Water worries shrinking

McPhee Reservoir will meet allocations this summer

Keywords: Water, Poll question,

Water managers are confident there will be enough water for McPhee Reservoir water users this year despite a dry spring.

“Everybody can rest assured that we’re going to meet all our allocations this year,” said Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

Due to a good amount of water being stored from last year, Preston is confident there will be enough water for irrigation, drinking and industrial use this year.

Now the focus is shifting to the coming winter and the 2013 water year. Preston said a below average winter this year could lead to shortages next year. An average winter this year would barely meet allocations, while an above average winter would be required for a whitewater boating spill on the lower Dolores River.

“It’s going to take a very good winter for a boating spill in 2013,” he said.

Throughout the last winter, it was believed there would not only be enough water to fill the reservoir this spring, but to have enough left over for a spill for whitewater boating and for temperature control measures for native fish.

Those hopes dried up after the warmest, driest March on record.

At a Dolores River Dialogue Meeting held April 26, Chief Engineer Ken Curtis said advances in monitoring technology and data are providing more tools for water managers. (See related story).

Despite these advances, there are still many variables in the water source equation, including soil moisture, snow melt, warm temperatures, as well as possible wind and dust evaporation.

“We’re not sure where it’s going, but it’s not coming into the reservoir,” Curtis said.

McPhee Reservoir stores much of the water for irrigation, drinking and industrial water used in Montezuma and Dolores counties.

As of Thursday, the reservoir elevation stood at nearly 6,915 feet, compared to a full elevation of 6,924 feet. This translates to 190,187 acre feet of active capacity water compared to a maximum active capacity of 229,182 acre feet.

Although it is currently believed the reservoir will have enough water for this year, several years of drought could lead to shortages.

“The whole state of Colorado is in a drought,” Curtis said. “We’re only in the first stage.”

Up-to-date information on reservoir levels, river flows and canal flows is available on DWCD’s website: http://www.doloreswater.com/

Reach Reid Wright at reidw@cortezjournal.com