Homestake water flowing down the Eagle
The City of Colorado Springs has been releasing 30 cubic feet per second, or cfs, of water from Homestake Reservoir, down Homestake Creek and into the Eagle River, to pay a water debt owed to the Colorado River for an out-of-priority diversion made earlier in the year. The release, totalling 338 acre-feet, ends Saturday.
In the mean time, it is a welcome addition to the Eagle River, which has been flowing at less than 30 percent of its long-term average. The low flow has forced water restrictions for local residents and imperiled native fish, who are negatively impacted by a shrinking environment and warming waters.
“This is a one-time deal,” says Don Meyer, water resource engineer with the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “When it is turned off, it will make it tougher.”
Thursday, the Eagle River at Avon, with the release that began Tuesday, was flowing at 67 cfs. Without it, the river would be at 37 cfs, or just 20 percent of normal.
When the flow of the river hits 25 cfs at Avon for 72 hours, all outside watering will be banned by water districts from East Vail to Wolcott.
This is the fifth consecutive year of below-average precipitation, hydrologists say. It’s also the worst drought on record, surpassing a 20-year drought in the 1500s that lowered flows in the Colorado River basin by 40 percent, according to tree-ring and other analyses.
Water is a commodity that can be sold, banked in a reservoir, leased, claimed, credited, borrowed and repaid.
In 1986, the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora proposed an expansion of the Homestake Reservoir that touched off a firestorm of opposition and tested Eagle County’s 1041 land-use regulations. The decade-long litigation resulted in an historic memorandum of understanding in which the cities and local water users share future water projects.
Homestake Reservoir diverts water from Homestake, Fancy and Fall Creeks via a tunnel to the Arkansas River, taking it from the Western Slope to the Front Range.
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.