Aspen considers tripling its reservoir space for drinking water |

Aspen considers tripling its reservoir space for drinking water

The city of Aspen is considering expanding the Lenoard Thomas Reservoir at its water treatment plant, as well as adding another one.
Aspen Journalism

City officials are considering expanding the municipal government’s water treatment facility, which includes nearly tripling the current reservoir space.

The Leonard Thomas Reservoir located just off Doolittle Drive above Aspen Valley Hospital holds 9.3 acre-feet of raw water storage.

That’s about 3 million gallons of water, and about a quarter of what the demand is on a peak day in town, according to Ryan Loebach, who works in the city’s utilities department.

The proposal is to expand the Thomas reservoir and build a second one southeast of the existing one, creating storage for nearly 26 acre-feet.

Representatives of the city’s utilities department said the additional storage capacity is necessitated by concerns of head gates becoming unusable for short periods of time.

That could be because of avalanche, wildfire or contamination. Recent events in the Roaring Fork Valley, including the Lake Christine Fire and this past winter’s avalanche cycle, have caused staff to evaluate and seek to improve operational resiliency, according to city planner Garrett Larimer in a memo to council.

The expansion also includes just over 5,200 square feet in facility additions to accommodate adequate water treatment processes, equipment and staff.

Loebach estimated the long-term plan would cost around $10 million.

Aspen City Council on Monday approved on first reading a proposal that includes upgrades to existing infrastructure, a new vehicle storage and maintenance facility, and expansion of water treatment facilities over a five- or six-year span.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards encouraged the city to look for outside funding as much as possible.

“I really think it would be valuable to pursue whatever state grants we can get,” she said. “There are tens of millions allocated to communities for their drinking water annually through those state sources and I just want to make sure we try to get our share.”

As proposed, starting in 2020, the first priority is building a 3,200-square-foot new vehicle maintenance and storage prefab facility.

In 2021 and 2022, an additional backwash pond and improvements to the existing the one would occur, with a 525-square-foot addition to the west plant the following year.

In 2025, the administration building would be expanded 1,500 square feet.

Currently, some employees are working in a temporary job trailer on site, Larimer noted.

The additional reservoir space wouldn’t be done until the last phase, estimated to be in 2026.

City Council members Ann Mullins and Skippy Mesirow said with Aspen’s water storage shortages, they question why reservoir expansion is the last priority in the utilities department’s master plan.

Staff will come back at the final public hearing to answer that question and a few others that council had.

The project is under an expedited review process because it’s considered an essential public facility.

The area is close to the Meadowood and Twin Ridge neighborhoods, as well as the city’s Water Place housing.

In two outreach meetings held in July and August, a total of 13 people attended.

The city’s Planning and Zoning commission earlier this month voted unanimously to recommend the project for approval.