Aspinall Working Group

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Purpose and Participation

The Aspinall Unit Working Group is an open public forum for information exchange between Reclamation and the stakeholders of the Aspinall Unit. The public is encouraged to attend and provide comments on the operations and plans presented by Reclamation at these meetings. Input is used in Reclamation's development of specific operational plans for the Aspinal Unit and for the overall 24-Month Study ( are scheduled three times annually (January, April, August). Meeting locations vary to encourage participation of stakeholders in various locations throughout the Gunnison basin. Meeting notes from past working Group meetings are posted here on this webpage. For more information on this group and these meetings please contact Erik Knight in the Grand Junction Area Office at (970) 248-0629. 

The next meeting of the Aspinall Unit Working Group will be held on Thursday April 20th at 1:00 pm. 

Information regarding the most recent Working Group Meeting (January 19th, 2023 1:00 PM)

Meeting was held virtually over WebEx. Handouts are available for review and can be found at the bottom of this page and also within the Archive on the 2023 tab. 

Handouts provided included data on runoff forecasts and actual inflows, spring and summer operations; and past/future weather conditions for the 2023 water year. A Record of Decision for the Aspinall Unit Operations Environmental Impact Statement was signed on May 3, 2012. The EIS modified the operational objectives of the Aspinall Unit to provide sufficient releases of water at times, quantities, and durations necessary to avoid jeopardy to endangered fish species and adverse modification of their designated critical habitat while maintaining and continuing to meet authorized purposes of the Aspinall Unit. In addition, the water right for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has been quantified and adjudicated.


Meeting Notes

Water Supply Outlook – Ashley Nielson (CBRFC)

Precipitation in the Upper Gunnison Basin was well above average in December and continued into early January. Drought conditions have gone from extreme to almost non-existent in the Gunnison Basin. Soil moisture conditions are near to below normal over the Gunnison River Basin. Soil moisture deficits still exist. Conditions are similar to last fall with the exception of a few headwater basins that have improved conditions and some southern basins that have worse conditions than last year.  

Snowpack upstream from Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently at 140% of normal. The current runoff forecast predicts inflows to be 95% of average. Other stream sites within the Gunnison Basin range between 90% and 110% for predicted runoff. It is expected there will be some significant increases with the mid-month forecast. 

An active weather pattern is expected to continue into next week with another storm possible early next week. Temperatures are expected to remain colder than normal. 

Aspinall Unit Operations – Erik Knight (USBR)

Current Conditions:  Blue Mesa Reservoir finished 2022 at an elevation of 7446.5 ft, which is 44 feet below the winter target of 7490 ft. Current content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 293,000 AF which is 35% full. Releases at Crystal Dam are 350 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are 350 cfs. Flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage are estimated to be above the baseflow target of 750 cfs. (current readings at the Whitewater gage are ice-affected) 

Spring Flow Targets:  Current runoff forecasts for major streams within the Gunnison Basin range between 90% and 110% of average. The runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir would put this year into the Average Dry category. In the Average Dry category the ROD peak target would be 8,070 cfs. In an Average Dry year there are 10 days of duration at the half bankfull flow of 8,070 cfs. This essentially makes the peak at the Whitewater gage a 10 day peak. The Black Canyon water right 1 day peak flow target would be 3,720 cfs if the May 1 forecast is the same as the January 1 forecast. The shoulder flow target would be 420 cfs for the period from May 1 to July 25. 

Future Operations:  After the spring peak, operations at Aspinall will continue to meet the baseflow targets at the Whitewater gage. In the Average Dry category these targets range between 1050 cfs and 1500 cfs from spring into winter. Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to a maximum content of 557,000 AF (67% full). 

No decisions have been made yet regarding Drought Response Operations Plan releases. Meetings and discussions are ongoing regarding any potential future releases, accounting and recovery. There should be more information by the April meeting.