Aspen’s economy in the tank? Not according to the flushes | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s economy in the tank? Not according to the flushes

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The nationwide economy may be in the tank, but Aspen was flush with holiday visitors, according to one indisputable indicator ” the resort’s sewage output.

In fact, Aspen had more people in town on Christmas Day last month than it did the prior year, judging from the flow meter at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

This season, the plant measured 1.84 million gallons of sewage coming into the system on Dec. 25. Dividing that total by 98 ” the standard assumed production of wastewater per person, per day, in gallons ” produces a rough estimate of the number of people in town: 18,775. That’s close to triple Aspen’s year-round population and more than the 18,163 people in town for Christmas 2007, judging from flows a year ago.

In fact, Aspen was busier for the entire week leading up to Christmas 2008 than it was in 2007. On Dec. 24, the population hit 18,367, compared to 17,040 a year ago.

Shortly after the Christmas holidays, though, the overall number of people in town began to slip, a daily comparison of sewage flows on Dec. 28 through Jan. 2 indicates. On Saturday, Jan. 3, the numbers were back up, compared to last year. They were about even on Sunday.

This winter’s holiday peak came on Jan. 1, when the treatment plant’s incoming flow, 2,180,000 gallons, translated to a population of 22,244.

New Year’s Day also produced the high mark of the holiday swell a year ago, with a population of 23,265.

In 2006, Aspen hit its population peak on Dec. 31, or New Year’s Eve day, with 26,222.

Admittedly, calculating the Christmas rush based on sewage isn’t an exact science ” not everyone who flushes in Aspen spends the night in town ” but it’s one way to gauge the number of individuals who have been in town over the course of 24 hours.

Flows into the treatment plant include what is produced by locals and visitors, as well as workers who come to the resort each day and leave at night.

And, the plant’s service area extends beyond the core of town. It stretches up to Aspen Highlands, and takes in the Aspen Business Center and Red Mountain, for example.

The 98 gallons-per-day standard reflects an individual’s use of water, including daily showers and toilet flushes, which then becomes wastewater.

janet@aspentimes.com


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