The quota for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the region’s largest water-supply project, was set at 60 percent.
The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s board of directors made the decision Friday morning, “citing the need to balance the region’s water demands with the importance of maintaining future reservoir supplies,” according to a news release from the district.
The approval increased available C-BT water supplies by 31,000 acre feet (about 10 billion gallons), from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November.
A 60 percent quota means that for every acre foot of water a C-BT shareholder owns, they’ll get 60 percent of an acre-foot to use throughout the year. An acre foot amounts to about 325,850 gallons.
Since the C-BT Project went into use in 1957, the Northern Water board has set a C-BT quota every April to balance how much water can be used through the upcoming growing season and how much water needed to stay in storage for future years.
In nearly all years, the board can set a quota of 100 percent, although it rarely does, and still have some in storage for the next year.
The average quota is about 70 percent.
The good water outlook right now contributed to the Northern Water board setting its lower-than-normal quota today (the C-BT was built to serve as a supplemental water supply, with high quotas usually set in dry years, Northern Water officials said).
Snowpack in watersheds contributing to C-BT inflow is significantly above average for this time of year — at 134 percent in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and 147 percent in South Platte River tributaries. Also, C-BT reservoir levels are at 100 percent of average, and local storage is at 129 percent of average, both in good shape as the runoff season begins.
During a Wednesday meeting between C-BT shareholders and Northern Water officials, most shareholders who made quota requests asked for it to be set at 70 percent.
However, Northern Water board members, according to the news release, said that with the good water outlook, they’re putting a high priority on storing supplies for the future.
“Adding back to the bank account is wise,” said Dennis Yanchunas, the Boulder County director on the Northern Water board.
The Northern Water news release added, though, that board members made it clear they will revisit the quota as the year progresses should conditions warrant.
The C-BT Project collects water on the West Slope and delivers it to the East Slope through a 13-mile tunnel that runs underneath Rocky Mountain National Park.
It supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million acre service area, which encompasses portions of eight counties, 640,000 irrigated acres and a population of about 860,000 people.