Ward Creek Reservoir

Ward Creek Reservoir steadily refilling following dam repairs in fall of 2019. Photo used for illustration purposes.

By Lucas Vader

Staff Writer

Last Tuesday evening, a water commissioner for the State of Colorado, James Holiman, addressed the Town of Cedaredge Board of Trustees with negative but important news regarding the current drought conditions affecting much of the western U.S., including Delta County.

Holiman is in charge of monitoring the water situation on Grand Mesa.

“The snow that we just got helped us quite a bit,” Holiman said, “but what I really want to talk about is the carry-over — the water that we have left in reservoirs.”

According to Holiman, all reservoirs in the region together are at 14% capacity, which is slightly lower than it was after 2018, the last drought year, which had 16%.

Ward Creek has 13% right now and Kaiser Creek only has 5%, while the Surface Creek ditch and reservoir company is sitting at 8%.

“So that’s not too much for you guys,” Holiman said, estimating that the area is essentially one month behind on snowpack. At least Park Reservoir is in better shape, he figured. It’s close to filling. If the spring season was to start right now, he estimated that the area would have about 150 acre feet, which would be about 75 cubic feet per second.

Besides hope that March brings far more snow than the months before it, as it did in 2019, the area is looking at a continued summer drought for which the town would need to be ready with a drought plan. At this point, Holiman stated that the rest of the winter would have to have about 130% of average snowfall to bring the county back into normal range.

“That’s kind of the bad news,” Holiman said. “I probably don’t have any good news. We are about halfway to normal. We’re like 51%, 52% in our snowpack right now.”

With those precautions, the town briefly went into its latest revised drought response plan, but also discussed the increasing importance of being able to store more water long-term in the future, as drought years are often interspersed with unusually wet ones like 2019 and 2014.

As for the drought response plan, it’s from 2012 but still holds up. It includes basic policy on strategies for conservation, actions, indicators for different levels of local drought. Restrictions would apply for each level of drought, from retracting water rights to outside entities and requiring hotels to conserve by using more conservative shower heads, for instance.

Dependent on evolving drought conditions, the board will be prepared to discuss the situation promptly.

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