Carbondale prepares for water rules | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale prepares for water rules

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – It’s not yet time to put away the lawn sprinklers and stop washing the family car in the driveway because of an ongoing regional drought.

But town officials here say it could soon come to that.

Regardless of Carbondale’s own restrictions, however, the town’s Board of Trustees agreed on Tuesday to donate some of the town’s water rights in Ruedi Reservoir to a regional pool to help offset low streamflows in the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

Officials throughout the area are warning of “really bad dry-weather potential” in western Colorado, Mark O’Meara, the town’s utility director, told the Board of Trustees on Tuesday.

Some reports indicate the region could be facing a drought this summer as severe as the one the area went through in 2002, O’Meara said, affecting water consumption and the possibility of wildfires.

“Right now, we’re in pretty good shape,” O’Meara said of Carbondale’s available domestic water supplies.

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There is still snow on Mount Sopris, and spring storms continue to drop snow and rain on area mountaintops.

“So maybe it’ll help sustain the summer flows” in rivers and creeks, he said.

But in case the drought worsens, the town is getting ready.

Trustee Allyn Harvey said the town’s volunteer Environmental Board members are working on a public information campaign to alert residents to the likelihood of restrictions in the near future.

The town codes contain provisions for differing levels of water restrictions, triggered by declarations from Town Manager Jay Harrington of a water shortage or a more serious water crisis.

Prohibitions could ban car washing or refilling private swimming pools to deal with a shortage or require restaurants to use disposable plates and cutlery if a water crisis emerges.

In addition to water from Nettle Creek and several wells, the town has rights to 250 acre-feet of augmentation water in Ruedi Reservoir east of Basalt, which Town Attorney Mark Hamilton called “long-term protection for the town’s water supply” during lengthy periods of drought.

In response to a request from the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the trustees voted on Tuesday to donate half of the town’s Ruedi water to a drought-management pool administered by the river district.

The donation, along with others anticipated from other municipalities and private interests, is meant to keep Western Slope rivers and creeks flowing.

Supplemental water releases usually come from Green Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling, which was built to replace water diverted from the Colorado River to thirsty cities on the Front Range.

But O’Meara noted that the water level in the Green Mountain Reservoir already is low, forcing conservation efforts to focus on Ruedi Reservoir.

jcolson@postindependent.com