Spring Precipitation Lessens Water Worries

Blue Mesa Reservoir as shown on the reservoirs Facebook site.  Courtesy photo.

Blue Mesa Reservoir as shown on the reservoirs Facebook site.
Courtesy photo.

By Caitlin Switzer

REGIONAL—(June 18, 2013)  Despite dire predictions and the recent US Department of Agriculture designation of Montrose as a contiguous disaster area due to the ongoing drought, a cool, wet spring has delayed the impacts of the drought on this season’s crops, water officials say.

“Things are still tight, but they are better than they started out to be this spring,” Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Manager Steve Fletcher said. “Mother Nature has helped us tremendously with the added moisture and cool weather.”

UVWUA is running at 70 percent right now, he noted, and does not expect to call either of its senior rights to the Uncompahgre River or Gunnison Tunnel until later this summer.

“Runoff has started to dwindle, but we won’t make a call until we need to,” Fletcher said. “We don’t expect that to happen until late June or early July.”

Accumulated precipitation in the Gunnison River Basin remains at 75 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation service Snotel site, but hot weather is expected to change that.

“We have been fortunate to the weather slow things down, but the snowpack is going in a hurry now,” Fletcher said.

Snows in the Upper Gunnison region have been especially beneficial, noted Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Four Assistant Division Engineer Jason Ullmann.

“We are certainly better off than we were two months ago,” Ullmann said. “And they are much, much better off in the upper Gunnison. The snows that we saw in April and early May will help fill the reservoirs. Right now Blue Mesa is holding fairly steady, and Ridgway is pretty well full.”

Though the statewide drought continues, Western Colorado will have water, he said.

“In this valley, we have water even in a dry year,” Ullmann said. “Ridgway Reservoir typically fills. The more storage we have, the more we can conserve for the following year. And hopefully, this will be a good snow year and we can recover.”