Irrigators put call on Colorado River
Action short-lived, may be repeated
The first call was placed on the Colorado River on Monday, from the Grand Valley Irrigation Co., which feared flow levels in the river would stay exceptionally low.
Flows went back up shortly thereafter, and the call was back off, but water managers are likely to remain in a state of heightened vigilance this year, particularly in comparison to just one year ago.
The “call” ensures farmers and ranchers get the water to fulfill their senior water rights.
Charlie Guenther, assistant superintendent at the irrigation company, remembers putting a call in as early as April 11 in the drought year of 2002, but last year they did not put a call on the river all year.
On Monday, the river flow at Cameo gate was around 1,700 cubic feet per second, prompting the irrigation company’s call. This time last year, the flow was around 15,000 cfs, according to Guenther.
By Tuesday, however, higher night temperatures on Grand Mesa increased snowmelt and brought flows to around 2,700 cfs at Cameo, above the 1,950 cfs threshold past which a call is warranted, said Alan Martellaro, division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, whose office approves the calls.
“At this point, the call is back off. We’re not going to administer a call because there’s plenty of water there,” Martellaro said.
But, unlike last year, it seems likely a call will come at some point this year.
“We hope we don’t have to,” Guenther said. “They’re predicting a pretty good spike in flows this weekend, but then back down again.”
Peak flows topped 30,000 cfs last year but are expected to reach only about one-fifth of that this year.
This article is part of a grant-funded project in cooperation with Colorado Mesa University to report on issues of environmental concern.