Recently at Aspen Journalism, we published one of those stories our Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett had long been wanting to write, the idea germinating from the kind of background intel you pick up in ancillary remarks from sources. Why are water managers, whose operational lives are now dominated by making and planning for adaptations in response to climate change, so notably absent from climate-action discussions? Sackett explored the tension hanging over the balance many of Colorado’s most prominent water managers feel they must strike in her story, “Water managers tend to focus on climate adaptation, shy away from policy action,” published earlier this month in collaboration with The Aspen Times, Vail Daily and Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Sackett also helped break the news last week that streamflows on the upper Roaring Fork River were in for a change, with the diversion that takes a major bite out of our basin’s headwaters having to temporarily shut down. That’s because the water rights tied to the Independence Pass transbasin diversion system, controlled by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., limit the amount of water the company can store at Twin Lakes Reservoir, just east of the pass, and curtail diversions when there is enough water in the lower Arkansas River to fill the Colorado Canal, which delivers water to farms in southeastern Colorado. As happens not infrequently around the time of peak runoff following a winter with a healthy snowpack, Twin Lakes storage was nearing capacity and the Colorado Canal filled up, forcing the diversion to shut off on Sunday.
The result is that the 350 to 450 cfs of water from creeks feeding into the headwaters of the Roaring Fork that would normally run under the Continental Divide to the drier, more populated eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies is, for now, staying in its native basin, giving Roaring Fork residents a taste of what the river was like before transbasin diversions.
Our latest data dashboard, posted on Wednesday, took stock of this change. And as it happened, the Twin Lake division curtailment happened right around the same time that our region saw consistent summer temperatures for the first time, after a remarkably wet and chilly spring. That warmth boosted the runoff coming from the snow still hanging around above 12,000 feet and, combined with the water bypassing the Twin Lakes tunnel, has led to the highest streamflows of the season, at least on the upper Roaring Fork, which was running as high as 880 cfs early Wednesday morning.
Thank you for reading, and supporting, our nonprofit, investigative newsroom, making this work possible and keeping reporters on the beat.
– Curtis Wackerle
Editor and executive director
Experts urge a stronger response to existential threat
By Heather Sackett | June 13, 2023
Yet, despite a cleareyed recognition of the scale of the climate problem, Colorado water managers have done remarkably little when it comes to pushing for climate action on a main cause of water shortages: rising temperatures caused by humans burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.
Flooding not a concern for local officials
By Heather Sackett | June 15, 2023
Heimerich said they are projecting to reach the storage condition on Monday, June 19, which means they will start to ramp down diversions on Sunday, June 18.
Snowpack at Schofield Pass is still holding about 9 inches of snow-water equivalent, down from 14 inches last week.
By Laurine Lassalle | June 21, 2023
• Overall summer occupancy is down from last year with 28.8% of rooms booked for May through October as of May 31 for Aspen and Snowmass combined, down from 2022’s 33.4%.
• Lake Powell’s surface elevation up to 3576 feet.
• Aspen’s air quality index reached 50 on June 12 and June 18.
By Laurine Lassalle | June 23, 2023
Aspen Journalism is compiling real-time streamflow information. Users can hover on each graph to get the most current streamflow information for the selected station.
There are always stories that need a journalist to pursue them. These Aspen Journalism investigative stories are published for you, the community, and our collaborators as a public service, thanks to the generosity of our readers and funders.