Water Management in the Gunnison Basin
The Gunnison River and its tributaries are intensively managed, with reservoirs and diversions in high mountain meadows, major reservoirs along its main stem and intensely irrigated lower valleys.
Click on the map below to see enlarged version to see of the major features in the Gunnison Basin, and the locations of the communities and irrigated lands served by its waters.
- The Aspinall Unit is the largest water storage facility in the Gunnison Basin, consisting of three dams/reservoir, including Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in the State of Colorado.
- The Gunnison Tunnel, part of the Uncompahgre Project, was built to divert water from the Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre Valley and the Uncompahgre River, serving over 76,0000 acres of project land.
- 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.
- Ridgway Reservoir, part of the Delta Creek Project, is located near Ridgway and serves the Uncompahgre Valley.
- Silverjack Reservoir is part of the Bostwick Park Project which develops flows of Cimarron Creek for irrigation, fishing, and recreation.
- The Paonia Project, which includes Paonia Reservoir and the Fire Mountain Canal, serves much of the North Fork Valley. These facilities are operated under contract by the Fire Mountain Ditch and Reservoir Company.
- Fruitgrowers Reservoir serves the highly developed agricultural area near Orchard City which could not be sustained without storage of the late summer water supply.
- Crawford Reservoir, Southeast of Delta, was built as part of the Smith Fork Project.
Water Rights and Legal Issues for Water Management:
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.
- Learn about water rights at the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
- The Black Canyon Decree protects Gunnison River flows through the canyon.
- The Record of Decision governing releases details the benefit to endangered fish in the lower Gunnison.
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”: