To save endangered fish and support healthy water levels, conservationists get creative on the Colorado River’s 15-Mile Reach
The Colorado River—that ancient and mighty flow that has carved the landscape of the American West over millennia—serves as a primary water source for approximately 40 million people. But there is a stretch in the headwaters that at times runs so low and weak it has trouble sustaining some of its oldest inhabitants.
This stretch, known as the 15-Mile Reach, is home to four federally endangered fish species–the Colorado Pikeminnow, Humpback Chub, Bonytail and Razorback Sucker. In the springtime, when irrigation diversions begin but snowpack runoff is still nominal, the 15-Mile Reach can drop to dangerously low levels.
Now, a groundbreaking deal between the Colorado Water Trust, the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, the Grand Valley Water Users Association and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and power in the West, have secured a legal mechanism to send more water down the river at critical times through a creative arrangement that enhances environmental and recreational flows and also protects existing water rights…
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