organizations (who want to keep water in streams) and agriculture (who typically uses the majority of the water). Programs that let ranchers temporarily loan water for the benefit of rivers are still little used, but perhaps growing in popularity. “We’d actually like to lease water to help pay back these loans,” Tim Nieslanik said. “… We would like to consider the ways that our additional water could be a monetary source for us, as well as maybe a safety net for municipalities.”
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Pitkin County Healthy Rivers sees chance to help environment by helping ag
By Heather Sackett | September 30, 2023
Finding creative arrangements with irrigators to boost streamflows on the Crystal during dry periods has long been a desire of some Healthy Rivers board members.
Lake Powell’s water levels remain unchanged.
By Laurine Lassalle | October 2, 2023
• High air temperatures at ASE went from 67°F on Sept. 23 to 77°F on Sept. 28, which is about 13 degrees above average.
• On Oct. 1, Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,573.6 feet, or 126.5 feet from full pool, which is the same as Sept. 24 and Sept. 17.
• The Fork ran at 118 cfs on Oct. 1, or 98.3% of average, down from 127 cfs and 106.7% of average, on Sept. 24.
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