Ouray Hydrodam Sediment Release Study

The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (UWP) is studying the impacts of the annual sediment releases from the Ouray Hydrodam reservoir, with funding assistance from Ouray County, Town of Ridgway, Telluride Foundation, and Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety. This multi-year study aims to gather data to help the community understand whether the sediment release, which usually happens each spring, has water quality impacts on the Uncompahgre River.

UWP completed its first report for the Ouray Hydrodam Sediment Release Study, detailing the water quality impacts of the annual release into the Uncompahgre River in November 2017. Due to the release’s increased flows and concentrations of heavy metals compared to pre-release flows in the river, the study compares metals concentrations to water quality standards for various beneficial uses of water. Additionally, the study can help determine if there are any substantial environmental or public health issues created by the release.

UWP conducted the initial Ouray Hydrodam sediment release study in March 2017, during an early snowmelt period where flows were substantially higher than typical for March. Observations from this study are specific to this year’s event and additional study should occur to improve certainty. Here are links to: the announcement about study results and the full Study Report.

Follow-up study required for better understanding: UWP is coordinating with local stakeholders to design a follow-up study. The sampling for 2018 was cancelled due to low river flows that caused the sediment release to be cancelled in the spring. The 2019 sampling is expected to take place in March or April, with results to be analyzed and a report released by the end of the year.