November 12, 2011--Water for everyone (Cortez Journal)

An undertaking of unprecedented proportions in Montezuma County, the Dolores Project was built to capture the anemic loss of spring snow melt and store the lifeblood of most communities and farms in Montezuma and Dolores counties. Although the $500 million project is still being paid off by water users and taxpayers, it forever changed the landscape, lifestyle and economy of the area. According to information from the Dolores Water Conservancy District, an average of 351,000 acre feet of water flows into the McPhee Reservoir annually. Not including spring spillover, an average of 31,798 acre feet of water is released down the Lower Dolores River. With a storage capacity of 381,000 acre feet of water, the project essentially doubled the amount of irrigated land in the area and extended the irrigation season for most farmers by nearly three months to mid October — allowing farmers to produce substantially more. With current crop values, Mike Preston, DWCD general manager, estimates Dolores Project lands will generate $20 million in income for the area this year. The project also provided a combined 8,700 acre feet of drinking and industrial water for the communities of Cortez, Towaoc and Dove Creek. Based on projected population growth, these communities will have enough water for the next 100 years, Preston said.

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