The Gunnison River and its tributaries are intensively managed, from reservoirs and diversions in high mountain valleys to major reservoirs along its main stem. This map shows the major reservoirs in the Gunnison Basin, as well as the locations of the communities and irrigated lands served by its waters.
Key Structures and Facilities for Water Management:
The Aspinall Unit is not only the largest water storage facility in the basin, consisting of three dams/reservoirs, it also includes the largest water body, Blue Mesa Reservoir, in the State of Colorado.
The Gunnison Tunnel was built to divert water from the Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre Valley and the Uncompahgre River. Learn more here.
Taylor Park Reservoir was established to provide water to farmers in the Uncompahgre Valley. It is operated under contract by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA). While Taylor Park Reservoir water still serves agricultural water users in the Uncompahgre Valley, a unique agreement enables the UVWUA to re-store water released from Taylor Reservoir in the Aspinall Unit (Blue Mesa Reservoir) prior to delivering it to farmers downstream. This has created the opportunity for the timing of releases to be managed for multiple purposes with input from a local user group. Learn more about the dam/ reservoir here; learn about the user group and operations here.
Ridgway Reservoir, built as part of the Dallas Creek Project, is located near Ridgway and serves the Uncompahgre Valley. Learn more here.
Silverjack Reservoir is part of the Bostwick Park Project. Learn more here.
Fruitgrowers Reservoir is near Orchard City. Learn more here.
Crawford Reservoir, Southeast of Delta, was built as part of the Smith Fork Project. Learn more here.
Water Rights and Legal Issues for Water Management:
In addition to physical structures, scores of water rights and agreements govern how water is used, including requirements to address the environmental needs of Black Canyon National Park and four species of endangered fish in the lower river.
To learn about water rights, see this page from the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
You can find the Black Canyon Decree here.
You can find the Record of Decision governing releases to benefit endangered fish in the lower Gunnison here.
Water Management Organizations:
In addition to municipalities, irrigation companies, and the US Bureau of Reclamation, the following local organizations are important cogs in the Gunnison River Basin water management “machine”: