Drought halts water storage 33% full at Jackson Lake MWCD irrigators will get 17% of share

The concrete ends before the water starts at the Jackson Lake boat ramp. Ronnie Knipstein, Krissy and Paityn Harrison kayak on the very low lake. The lake normally would be nearly full at this time of year. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

The concrete ends before the water starts at the Jackson Lake boat ramp. Ronnie Knipstein, Krissy and Paityn Harrison kayak on the very low lake. The lake normally would be nearly full at this time of year.

At Jackson Gulch Reservoir, what you see is all you get.

A water-right call on the Mancos River has ended storage diversions into the reservoir locals call Jackson Lake. The 3,349 acre feet the reservoir now holds, which is 33.5 percent of its capacity, is all that will be available this summer for irrigators and municipal users.

The reservoir has priority 36 on the river, which means that 35 other users have a higher water right.

"The lake is on the priority system," said Mancos Water Conservancy District superintendent Gary Kennedy. "If you have a No. 1 priority, it's the best. If you have a No. 36, it's basically considered floodwater, which is the spring runoff.

"For us to store any water, they (the Colorado Division of Water Resources) would have to lift the call on the river or go above priority 36."

In a year as dry as this one, no one expects that to happen. The weekend's snow, while notable, didn't contribute much to the water supply, and substantial rainfall isn't likely before the monsoons come in late July or August.

DRIBBLES FOR IRRIGATION

At a meeting on May 14, the board of directors decided on a 2013 water allocation of just 17 percent of the full allotment for irrigators in the Mancos Valley.

Based on physical restrictions of the district's equipment, irrigators may not get even that much.

"Chances are there won't be a lot of water use because of the low percentage," Kennedy said. "We have a minimum that we can release without injuring the valves and equipment in the dam, and that's 10 cubic feet per second. Once we get to that point, we have to shut down.

"As long as there's enough water to deliver, we'll deliver it, until it runs out or until we get to that 10 cfs."

This year the district isn't delivering water until June 7. Irrigators can call the district office on Mondays to order water for Tuesdays, and on Thursdays for delivery on Fridays.

A CALL TO CONSERVE

MWCD provides water to the town of Mancos, Mesa Verde National Park and the Mancos Rural Water Company when they are not drawing directly from the Mancos River.

Those users will have the water they need, but the board asked them to hold their water usage to no more than last year's. The town and the rural water company have the option of instituting water-use restrictions - for example, limiting or prohibiting lawn watering. In March, the town board passed an ordinance allowing the Mancos public works director to initiate such restrictions, said town administrator Andrea Phillips.

Mesa Verde can take what it wants, Kennedy said, but he anticipates careful conservation measures there as well.

"They're a federal agency and this is a federal project," he said. "All we can do is ask them to hold back."

Still, he said, he doubts the park will use more than it has in the past.

The district has a website, www.jacksongulchrehab.info, which providers water users and other interested parties with information about the availability of water. Kennedy said he is trying to keep that site updated daily during this season of concern for water availability.