The rolling waters of Fish Creek have returned to normal levels for this time of year after several days of low flow. Officials released water from Fish Creek Reservoir after levels dropped the past few days.

Photo by John F. Russell

The rolling waters of Fish Creek have returned to normal levels for this time of year after several days of low flow. Officials released water from Fish Creek Reservoir after levels dropped the past few days.

Fish Creek flows return to normal levels in Steamboat Springs

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct why more water had to be treated by the Fish Creek treatment plant.

Streamflows have returned to normal levels on Fish Creek through Steamboat Springs with the release of additional water from Fish Creek Reservoir.

Some residents noticed during the weekend and into the first part of the week that the flow along the creek had been reduced to almost a trickle. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, flows dropped to nearly 1 cubic foot per second at times. This caused some concern from residents.

Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Jay Gallagher said there was no reason for alarm, and adjustments have been made to increase the flow to keep the fish alive and the habitat healthy.

Upstream is the water filtration plant operated by Mount Werner Water.

Gallagher said the drop in flows below the plant was caused by less water coming into the distribution system from well fields along the Yampa River. The well fields account for about 20 percent of the water put into the distribution system, and computer software issues led to less water being delivered.

That meant more water had to be treated at the Fish Creek plant, where about 5 cfs of water is typically taken from the creek.

Gallagher said Wednesday that to increase streamflows, valves at the reservoir had been opened more to make up for the water not coming from the wells.

Gallagher said that to protect the Fish Creek habitat, Mount Werner Water tries to keep streamflows below the plant between 7 and 9 cfs. On Wednesday evening, the flow was 9 cfs.

With ongoing drought conditions, local officials continue to closely monitor water usage. Last year, water restrictions went into effect in July. This year, with below-normal moisture in the long-term forecast and below-normal snowpack, water restrictions were enacted beginning May 1 by the four districts that supply water to the Steamboat area.

Mount Werner Water supplies water to the mountain area. Gallagher said water restrictions decreased usage by 20 percent for June.

“That’s pretty good,” Gallagher said.

On “No Water Wednesdays,” when no outdoor watering is allowed, water usage has been down between 35 to 50 percent, Gallagher said.

Gallagher said compliance has been good by Mount Werner Water customers because much of the irrigation of properties at the mountain area is handled by property managers as opposed to residents. Property managers tend to be more dialed into the water restriction rules, Gallagher said.

The City of Steamboat Springs Water District, which supplies water to the rest of the city, has seen usage decrease by about 11 percent. Usage has dropped by as much as 35 percent on “No Water Wednesdays.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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