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.
In the Yampa River valley, this designation would primarily impact new residential wells located on lots less than 35 acres and wells used for purposes other than domestic uses.
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.
A nearly $1 million project is “trying to make a natural riffle” where in the past boaters had to navigate over falls created by a weir channeling water to a midvalley diversion ditch. Heavy equipment in and around the river near Willits Lane will see “grade control structures” and other enhancements create a safer passage that could open up that section of water to more recreational use.
But while many have heralded the Windy Gap Firming Project as the beginning of a new era of cooperation in water management, not everyone agrees that mitigating environmental damage to the river is enough.
Denver Water may offer lessons useful to water managers, who will be dealing with impacts from the East Troublesome Fire for years, perhaps decades.