Smoky skies – low rivers – hot days – cool nights
Reaping and harvesting
It’s Autumn in the Gunnison Basin
Kathleen’s Korner, Notes from the Gunnison Basin Round Table Chair
I want to tell you about how lucky I have been feeling lately. Here in the Gunnison Basin, our major transportation routes are open, no major fires have devastated our watersheds, and our water infrastructure has not been compromised (yet). Unfortunately, our neighbors in the Colorado River Basin can’t make the same claims, for this year it was their turn to experience the nightmare of major fires on the landscape.
Given that we in the Gunnison Basin are just as vulnerable, with dry, compromised forests and lots of people in the backcountry, it may just be a matter of when not if, we are hit by the same climate induced conflagrations, adversely affecting our economy, public health and water infrastructure.
Although the fires up the Colorado Basin may now be “contained,” water users will be feeling the impact of those burns for years to come. With these fires, now eclipsing the largest in state history, we are faced with a serious wake up call. We need to protect the Gunnison River watersheds. And there are many questions for us: Where are we most vulnerable? What proactive steps can we take to reduce the impacts certainly to be felt in the Colorado River Basin when burned areas receive major precipitation leading to runoff events? Can we adequately mitigate such inevitable impacts to our beloved rivers? And what about our water provider intakes – can we handle potential debris and associated water quality degradation?
At our last Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting we began this discussion with representatives from the Colorado Forest and Water Alliance (cofwa.net). It is now more evident than ever, that we need a basin wide commitment to identifying problem areas with the identification of proactive measures that should be taken. We need to build upon the good work that is already underway by COFWA and others. In fact, it is past time for us to step it up to proactively protect critical water infrastructure in the Gunnison River Basin before our friends in the Colorado read about a major fire nightmare in our backyard. – Kathleen Curry, Doyleville, Colorado
Recent Water News
Concerns Rise Over Grizzly Creek Fire’s Impact on Colorado’s River’s Endangered Fish Downstream
A heavy rain could wash dirt — no longer held in place by charred vegetation — and ash from the steep canyons and gullies of the burn area into the Colorado River. Scorched soils don’t absorb water as well, increasing the magnitude of the flood. And the heavy sediment load in the runoff could suffocate fish.
Downstream from the Grizzly Creek Fire, beginning in DeBeque Canyon, is critical habitat for four species of endangered fish: humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow, bonytail and razorback sucker.
The Grizzly Creek Fire is Threatening the Colorado River and Water for the Entire West
The Grizzly Creek fire burned where the municipal water supply of Glenwood Springs, in the headwaters of the Colorado River watershed. The watershed joins with other watersheds and provides water for more than 40 million water users.
After the Flames – A collaborative resource
In a new era of year-round, catastrophic wildfire, there is a need to address the social, economic and environmental devastation occurring post-fire. In 2019, Coalitions & Collaboratives, Inc., COCO, hosted the first After The Flames conference, bringing together hundreds of researchers, practitioners and community members responding to the post-fire landscape. COCO, alongside affiliates and partners, has created this website as a resource toolbox for communities and agencies to access research and best management practices.
Colorado River District Spotlights Projects Protecting West Slope Water
The Lower Gunnison Project near Montrose, Delta and Hotchkiss is a multi-benefit project spearheaded by the District. It modernizes irrigation delivery systems, helping agricultural water users minimize losses, stretch supplies and increase efficiencies. When combined with enhanced reservoir operations, the project increases agricultural production, enhances streamflow and increases water quality by reducing salt and selenium concentrations, thus improving river habitat.
2°C: Beyond the Limit – This Giant Climate Hot Spot is Robbing the West of its Water
On the Kehmeiers’ farm, like the rest of the area, just under two inches of rain fell between Jan. 1 and July 19. Less than half an inch has fallen since the farming season began on April 1, just 25 percent of the long-term average. Here, on Colorado’s Western Slope, no snow means no snowpack. And no snowpack means no water in an area that’s so dry it’s lucky to get 10 inches of rain a year.
Chance of Colorado River Storage Increases
Risk of Colorado River shortage is on the rise and could hit within 5 years, officials say. The risks of water shortages continue to grow along the Colorado River, which supplies water for about 40 million people from Wyoming to Arizona. Federal water managers released projections showing higher odds of shortages occurring.
Where’s the WATER?
Regionally conditions continue to be extremely dry with much of the southwestern United States (especially the Upper Colorado River Basin) experiencing extreme to exceptional drought as defined by the Drought Monitor. And unfortunately the outlook is for continued dryness.
|Flows in the mainstream Gunnison River have been supported by reservoir releases and Colorado’s largest reservoir, Blue Mesa, has dropped significantly