Toilets tell a story.
Aspen saw 1.9 million gallons of wastewater flow this Fourth of July, according to the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District, which says the average person uses about 60 gallons of wastewater per day. Ranking July 4 among other holidays in 2013-14, Thanksgiving saw 1 million gallons, Christmas saw 1.6 million and New Year’s Day saw 1.9 million. Conversely, a day in the offseason, May 11, saw 670,000 gallons of wastewater.
Though Nathan Nelson, an operator at the wastewater treatment plant, said there is a direct correlation between flows and visitor volume, flows are not strictly based on toilet flushes and showers. There’s also the fact that wastewater use varies from person to person, anywhere from 40 to 120 gallons per person per day. And not every guest spends the night in Aspen.
“So you’d have to assume those visitors aren’t using (a full 60 gallons),” Nelson said, noting that data for the district extends slightly beyond city limits.
Another variable is groundwater leaking into the filtration system, though the amount is not very significant, as district officials work to minimize it.
Traffic volume also tells a story. On July 3, Aspen’s Transportation Department counted 30,967 vehicles at Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane. July 3 is typically the most traveled day of the year, said Transportation Director John Krueger, and this year has been no different.
In line with wastewater flows, May 11 also saw the lowest traffic count so far this year, with 8,191 vehicles recorded at Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane. Thanksgiving saw 25,802, Christmas Eve saw 25,814, and New Year’s Eve saw 28,696. Counts on the holidays themselves are lower because there are fewer people coming and going from Aspen.
Aside from toilet flushes and traffic counts, all one needs to do is look around town to know that Aspen occupancy is highs. The City Market parking lot is full throughout the day, buses to the Maroon Bells are shuttling visitors, and Aspen’s pedestrians malls are full of chatter from children and adults alike.