More water development on the drawing board
This week at Aspen Journalism, we published two stories involving municipal water providers engaged at varying levels in efforts to boost long-term supply.
First, the city of Aspen is seeking to answer a question left over since it walked away, in 2018, from the notion that it might someday build dams in the shadow of Ashcroft and the Maroon Bells. Though it abandoned the wilderness-adjacent dam sites in the Castle and Maroon valleys, the city retained the right to store up to 8,500 acre-feet in a location to be determined.
Before those conditional water rights find a home, water planners and the community they serve are trying to get on the same page regarding the city of Aspen’s future water needs. A consultant has been developing a 50-year “integrated resource plan” that will provide a roadmap for how to handle changing supply and demand scenarios. The final report isn’t due for another few months, but Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett got a preview of where the consultants are heading. Read her story for the most in-depth reporting to date on the city’s latest water planning initiative.
While Aspen is grappling with how to serve its residents and visitors of the future, the second and third largest cities in Colorado are preparing to develop and deliver more water to meet growing demand. Colorado Springs and Aurora got a key approval from the U.S. Forest Service this week, which will permit the drilling of bore holes to test the feasibility of land on Homestake Creek, near the Holy Cross Wilderness, where a new reservoir would be built. Sackett followed the breaking news, explaining White River National Forest officials’ reasoning for not requiring a full environmental assessment for the test-drilling project, which is expected to take place this fall. In short, the full review and debate concerning whether a new reservoir and expanded transmountain diversions is wise or warranted is best to be had once there is actual application for such a project, officials say. For now, getting that bigger piece of the pie is still on the drawing board.
To learn more, read the stories discussed below, and thanks for supporting Aspen Journalism.
— Curtis Wackerle, editor
Forest Service approves test drilling for Whitney Reservoir site
By Heather Sackett | March 23, 2021
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. Read more
Storage and new water sources to be proposed in Aspen water plan
By Heather Sackett | March 21, 2021
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. Read more
Tracking the Curve
By Laurine Lassalle | March 26, 2021
Pitkin County’s incidence and positivity rates remained elevated this week, as officials expressed concern that spring break travel could cause another surge. Read more
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