From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance. They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.
In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them. The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.
Here is lesson two from Grand Junction, Colorado:
Sweet Success From a Salty Situation: Colorado River salinity control and water flow restoration
Thanks to federal funding, innovative water managers and organizations like The Nature Conservancy, both endangered fish and local farmers benefit in Colorado’s Grand Valley surrounding the city of Grand Junction.
Cities as far away as Los Angeles and farmers as far downstream as Yuma, Arizona, also benefit from salinity control in the Grand Valley made possible by federal grants coordinated with major state, power user, and irrigator cost sharing.
How did it happen?
As part of a comprehensive program to control the loading of more than half a million tons of salt every year into the Colorado River from irrigation in the Grand Valley, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineers began lining sections of the 100-year old Government Highline Canal in the 1980s. The Highline Canal can divert over 1600 cubic feet of water per second from the Colorado River northeast of Grand Junction, and feeds several other irrigation systems in the Grand Valley on both sides of the river, including the Orchard Mesa Canal. Many farmers, meantime, took advantage of Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding to make on-farm irrigation improvements (such as installing pipes between the canal and farms) to control salinity loading.
It didn’t take long for all this cooperative salinity control to make irrigating in the valley much more efficient. But the combined diversions by the Government Highline Canal
and the Grand Valley Irrigation Company further downstream sometimes still de-watered a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River that is critical habitat for two endangered fish species – the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.
Working with the Bureau of Reclamation, supportive water users and numerous other partners in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, The Nature Conservancy secured even more improvements in the efficiency of the Highline Canal. With these water savings, the Highline Canal reduced its river diversions and stored the saved water upstream, restoring flows in the river—all without reducing farm deliveries.
These most recent improvements to the Highline Canal funded by the Bureau of Reclamation through the endangered fish program include state-of-the-art computerized monitoring equipment and check dams within the main canal. Before, the Government Highline Canal often carried up to 650 cubic feet per second. Now the canal can run at a rate of about 150 cubic feet per second late in the irrigation season.
Today the long-term effort to keep salt out of the Colorado River runs parallel to the effort to restore the flow of water for endangered fish recovery—as water efficiency improvements near completion.