Pitkin County’s goal was to get more water into the habitually stressed reach of the Roaring Fork that flows through Aspen during the summer and fall.
According to NRCS models, streamflow for the Roaring Fork River, measured at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, will be 70% of average.
Barr and proponents of the project say that with climate change increasing temperatures, which in turn increases the amount of water crops need, the future of growing food is indoors.
The approval allows Aurora and Colorado Springs, operating together as Homestake Partners, to drill 10 bore samples up to 150 feet deep and for crews on the ground to collect geophysical data.
Now that the Castle and Maroon valleys are out of the question, part of the IRP process is figuring out where the city should store the water granted by those conditional water rights.
Consultants also are working on finding a location to which to move Aspen’s conditional water-storage rights and determining whether the city needs storage at all.
The issue is twofold: With climate change, there is not enough water for the upper basin to develop new projects without the risk of a compact call; and if the past three decades are any indication, the upper basin is not on track to use more water in the future anyway.
Supporters of the designation on the Crystal want two main restrictions aimed at protecting the free-flowing nature of the river: no dams on the main stem and no diversions out of the basin. “If we don’t do something, there is a very real possibility of further water development in the Crystal River Valley,” Pitkin County Attorney John Ely told the Crystal River Caucus.
The state is concerned that ponds without water rights are using water through evaporation and harming senior water rights holders. In the over-appropriated Arkansas basin, one official believes that tens of thousands of acre feet could eventually be saved through stronger pond management.
But the decree, while granting Rangely-based Rio Blanco the amount of storage it was seeking, doesn’t allow the district all the water uses that it initially wanted.