Arkansas Valley faces water shortage |

Arkansas Valley faces water shortage

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

PUEBLO, Colo. ” By 2030, the Arkansas Valley’s municipalities may face a water shortage twice as large as that estimated by the state in 2004, according to a new private survey.

Population growth in El Paso County and a planned expansion of a molybdenum mine near Leadville, in Lake County, are among the reasons for the disparity, according to the report by the Applegate Group. It was reviewed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on Wednesday.

The report estimates the region’s municipalities will need another 10 billion gallons of water, or 31,500 acre-feet, each year. In 2004, the Statewide Water Supply Initiative estimated the basin’s extra needs at 17,400 acre-feet.

An acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons ” the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land with 1 foot of water.

El Paso County can expect a shortage of 22,600 acre-feet per year, the Applegate Group said.

The roundtable will use the report as it also assesses the valley’s recreation and environmental needs this year. Agriculture was not considered by the report, though the state estimated in 2004 that 23,000 to 73,000 acres of farmland would have to be dry to meet municipal needs.

The Statewide Water Supply Initiative analyzed municipal water needs across the state after drought in 2001 and 2002. It estimated current municipal water use in the Arkansas Basin at 260,000 acre feet per year.

Current projects and conservation programs in the valley would meet only 82 percent of the basin’s water needs, the state report said.

Water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, east of Aspen, as well as from the upper Fryingpan River Valley, supplements the existing water supply in the Arkansas Basin via diversion systems. The potential expansion of reservoir systems in the basin have previously sparked concern among government officials in Aspen and Pitkin County who fear increasing pressure to divert Western Slope water to the other side of the Continental Divide.

The Arkansas Basin covers 28,268 square miles of southeastern Colorado and includes Colorado Springs and Pueblo. The roundtable is comprised of regional water interests.

The roundtable sent three grant requests to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on Wednesday:

– $1.65 million for a basinwide integrated water decision support model by Colorado State University;

– $800,000 for a state demonstration project that includes La Junta to completely recover water from reverse osmosis;

– $285,000 for a plan to add lake and stream gauges in the Upper Arkansas River.