Feds resume filling Ruedi, but dry spring is fueling uncertainty
Prospects brightened Monday for salvaging the summer for boaters and other recreational users of Ruedi Reservoir.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was able to resume filling the reservoir yesterday after five days of releasing water to meet the demands of agricultural interests in western Colorado.
A cold snap last week slowed the rate of snow melting from the high peaks and dropped flows in the Colorado River low enough that a “call” was made on other resources.
That call required the Bureau of Reclamation to release water from Ruedi at a rate equivalent to what was coming in, according to bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb.
The release didn’t affect any of the water stored before the call was made. The water level in the huge basin remained at about 68,000 acre-feet – roughly two-thirds of capacity, Lamb said.
The Bureau of Reclamation’s goal is to fill Ruedi to the low 90,000-acre-feet level, according to Lamb. The reservoir couldn’t be filled to capacity last year because of dry conditions and probably won’t be filled to capacity this year.
Lamb said even if this year developed into a wet one, the bureau would still have trouble filling the reservoir. About 80 percent of Colorado’s surface water supply comes from snow melt, while only 20 percent comes directly from precipitation. Ruedi’s supply is about the same, she said.
The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin varied between 50 and 75 percent of normal throughout the season. As a result, the flow of the Colorado River is only about 84 percent of normal.
The cold weather last week slowed the flow because runoff decreased, explained Peter Roessmann, education director for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
The flow wasn’t enough to meet the demands of four agricultural entities and a hydroelectric plant that divert water at Cameo, east of Grand Junction. Their water rights are among the most senior on the Colorado River, according to Roessmann. They demand a combined rate of 1,950 cubic feet per second of water, he said.
To put that in perspective, the flow of the Colorado River just downstream of Glenwood Springs is 2,100 cfs.
Ruedi water was used to supplement the supply of water from Wednesday until Monday. The river flow increased enough to meet demand after it rained and warm temperatures returned to the high country Sunday, Roessmann said.
Lamb said it’s impossible to know whether Ruedi Reservoir will be affected again by the “Cameo call.” However, each day that the bureau is able to fill Ruedi, the better the season will be for boaters and other users of the reservoir.
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