The Fryingpan River is widely known for its gold-medal trout fishery and stunning scenic beauty. Ruedi Reservoir impounds the Fryingpan River 15 miles upstream of Basalt. Water releases out of Ruedi Reservoir support a renowned trout fishery, hydropower generation for the City of Aspen, and water supply for downstream municipalities and agricultural water users. Constraints on water availability and the timing of inflows to the reservoir make it difficult to manage releases to optimally support each downstream use at all times of the year. This is particularly true in dry years.
In times of water scarcity, water stored in Ruedi Reservoir is primarily used to deliver water for irrigated agriculture and habitat requirements for Threatened & Endangered fish species on the Colorado River near Grand Junction. In these years, modification of the Fryingpan River’s hydrological regime can be significant.
Reservoir operations in the summer of 2018 highlighted the need for a more strategic approach to managing releases from Ruedi Reservoir. Recent dialog between RFC, Ruedi Water and Power Authority (RWAPA), City of Aspen (Aspen), Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Colorado River Water Conservation District (River District), and the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) resulted in a commitment from all parties to participate in ongoing cooperative dialog about optimization of water releases to support multiple uses. RFC required assistance characterizing optimal water management approaches for supporting aquatic life across seasons and different hydrological year types.
The decision support tool aims to encourage dialog between RFC, RWAPA, Aspen, CWCB, the River District, and USBR in a way to produce a more informed water management decisionmaking process on the Fryingpan River across year types and into an uncertain future where climate change-induced alteration of regional hydrology may necessitate new operational strategies and release schedules for Ruedi Reservoir.
The tools created by Lotic Hydrological will help ensure that RFC is well-positioned to advocate for river health needs on the Fryingpan River.
From the report issued July 2020 by Lotic Hydrological.