The Colorado River is getting relief from the recent drought conditions thanks to a partnership of water donations by a business, local government working in coordination with federal agencies to help the environment and fish populations. The plan to release additional water in the Ruedi Reservoir, located near Basalt, Colo., will boost streamflow and help relieve endangered fish near Grand Junction, Colo., who rely on the flow of the river.

XTO Energy coordinated with the Ute Water Conservancy District, the Town of Palisade, the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to donate 5,000 acre-feet of water the company holds the rights.  The water will be used for improving protecting fish populations that are vital to the health of the river and that support the recreation economy on the West Slope. The water contribution is equivalent to the amount used by 10,000 households on average for one year.

The Ute Water Conservancy District in Grand Junction, the Colorado River District, and the Town of Palisade also collectively donated an additional 3,685 acre-feet of Ruedi Reservoir water for the same purpose. That’s equivalent to the amount used by nearly 7,400 homes a year.

An acre-foot is enough water to cover approximately one football field that is one foot deep.

“In a time of critical water shortage, it was great to see XTO Energy and others step forward and offer a solution that benefits endangered fish and water users throughout the river basin who rely on the fish recovery program to continue utilizing water,” Jeff Rieker, Eastern Colorado Area Manager at the Bureau of Reclamation said in a press release.

The stronger water flow will benefit several endangered fish species – including the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail – and “help alleviate the impacts of ash and sediment washing into the Colorado River from burned areas recently scorched by West Slope wildfires.”

Dry and hot conditions had impacted the river upstream of Grand Junction, in turn impacting the ecosystem in the region.

“We are committed to protecting the environment and the well-being of communities where we operate. As we did in 2002 and 2018, we are donating water to the Recovery Program to help the State of Colorado, support local water users, and preserve these critical habitats,” XTO Energy’s Greg Russell said.

Rebecca Mitchell of the Colorado Water Conservation applauded the collaboration between the public and private sectors to help the environment.

Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Rebecca Mitchell added, “In Colorado, regardless of being a public or private entity, we all have in common an understanding of and passion for conserving our water for our state’s native fish and for present and future generations,” Mitchell said. “Especially during severe drought conditions, this effort at Ruedi Reservoir is an example of how Colorado businesses and individuals come together to make our state a better place for all.”