FARMINGTON – The San Juan Water Commission said a test release last month from Lake Nighthorse was a success and provided information that will be useful in future releases.
The release started March 15 and was the first time there was an official release. One of the members of the council, Jim Dunlap, threw the switch for the release.
The water commission requested the release on behalf of seven members, including Farmington, Aztec, Southside, Flora Vista, North Star, Lower Valley and Upper La Plata. A total of 410 acre-feet were released.
The commission measured the distance and travel time from the Ridges Basin Dam to some of the locations downstream that have a measuring station. It took eight hours for the water to reach the Animas River, 14 hours to Cedar Hill at the New Mexico line and 30 hours to reach the Farmington station. Forty-four cubic feet of water per second was released from the reservoir with 41 cfs of that making it to the Animas River.
Jimmy Hodges, a member of the commission, said during the April 7 meeting that the travel time also “depends on how much water is in the river to begin with.” Hodges said the day of the release was a record low for the Animas, so it was the “perfect time” to make the release.
“I think by testing this, we’ve got a great outlook on what happens,” said Steve Lanier, chairman of the San Juan Water Commission.
“Hopefully, we never have to use it in that way, but I think we’ve got a very good idea now exactly what happens (during a release).”
Ashley Nielson, a hydrologist at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, which is a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the center’s forecast area includes the Colorado River Basin above and below Lake Powell and the Eastern Great Basin in Utah. Nielson said the center offers programs such as flood and daily river forecasts as well as water supply forecasts.
“Conditions have been a bit better in the eastern headwater portion of the basin than they have in the Animas,” Nielson said.
Because of the continuing drought, soil moisture is low, and Nielson said the precipitation outlook for the San Juan Basin is below normal and temperatures are above normal.