Aspen’s water use hailed | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s water use hailed

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

As a light rain gives parched Aspen a soak, Jim Rudolph reaches to put more quaters in the slot as he washes his Range Rover at the Aspen Buisness Center Monday afternoon. "It takes about seven bucks to do it" said Rudolph of his water usage. Daniel Bayer photo.

Aspen’s voluntary water-conservation efforts have apparently been effective, helping the city avoid implementing stringent restrictions on water use to deal with drought conditions.

Although 1.1 inches of rainfall was recorded at Aspen’s water plant between July 3-6, including a Fourth of July downpour, high fire danger continues. So does the need to conserve water, according to the city.

But the city has achieved its goal of cutting water use by 10 percent through voluntary measures like an every-other-day schedule for outdoor watering, according to Phil Overeynder, utility director.

“I think that’s encouraging,” he said. “Despite the fact we’ve had record warm temperatures and very dry [conditions], people are reducing their water use.”

On July 3, the peak day of water use so far this summer, demand was down 15 percent from the same date a year ago, Overeynder noted.

The Aspen water plant produced 5.7 million gallons in response to consumer demand on July 3, down from 6.7 million gallons on July 3, 2001.

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“The plant demand went down pretty dramatically,” Overeynder said.

Since the first rain of the summer didn’t come until the evening of July 3, he discounted the precipitation as a factor in the reduction.

Last year, the plant was forced to supplement its water from Maroon and Castle creeks to meet peak demands for water. On July 3 a year ago, the city drew 1 million gallons from its wells to augment its diversions from the creeks. This year, no well water was drawn.

The peak water use of the year in Aspen typically occurs sometime around the July 4 holiday. Last year, it was on July 6, Overeynder said.

Aspen declared a Stage 1 water shortage in June, enacting voluntary measures to reduce water use. The city also boosted rates for excessive water use. At that time, Overeynder said he would be watching flows in Maroon and Castle creeks closely in anticipation of the possible need to enact Stage 2 restrictions in July. Stage 2 brings mandatory measures to cut water use and potential fines for those who don’t comply.

Now, it appears the city can delay a decision on declaring a Stage 2 drought until August, Overeynder said.

The city’s healthy water supply is due in part to the successful conservation efforts and in part to the state’s administration of a water right held by Grand Valley growers. A recent state decision means the city does not have to curtail its diversions from Maroon and Castle creeks in order to augment the supply in the lower Colorado River for agricultural users in the Grand Valley, Overeynder explained.

Although the Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County does not contain sufficient supply to meet all of the growers’ call for water, entities with senior water rights, like Aspen, may continue to divert water headed to the Colorado River, he said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com.]

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