Water is being delivered to the town of Dove Creek this week to prevent a municipal supply shortage caused by the drought.
The normal timing for water delivery from McPhee Reservoir to the town’s municipal storage and treatment plant was disrupted this year for the first time.
A 90% water shortage driven by a below-average snowpack caused the Dove Creek Canal to dry up in July instead of in October, when it normally tops off the town’s municipal reservoir.
Without the solution, the town would run out of water in February, said Chadd Dagan, manager of the Dove Creek Public Works Department.
To fulfill the town’s water rights in McPhee, the Bureau of Reclamation and Dolores Water Conservancy District arranged to deliver 40 acre-feet of water down the canal to fill the town’s municipal reservoir.
Slightly more was sent down to create sufficient flow along the 39-mile canal route. Managers anticipate some water seepage into the canal’s earthen base and from evaporation. The delivery is unique, said DWCD General Manager Ken Curtis, because the canal is designed to run at a higher flow rate.
“This is a first for us. The water is on its way,” he said.
Dagan said the water delivery will provide sufficient supply through spring and into summer. When the canal runs again in May, town storage will be refilled.
Dove Creek is working on solutions to prevent the water shortage from occurring again.
Public Works plans to build a second 95 acre-foot reservoir to store the full 280 acre-foot allocation all at once and earlier in the season. Both reservoirs would provide an estimated two-year supply. Also, the town is is working with Montezuma Water Co. to provide an additional water source if needed.
“We’re putting in place redundancies,” Dagan said.
Besides rights in McPhee Reservoir, Dove Creek also has rights on the Dolores River, but the water is in a deep canyon and must be piped for many miles to reach town.
The Dove Creek pumping station along the river has remained idle for many years, Dagan said, and needs repairs to operate again. The town plans to investigate potential grant funding to address the issue.
The town prefers to receive its water allocation using the more accessible Dove Creek canal.
The operating costs for the canal delivery is more affordable then the energy costs and maintenance needed to pump the water up from the river, Dagan said.