Frigid temperature slow the river’s flow |

Frigid temperature slow the river’s flow

Cliff Thompson
The Eagle River near Minturn.

Saturday morning the river was flowing 28 cubic feet per second, or cfs, just 42 percent of the 66 cfs average at the Avon gauging station near the Avon water treatment plant.

That volume of water also includes the release of 4 cfs of water from Eagle Park Reservoir, east of Camp Hale, and 2 cfs from the Black Lakes atop Vail Pass. That water is earmarked for use by the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant in Glenwood Canyon, which has a water right senior to users upstream – even those storing water in reservoirs.

The reservoir’s owners – including the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Vail Resorts and the Colorado River District – want to continue to use the river for domestic water and other uses, so they must augment the flow of the river with water stored in the reservoir.

The water being released is also payment toward a 400 acre-foot debt incurred from earlier out-of-priority diversions. An acre-foot, or 326,000 gallons, is enough water to cover a football field approximately a foot deep and is considered to be enough water for of a family of four for a year.

A flow of 1 cfs of water translates into 2 acre-feet in 24 hours.

Last summer’s drought saw precipitation and river flows at a 175- to 400- year low. Snowpack levels hovering at 75 percent of normal across most of the state this winter point to the drought continuing this year.

The cold temperatures have had an effect on flows farther downstream, as well. At the Gypsum gauging site, for example, the Eagle River Saturday was flowing at 60 cfs, just 34 percent of average.

There had been concern expressed earlier in the year that because of the unusually low flow of water, the Eagle River could freeze completely. So far, the winter temperatures have been milder than normal, keeping the river flowing.

The Eagle River isn’t the only stream being affected by low temperatures.

The Colorado River, which is also fed by releases from reservoirs, was flowing Saturday at 644 cfs, or 31 percent of the norm. Prior to the freeze, it had been flowing at slightly more than 50 percent of average.

Statewide, streamflow measurements are made by the State Department of Natural Resources.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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