Arkansas River is watching another summer boost from Fry-Ark – by Tara Flanagan

As Colorado’s fragile landscape cries out for rain amid a two-decade drought, water watchers have been watching the high peaks and wondering what this year’s runoff will be, and how much will sink. in the parched ground en route to his goal. waterway.

Last year, local rafting industry players said there was reason to be nervous going into 2022 if the drought in the West persisted.

As the Bureau of Reclamation made its declaration of historic shortage on the Colorado River on August 16, the internationally known waters flowing through Browns Canyon National Monument prompted a question: Would additional water discharges from the Fry-Ark System continue? to inflate these waves – and the economy linked to them – between July 1 and August 15, 2022?

The May 12 US Drought Monitor shows a parched landscape across much of the state. Image/US Drought Tracker

It looks like it will be for another season. According to Greg Felt, a Chaffee County commissioner who sits on numerous water boards statewide (including a governor’s appointment at the Colorado Water Conservation Board), the Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP) will provide again 10,000 acre-feet in Arkansas. .

Additionally, he says, the Pueblo Board of Water Works plans to send about 5,000 acre-feet into the river, and that doesn’t have to coincide with the VFMP.

Fry-Ark, or Fry Pan-Arkansas, is the trans-basin diversion system that drains from the Fryingpan River in Pitkin County and is released from Twin and Turquoise Lakes. Its origins lie on the increasingly stressed Colorado River. In total, Fry-Ark sends an average of 58,000 acre-feet per year, much of which is used in agriculture below Pueblo Reservoir.

Last year, the drought saw a break with rains over the Front Range as well as rains in and around Chaffee County which hinted at a monsoon pattern. “Don’t neglect the rain,” Felt says. “It does a lot for agriculture and we saw it last year.”

That said, he noted that “there is a pretty big question mark over what to expect this year in terms of snow and flow.”

Local irrigation ditches are in line for priority calling and many are already running. Those who operate ditches with junior rights continue to watch the peaks of dryness and water calls, hoping that there will be enough runoff for this season.

Currently, the US Drought Monitor isn’t reporting much good news. Comparing Colorado maps from April 12 and May 10, much of the state moved from moderate to severe drought, with Chaffee County remaining in mostly moderate drought, with stretches of severe drought across the south and southeast edges. Additionally, the state continues to have pockets of extreme and exceptional drought, with a new area of ​​extreme drought that has moved to the corners of Washington, Lincoln, Adams, Arapahoe, and Elbert counties.

Featured Image: The Arkansas River is an economic engine of the entire Arkansas River Valley. Photo by Tara Flanagan.

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