"When you have a drought, you dust off any and all alternatives," acknowledged Malcolm Wilson of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's office in Loveland.Wilson
is in charge of water management in some of Colorado's mountain reservoirs, including Ruedi, located 14 miles east of Basalt.
@ATD Sub heds:'Pumpback' spooks conservationists
@ATD body copy: One alternative that is getting dusted is the idea of pumping water from Ruedi for use in the Front Range.
It first surfaced in the mid-1990s as part of a broader study by Aurora and Colorado Springs to increase yield from water supplies in the Western Slope.
In practice, it hasn't dropped the level to inflow in several years, said Wilson
The inflow has recently been in the low 20 cfs range, yet the Bureau
has kept the flow above 40 cfs, Wilson
Local environmentalists aren't as confident as Aurora and Colorado Springs that the Fryingpan River could handle the lower flows.
About half of that, 51,500 acre-feet, is considered the "marketable yield," or the amount available for contracts with water-users, according to Wilson
Of the available amount, about 22,000 acre-feet is not under contract, Wilson
So it would be natural to assume that in a time of drought, Ruedi would be a likely target of water-users looking for more supply.
There's already a precedent for water from the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork drainages going east.The headwaters of the rivers contain extensive diversion systems that are part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.
The project is entitled to divert an annual average of 69,200 acre-feet from the headwaters to the Arkansas River Basin on the Eastern Slope for farmland irrigation and domestic water for Pueblo.
said the actual annual average that is diverted is closer to 41,000 acre-feet, about one-third less than allowed.
@ATD Sub heds:Bureau
: Pumpback 'not likely'
@ATD body copy: Despite the precedent for diversion and increasing drought concerns, Wilson
doesn't anticipate a rush for Ruedi Reservoir water.Demand from the downstream users on the Western Slope isn't increasing enough to make additional purchases of Ruedi water likely, he
As Western Slope ranch lands are converted to subdivisions, water usage goes down because agricultural use of water is more intensive than residential use.
said, the hurdles of pumping the water back from Ruedi through the Continental Divide to the Front Range are formidable.While the plan is technologically feasible, the politics of diverting the water from the Western Slope are complicated, said Wilson
and other observers.
"Is there an immediate threat?Probably not," Wilson
But like Wilson
noted that if the drought continues, more plans will be dusted off.