Augmentation versus conservation on the Crystal River
For years it’s been obvious to even the casual observer that the lower Crystal River has a water shortage in dry summers. Anyone who drives on Highway 133 past the section near the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fish hatchery can see this stretch of river is often de-watered in late summer. The 2016 Crystal River Management Plan outlines how the ecological conditions become more impaired as you move downstream, as more agricultural diversions take more water from the river.
In 2018 the situation grew urgent for residential water users when the Ella Ditch placed a call for the first time ever, threatening the water supply for some subdivisions. The River District is heading up an effort to address this domestic water shortage by creating a basin-wide back-up water supply, known as an augmentation plan. This week, we published a story, “River District looks for natural solutions to Crystal River water shortage,” looking at the preliminary results of this planning effort.
But water managers and Pitkin County officials are also beginning to question whether some agricultural water users really need all the water they are taking. A demand analysis found that the extra amount of flow that would need to be added to the Crystal River to make up for shortages is small: just .58 cubic feet per second in July, the peak replacement month. County commissioners wondered if conservation measures — specifically irrigators using less water — could make up that difference, instead of finding a new source of replacement water.
But getting irrigators to use less than what they are entitled to might be hard. River District General Manager Andy Mueller said some irrigators are getting legal advice that encourages them to be aggressive about using the entire amount in their water rights decree, even during a drought. Mueller said developing relationships with these water users will be key to any solution for the Crystal River shortage. Follow the link below to read our full story.
Also this week, our Tracking the Curve project showed an uptick in Pitkin County’s COVID-19 cases and our weekly data dashboard incorporated new features, including Aspen wastewater treatment plant flows and stream flow data for the most endangered stretch of the Roaring Fork River.
Finally, as you celebrate the holiday weekend, keep an eye out for Editor Curtis Wackerle’s latest piece for our Connie Harvey Environment Desk, set to run in Saturday’s Aspen Times, examining increasing overnight visitation in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, its troubling impacts and the latest on the Forest Service’s efforts to require permits for backpackers in the busiest sections of the iconic landscape.
— Heather Sackett, water desk editor
River District looks for natural solutions to Crystal River water shortage
By Heather Sackett | June 25, 2021
In order for these water users to keep taking water during a downstream call by an irrigator, they would have to replace about 113 acre-feet of water in the Crystal River per year.
Data dashboard: Wastewater flow rates track 2020’s unusual trends
By Laurine Lassalle | July 2, 2021
While 2020 overall posted the lowest flow levels at the Aspen wastewater treatment plant in 10 years, the fall months had the highest readings for any September-November stretch in that time.
Tracking the Curve
By Laurine Lassalle | July 2, 2021
COVID-19 case rates climbed this week in the three counties that make up the Roaring Fork Valley, as the Delta variant becomes more prevalent statewide.
The 25 counties with the longest life expectancy
Pitkin County is fourth in the nation on the annual list, with an average life expectancy of 93.4 years.
Source: usnews.com | Read more
Boebert out raises all candidates in CD3 race
“On Wednesday, Donovan reported collecting about $457,000 during the last three months, for a total of about $1.1 million since the start of the year. … That makes the Senate District 5 state senator, whose district includes Delta County, the leading Democratic fundraiser vying for her party’s nomination to run for the seat.”
Source: gjsentinel.com | Read more
Drought forces Grand Junction to dip into Colorado River for drinking water for the first time in more than 50 years
“Ute Water, the largest provider between Denver and Salt Lake City, says it must protect supplies in its 96%-full Jerry Creek reservoirs as long as possible given the dry conditions. All of the utility’s Grand Valley service area is in a state of exceptional or extreme drought.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
The Colorado River is shrinking. Hard choices lie ahead, this scientist warns
“The hard truth, according to long-term scenarios produced by Schmidt and his colleagues, is that some users will have to consume less water, and that policymakers will face agonizing choices sure to produce winners and losers.”
Source: sciencemag.org | Read more
Public lands in peril: As use soars, pressures mount on managing national forests, BLM lands
“A camper in the future is going to have to be as adept at booking a reservation for a site online as lighting a fire in damp conditions. At the popular North Fruita Desert mountain biking area, also known as 18 Road, the BLM plans to start utilizing the recreation.gov website to require reservations for campsites before the end of this year.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
Aspen U’s post-pandemic return spotlights inclusivity, diversity
“‘Admittedly so, I said, “I don’t just want to check off the diversity box” … because now Black Lives Matter is in the forefront and something that can be performative by a lot of groups,’ Shannon said. ‘That’s when the murals were coming out and companies were quasi making statements but not changing a lot of policies.’”
Source: aspendailynews.com | Read more
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