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Heavy snowpack means late appropriations, high runoff

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Photo by Emy Lynn Roque Cisneros Dam safety engineer Jason Ward, P.E., highlights the different dams and their classifications in Water District 40 at Water 104 in Cedaredge. In the slide previous he reviewed the classification levels as high (loss of lif

The Cedaredge Library wrapped up its four-part series on water last Tuesday evening with "Water 104" on dams and reservoirs. Held at the Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center, panelists Jason Ullmann, assistant division engineer; Jason Ward, dam safety engineer; Denise Jackson, Grand Mesa Water Users Association; and James Holiman, lead water commissioner shared their knowledge.

The series began in February with the aim to educate water users and those interested in water in the Surface Creek area. This closing session was aimed at being informative, covering the reservoir system, the mission behind inspecting dams and how users get their water through appropriations.

Ward reviewed how dam safety works, with the main goal of focusing inspections on preventing loss of life and damage down stream. Ward has already been involved in three dam failures this spring and wants to work to prevent one from happening in Surface Creek.

Regarding water, Holiman explained that appropriations will be a little late this year due to the heavy snowpack. On June 4, snow water equivalent at Park Reservoir was 38 inches with snow depth at 72 inches.

An analogy equated appropriations to a bank account for water. To make appropriations gauge heights are gathered and then water is distributed through a computer system. Then a user can plan and place orders with Denise Jackson, who will ask questions like which ditch to turn it into, how much water, and when to turn it out.

That water used is then deducted like money from a checkbook. When requested, water is released the night before so it has time to flow down to the user. Sometimes if the user checks in the morning and the water isn't there, it may just be taking a little longer for it to reach them.

Holiman said this year is drastically different from 2018, which is apparent through the high snowpack. Currently water is mostly runoff, whereas last year reservoirs were emptying without turning any out. Even though this past winter was one of the highest for precipitation, much of that water is being counted on to replenish the drained reservoirs.

So if runoff is there, Holiman urges, use it. Last year water was appropriated in April but this year's appropriations won't occur until mid to late June.

Holiman also reviewed how exchange orders work when someone owns water stored in a particular reservoir but are not technically located directly downstream of it. Essentially because the reservoirs are managed in a system, water is exchangeable.

To conclude the series the presenters acknowledged the hard work of water commissioners. Throughout irrigation season they work, often going out at 2 a.m., to ensure water is getting to users when needed.

The water series was more successful than anticipated, so next year a water overview and forecast meeting may be held in Surface Creek. There may also be a full presentation on reservoirs in the future, depending on interest.

While the library planned to record the last three meetings and have them available to the public, due to technical issues that was not accomplished. However, presenters said that if users have any questions they are welcome to contact them.

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