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Western Slope Now – by Khira Isaacs

GRAND JUNCTION (KREX) — Responding to drought and summer long low-flow conditions on the Colorado River, a coalition of groups and funders led by Colorado Water Trust is restoring water to the river. How do they do it? You’ve heard of land trusts…our Khira Isaacs found this works the same and may do even more.

Flowing through Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado River is a 1400 mile water source connecting one Grand Valley town to the next…

“In late summer, early fall is when flows drop particularly low in the river,” says Colorado Water Trust’s, Senior staff attorney, Kate Ryan.

Ryan tells me the Colorado River is now at its lowest flow point in history — a few organizations are wading in…

“We have been working together with the Grand Valley Water Users Association and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District for some years now on a project,” continues Ryan.

A project increasing flows within the river but to also support the ecosystem of endangered fish who live within a stretch of river they call the “15 mile reach”.

“This particular year, we’re just leaving the water in the river for the fish,” says Ryan.

Since the start of the project two years ago, the Colorado Water Trust has delivered nearly 2 billion gallons of water to the river…

“This year we simply purchased water that was decreed in water court to support the environment — and we’ve delivered that, we’ve actually begun delivering it as of September 25 and we’re going to deliver it through most of October,” continues Ryan.

This water also indirectly helps alleviate some drought conditions by providing more water to the region…when it gets dry this time of the year.

“We arrange for that water to be released from the reservoir and delivered all the way down through the frying pan river, the roaring fork river, and the Colorado river to the 15 mile reach when its needed most by the fish,” says Ryan.

The fish are a priority for now, but Kate tells me there’s more…

“…There’s a brand new hydro-electric plant with brand new turbans that’s going to bring more water on a permanent or long-term basis to the Grand Valley,” says Ryan.

The storage plan will keep vital water flowing for towns, orchards, even recreation regardless of how long the drought lingers.