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In 2022, myRiver Balance contributions went directly to the purchase of water for the Crystal River near Carbondale, Colorado.

The Crystal River, near Carbondale, has long suffered from low water levels, especially during the dry late summer/early fall months, stunting the River’s ecosystem and impacting recreation. Colorado Water Trust has worked with agricultural and community partners since 2012 to devise a creative solution to help boost flows in the Crystal while also protecting water rights and livelihoods.

Crystal River Project

Low flows in the Crystal River, 2012.

In 2018, Colorado Water Trust signed a three-year pilot agreement with Cold Mountain Ranch that would compensate the ranch owners, Bill Fales and Marj Perry, for leaving their irrigation water in the Crystal River when it needs it most. Unfortunately, within this initial three-year period, we were unable to run the project due to a variety of factors such as fluctuating climate conditions and the needs of the ranch. In 2021, all parties went back to the drawing board to generate a new agreement that would take into account everything we learned.

In July of 2022, Colorado Water Trust and Cold Mountain Ranch signed a new agreement that accounted for changing climatic conditions, as well as the economic and operational needs of the ranch. Then, on the 13th of September, 2022, we are thrilled to say that the project was implemented for the first time!

The Crystal River in 2022.

The Crystal River in 2022.

On September 13th when flows in the Crystal began to drop, the new agreement became active. Then throughout the fall months, anytime flows fell below 55 cfs, the ranch coordinated diversions, returning up to 6 cfs to the River. Colorado Water Trust monitored the amount of water left in the natural stream and then paid the ranch $250 per cfs per day for up to 20 days for the water they restored to the River.

The pilot agreement operated a total of 10 days in 2022, returning 118 acre-feet (or about 38 million gallons) of water to the Crystal River.

Thanks to generous myRiver Balance donors, we were able to fully fund the purchase of water from Cold Mountain Ranch, restoring flows to the Crystal River for fish, wildlife, and recreation.

Our Crystal Project is the first crack at a highly customized, market-based solution that works for agriculture producers on the Crystal River. With this pilot project under our belt, we hope to gain more participants in the coming years to create a River-wide coordination effort to restore an even longer reach of the Crystal River.

Thank you to everyone who balanced their water use in 2022, helping us restore water to the Crystal River!

Ready to balance your water use by returning the amount of water you use each year to Colorado’s rivers and streams? Visit our myRiver Balance page to balance your water use today!