Reservoir Operations

The operation of Painted Rocks Reservoir involves three main parties: DNRC, the Painted Rocks Water Users Association (PRWUA), and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). Painted Rocks Reservoir stores approximately 32,362 acre-ft (ac-ft) of water, with 25,000 ac-ft markPainted-Rocks-2.jpgeted to the FWP and PRWUA. In addition, the Bitterroot River Water Commissioner manages the river to insure the apportionment and diversion of decree and contract waters.

DNRC owns the dam and the reservoir area. It is DNRC’s responsibility to insure that the reservoir is filled and operated safely and that water is available for delivery to the contract holders when it is called for.

The shares marketed to the PRWUA (10,000 ac-ft or 2/5th) is primarily used for agricultural purposes. This water can only be released when called for by the PRWUA. If you have any questions regarding the releases of contract irrigation water, please contact the PRWUA.
The shares marketed to FWP (15,000 ac-ft or 3/5ths) are used for in-stream flows. This water is released when called for by the FWP. If you have questions regarding the releases of contract fisheries water, please contact the FWP. The local FWP contact in the Bitterroot Valley is Chris Clancy (406-363-7169).

Date Last Updated:


Reservoir Elevation (FT_MSL)


Current Storage (ac-ft)


Inflows to Painted Rocks

Stream Name


Flow Rate (cfs)

Blue Joint Creek



West Fork Bitterroot River



Overwich Creek



Slate Stage



Little Boulder Creek



Total Inflow


50 cfs

Outflows from Painted Rocks Reservoir

USGS Gauge (ft)


Outflow before gate adjustment (cfs)


Outflow after gate adjustment (cfs)       


Water Contracts


Current Flow

Previous Flow Rate

Volume Delivered to Date

Volume Remaining

Days Remaining at Current Flow

Irrigation   Contracts







In-Stream Fisheries   Contracts









The outflows from the reservoir will be reduced to match the inflows later this week on either Thursday or Friday.

The annual safety inspection of the dam will be conducted on Monday, 10/24 and it will require us to temporarily stop all outflows from the dam for approximately 1 hour so the outlet tube can be inspected.

In preparation for the shutdown, the outflows will be reduced to approximately 25-30 cfs on Sunday in order to allow the fish to temporarily move downstream and into deeper pools.

After the outlet tube has been inspected the outflows will be adjusted to match the inflows.

While there may be additional minor gate adjustments made over the next few months to maintain the outflows=inflows status, the gate adjustments associated with the inspection will be our last major adjustments until early spring.


At this time I want to remind everyone how Painted Rocks Reservoir is managed, who the primary stakeholders are, and how water releases are determined.  

  1. Painted Rocks Reservoir and Dam is a State Of Montana water storage facility. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) regulates the reservoir thru the Water Resources Division’s State Water Projects Bureau. The DNRC ensures that the reservoir is filled in a timely fashion and kept full until water is requested by the contract holders. The water within the reservoir has been sold under a contract to two principal entities: the MT Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and the Painted Rocks Water Users Association (PRWUA). The DNRC is charged with filling the reservoir and managing it in such a manner as to be able to fulfill the contractual requirement to release the stored water when requested by the contract holders. The DNRC does not determine when contract water is delivered. Whenever possible, gate adjustments will be made mid-week, and releases will generally be made in 50-75 cfs increments. Contract deliveries are dependent upon weather and river conditions.

  1. Decisions regarding the timing and size of the contract water releases are made by the contract holders in consultation with the Ravalli County District Court appointed Bitterroot River Water Commissioner. If questions arise regarding the timing or quantities of the releases of contract waters from the reservoir, they should be directed at the individuals listed below:

    a. Fisheries Contract Water: Jason Lindstrom, FWP, 363-7169,

    b. Irrigation Contract Water:  Roger Raynal, PRWUA Vice President, 369-1730,

    c. Bitterroot River Water Commissioner:  JR Iman, 360-8686

If you are interested, here are the online gages for Blue Joint Creek
( ) and the West Fork of the Bitterroot above the dam
( )

Painted Rocks Dam outflow information
The USGS gage link information for the gage immediately below the dam:  This site has flows that are recorded/displayed every 15 minutes and can be assessed by anyone at any time. Therefore it will give you the most up to date outflow information available for Painted Rocks Dam.