Steve Anderson of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association walks through the Gunnison Tunnel to inspect its condition following the 2021 agricultural season.

a portfolio from the upper Colorado River basin

Most of everything in this gallery is unpublished

Throughout the years, I've been tracking and documenting the changes in water storage, management, and movement of water and water policy in Western Colorado and beyond. Along the way, I've made strides in building relationships with everyone from water managers to farmers, recreationists to hydrologists, and users of every kind to maintain a clear picture of ongoing challenges.

storage & management

Water levels in the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado's largest body of water, have fallen drastically over the past couple of years. In 2021 the reservoir was used to move water downstream on the Colorado River to help fill Lakes Powell and Mead. The present levels at Blue Mesa are the lowest since the reservoir was created in 1966.

Most of the infrastructure built to move divert and deliver water for various uses from agriculture to public drinking water are decades, sometimes a century old.

Water falls from a spillway over the Crystal Dam on the Gunnison River part of the Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit.

Water falls Marrow Point dam to the Gunnison River in 2019. This is last time water was so plentiful that releases were needed.

The Ridgway Reservoir August 2019, left, August 2020, right.

Winter snowpack in the Rocky Mountains serves as the west's first high altitude water storage.

By later summer, water demands use most of what winter produces.

One of the many creek beds that feed Blue Mesa reservoir.

As water recedes from the reservoirs, new landscapes begin to appear.

Water managers with the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association inspect the 5.8-mile-long Gunnison Tunnel to inspect its condition. The tunnel runs through the earth connecting the Gunnison River to the farmlands of the Uncompahgre Valley.

The confluence of the Colorado River, left, and the Gunnison River in Grand Junction Colorado is the last great merging of rivers before the Colorado River leaves the state.

users & recreationists

Fourth generation Loma rancher Bryon Bernal irrigates a field with the help of his dog with water from the Colorado River near Loma Colo. The Bernal family has maintained rights to the water since the 1890s.

A farmer floods a grazing pasture in Montrose Colorado.