Winter 2022-2023 Newsletter


Sonja Chavez, General Manager


I’m happy to report that  it’s still snowing this year as I turned the calendar to another week in February!  In fact, as of mid-February, our snowpack in the Upper Gunnison River Basin is averaging just over 120 percent of normal for this time of year.  If you’ll recall last year, during the last two weeks of December 2021, the Upper Gunnison Basin received over 100 inches of snow in much of the mountains! And then, sadly, it just stopped, and the 2022 snowpack melted fast with warm spring weather and dust on snow events.  If the long-term weather forecast is correct for 2023, it looks like we have some pretty good chances for more snow pretty regularly into April.  Wouldn’t that be a nice change!

A good snowpack will benefit our basin and help Blue Mesa Reservoir.  Right now, the Bureau of Reclamation is predicting Blue Mesa Reservoir will fill to 71 percent at its peak in 2023 and finish the year at 55 percent of capacity, nearly double of year-end 2022.  Three weeks of snow storms in California, specifically in the Sierra Nevada Mountains which provide 1/3 of the overall water supply for the state, have helped ease drought conditions  Unfortunately, Lake Powell and Lake Mead have not been the benefactors of most of that.

When we talk about climate change and water shortages, it is easy to be overcome by a sense of hopelessness.  I am here to tell you that there are many reasons for hope as you will read in this newsletter.  The Board Member Profile on Rosemary Carroll highlights the significant research on hydrology being conducted in our basin. The article about the District grant program, where we are poised to award up to $300,000 on water projects that help improve efficiency, resiliency, and water quality provides something to get excited about.  And as Director Carroll notes in her comments, it is going to take EVERYONE getting involved on some level, whether that be by practicing or improving on your own water conservation, getting involved in critical water initiatives within our county, state and country, or volunteering with our District’s Wet Meadows program to carry out restoration projects.  Most importantly, it is crucial that everyone keeps abreast of the latest policy changes and legislation and educates themselves on the science behind our watershed and climate change and what current data is fueling the need for change. 

Part of the District’s mission is to be a leader in acquiring and assimilating the latest data to share both with our Board of Directors and stakeholders.  One way we do this is through financial support of research being carried out by partners. Another is by commissioning or leading studies of specific importance to our constituents or that help with our water management.  As an example, because there are so many concerns about wildfires and their effect on watershed health and public safety, the District elected to fund an assessment conducted by J W Associates, Inc. titled “Wildfire Watershed Hazard Assessment” and an accompanying document titled “Zones of Concern.”  This assessment was conducted right here in the Upper Gunnison Basin and provides a wealth of data already being accessed and utilized by a wide variety of government entities, in the basin.  We encourage you to read the reports in full.  You can access via our website homepage at  In addition, you can find a lot of information about our watershed by reading other articles on the website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Pivoting to state news, on January 23, 2023, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB)  finalized the 2023 Colorado Water Plan. The Water Plan provides a comprehensive framework to guide collaborative action from water partners, agencies, and Coloradans. From securing supplies that provide safe drinking water to improving farm irrigation to rehabilitating streams, this new version includes key actions to contribute to a stronger, more water-resilient Colorado. Colorado Governor Jared Polis advocated for approval of $17 million this year to kick-start local-level implementation of the Water Plan and is proposing $25.2 million in the 2023-24 budget for grants, which support statewide water projects.  The District will be assisting a variety of partners in acquiring these grant funds.  (For more on the 2023 Colorado Water Plan, please use this link:

Finally, I am sure you have seen in the news recently that the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) called on the seven states that use water from the Colorado River and its tributaries to conserve two to four million acre-feet of water to protect levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.  So far, it has been challenging to get the seven states to come to a consensus on how best to meet BOR’s call.  However, it should give everyone comfort that the Upper Gunnison District’s General Counsel, John McClow, is actively involved in these discussions and will ensure that the interests of our state and our Upper Gunnison basin constituents are considered.  As those working on this effort come up with a plan, you will begin to hear more about system water conservation and demand management pilot programs.  On March 7, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fred Field Center, the Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance will be hosting a meeting to discuss ag water issues, including projects in the basin to improve infrastructure and irrigation efficiency; switching forage types or breaking up the sod layer for better production; and, managing nutrients to improve production and water quality.  Anyone interested in attending should registering here:

In closing, our door is always open and our staff is here to help. We encourage all our District constituents to be a part of the conversation. Your input helps to shape water policy that’s actively being developed throughout our state. Our job is to listen and to make sure that your voices and input are heard.  Stop by the office, come to a board meeting, or make recommendations for water topics you’d like to learn more about.  If there is more your Upper Gunnison District can be doing for you, please feel free to provide us with your suggestions or if you’d like to speak to a staff member or board member about a water issue, we can be reached at or 641-6065.

2023 District Grant Program Update

2023 District Grant Program Update

The District is busy reviewing grant applications for its 2023 Grant Program and anticipates announcing the individuals and organizations who will receive grant funding after the March 27, 2023 UGRWCD Board of Directors meeting at 5:30 p.m.

This cycle, a total of 19 grant applications were submitted requesting $371,113 in funding.  The UGRWCD 2023 budget includes a Grant Program funding line item of $300,000.  The total project costs for the 19 applications received is $4,956,429 (including the matching funds required by the District Grant program.)  If all applications were to be funded in full, this would leverage every UGRWCD Grant Program dollar with outside funding or in-kind services at a ratio of 1:12.

For the first time this year, the grant application process included the requirement that individuals and organizations considering a funding request, contact the District to visit with staff about their proposed projects including any requests for pre-feasibility engineering.  This opportunity was important not only for staff but also for the applicant. The applicant is able to explain their project and ask questions and the District staff leave with a very clear understanding of the applicants water resource issues and project goals. 

“We are very pleased to have received such a great number of applications for very worthy projects,” said Beverly Richards, water resource specialist for the District. “As this program continues to grow, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is for those considering submitting a grant application to contact the District to discuss their project and determine if pre-feasibility engineering might be of help.  Even though we are still completing this year’s grant funding cycle, it’s never too early to start planning your project. The District has an engineer on call to help with pre-feasibility planning and cost estimation.”

For more information, contact the District at 970-641-6065 or visit the website link:

Update on Drought and Snow Conditions

Update on 2023 Drought and Snow Conditions

For the first time since early in 2019, a large portion of the Upper Gunnison River Basin is experiencing no drought conditions whatsoever, particularly in Gunnison and Saguache counties, which are currently 74 and 85 percent of the basin area respectively.  This is a huge improvement from this same period in 2022 where these same areas were still experiencing the full range of drought conditions from abnormally dry to exceptional drought.  The turnaround in these conditions was due in part to the monsoon rains the basin received in June, July and August 2022, which benefitted a good portion of western Colorado, as well as continued precipitation for December 2022 and January 2023. Even with this recent precipitation, water supply conditions within the basin remain low with streamflows throughout the water year below the historical average.  Reservoir storage in the Upper Gunnison Basin currently stands at 41percent of full and the current snowpack is at 120 percent of normal. In 2022 conditions in the spring led to continued stress on the water supply due to low or no precipitation, severe wind events, and considerable dust on snow events.  For 2023, the seasonal predictions for February, March and April state that there a 33 to 40 percent chance that precipitation will be below normal for the time period although the long-range weather forecast for March and April show several opportunities for more snow.  Thankfully, due to precipitation received over the past several months in the Upper Gunnison Basin, soil moisture should not be a factor in reduced snow runoff.

Gunnison River Festival Announces Preliminary Schedule


In 2023, the Gunnison River Festival will be underwriting river recreational events happening all across the Gunnison Valley through community partners.

This schedule is just a start! Check back at on how you can “Celebrate our Rivers” as the schedule is updated with newly sponsored events:

  • April 22nd – Kick off with River Clean Up hosted by the City of Gunnison and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
  • April 27th –Fly Fishing Film Festival hosted by the Gunnison Angling Society
  • May 19th – 4th Grade Water Festival hosted by the Gunnison Conservation District
  • June 9th – Taylor River Race hosted by the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
  • June 10th – What’SUP on the Slate hosted by the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
  • July 1st – Sunni Gunni Costume Float & River Celebration hosted by the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District
  • July 14th & 15th – Caddis Cup hosted by the Crested Butte Land Trust

A full schedule of programming will be released this Spring. Expect to see lots of rafting, kayaking, SUPing, river surfing and educational clinics throughout our watershed in 2023.

Another focus of the Gunnison River Festival this year is to “Be A River Hero” which means being smart about the river, and choosing to practice river safety, responsible river stewardship and respectful etiquette. Being a River Hero means that everyone gets to enjoy the river both today and tomorrow.

If you have questions about an event or project this spring or summer that might fall under the Gunnison River Festival umbrella or if you would like to volunteer, please contact the Gunnison River Festival Executive Director Cheryl Cwelich at 970-641-6065.

Rosemary Carroll UGRWCD Board Member Profile

Rosemary Carroll – Board Profile

Rosemary Carroll was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in August 2016 representing Division 5, Crested Butte. Her current term expires in June 2023. Rosemary is a Research Professor in the Desert Research Institute’s (DRI) Division of Hydrologic Sciences. She has been a member of the DRI community since 2000 when she was hired as a research hydrologist. Rosemary earned her Master’s and Ph.D. in hydrology at the University of Nevada, Reno. After completing her Master’s degree and joining DRI, Rosemary has primarily worked on surface water and groundwater modeling projects.  Dr. Carroll lives in Mt. Crested Butte and conducts research within the Upper Gunnison watershed from Paradise Divide all the way down to Almont.

Rosemary grew up in Vermont, and during and after college lived as a self-proclaimed “river rat and ski bum” in California.  She met her future husband and Gunnison native, Torrey Carroll, while working as a raft guide in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and moved to Crested Butte in 1990-96. Shortly after moving to the Gunnison Valley, Carroll went back to school at Western Colorado University to build on her undergraduate Physics degree to become a science teacher and found herself taking as many geology classes as she could.  When her professor asked Rosemary what she really loved to do, she answered “study water systems” which eventually led her to study hydrology at the University of Nevada-Reno.  She moved back to Crested Butte in 2006 to raise her children and be closer to family. She found she was in the right place at the right time as the East River near Crested Butte became the hydrology mecca for scientists from around the country. Specifically, Rosemary’s research is part of the Department of Energy funded program through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) that includes collaboration with over 150 scientists and coordination with multiple federal, state and local stakeholder groups.

Rosemary says that the Upper Gunnison watershed serves as a representative watershed for the Upper Colorado River Basin . “The research data and hydrologic modeling that we do in the East River is important to understanding local hydrological dynamics, but it also is broadly representative of many mountain systems in the west and can help the water community understand how water travels down from mountain headwaters to the streams and reservoirs below,” said Rosemary.  “Hopefully, water managers can utilize this data and modeling to better predict streamflow amount and quantity and make decisions to manage and conserve the water during dry periods.”  

“The Colorado River receives nearly 90 percent of its water from the snow-fed mountains of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah,” said Carroll. “And, one-sixth of the world’s population receives its water from mountain watersheds, so it is crucial that we better understand mountain systems and work to conserve and protect them.”

“I really enjoy being on the Board (UGRWCD) and have learned so much from interactions with other Board members,” said Rosemary.  “We are a very diverse group of individuals with different points of view, yet we are able to have kind, respectful discussions about our different opinions and  can reach a consensus on decisions.  Ultimately, we all want to see our river system benefit water users of all types and be protected and conserved for future use.”

Rosemary noted that during her tenure on the Board, she is most proud of the growth she has seen in the District’s grant programming.  “It gives me great joy to be able to award $300,000 for a wide variety of water projects including everything from improving irrigation, to a native plant xeriscaping to a potable water loss study,” said Rosemary.  “I love that the grant program can be a benefit to a small rancher, or a nonprofit group or even a municipality.”

Rosemary also feels that the Watershed Management Program, under the UGRWCD’s umbrella, is a “cutting edge” program where the District has been a leader in the state on collaborating with the science community for more effective watershed management.  In addition, she feels stakeholder’s have provided the scientific community insight into watershed management concerns and offered guidance on what questions scientists should ask.

Rosemary said that although climate change and growing population and development along watershed can seem daunting, she does believe that together scientists and stakeholders can come up with solutions to manage concerns well into the future.

UGRWCD General Manager Sonja Chavez said Rosemary has been such a huge asset to the District Board, especially when it comes to making that connection between science and the development of water management tools. “The information Rosemary brings to each Board meeting about water resource research going on in our basin and throughout the west has been invaluable to the District,” said Sonja. “Not only has she been a huge help in explaining and simplifying data, but she has also provides a tremendous connection between the District and the scientific community.  It is truly rare and we are so fortunate to have a Board member with such extensive knowledge and background in helping us meet the District’s mission.”

In her limited free time, Rosemary cherishes being outdoors on a long run through the wilderness, or hiking up a peak or skiing down a slope.  She also enjoys spending time with her husband and also her two sons when they are home from college.  Rosemary said, “I feel so blessed to live in this paradise and be able to work through my career and the District Board to preserve it!”