Western slope reservoirs may empty | VailDaily.com

Western slope reservoirs may empty

Greg Masse

Rifle Gap, north of Rifle, will likely be drained before the end of irrigation season this year, the reservoir’s water manager said.

Scott Dodero, manager for the Silt Water Conservancy District, said peak levels at the reservoir have been decreasing every year since the last time it was full in 2000.

“We’re way off this year,” he said. “This is the worst year.”

Rifle Gap’s usable capacity is 12,457 acre feet compared to Avon’s Nottingham lake, which holds about 150 acre-feet of water. Rifle Gap was last full in 2000. Since then, the reservoir’s peak has decreased by an average of 1,630 acre feet per year.

An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, and enough water to cover a football field 10 inches deep. One acre-foot is enough water for a family of four for a year.

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“Our reservoir has been drawn down,” Dodero said. “That hot March, all the snow went into the ground or evaporated.”

This year’s peak, which was hit on April 16, the day irrigation season started, was at just 5,937 usable acre feet of water. The level is expected to drop through the rest of the summer until it reaches 1,400 acre feet, the level considered a dead pool or inactive capacity.

“We were pretty close to that last year,” Dodero said. “Probably this year we will get there.”

In contrast to Harvey Gap, which is filled to the brim because it’s smaller and has senior water rights, the multi-year drought is clearly evident at Rifle Gap. The state park manager for both reservoirs, Aaron Fero, said Rifle Gap’s water level is 21 feet below the spillway.

“We constantly get water down (from streams), but there’s more coming out than coming in,” Fero said.

At the end of last summer’s season, the water level at Rifle Gap was 38 feet below the spillway.

He said some boats could still launch from the park’s ramp, but the concrete portion of the ramp was above the water’s surface level.

Dodero said Rifle Gap’s plight is a good illustration of just how bad the drought has been.

“I don’t look for things to improve for us this year,” he said.

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