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City water supply in good shape

Janet Urquhart

A cool, wet April nipped Aspen’s spring fever in the bud, but turned around what had been looking like an iffy summer in terms of available water. The city’s Water Department was watching the snowpack closely after balmy, dry March ate it up at an alarming rate.

Snowpack conditions improved substantially last month though, and the city has backed away from early expectations that water-use restrictions would be necessary as Aspen moves into summer, according to Phil Overeynder, city utility director.

For now, he is not recommending the city order any water-conservation measures this summer.

Precipitation at a monitoring station at about 11,000 feet on Independence Pass, east of town, measured 2.2 inches in March. That was about 57 percent of average and cause for concern, Overeynder said.

“March was 15 degrees warmer than average. We had conditions where the entire snowpack was ready to come off at any time,” he said.

But April precipitation at the site totaled 4 inches for the month – slightly above average.

“A wetter-than-average April kind of turned around our forecast for water availability for the summer,” Overeynder said.

The snowpack on May 4 was about 78 percent of the long-term average for the date. During the 2002 statewide drought, when Aspen implemented water-use restrictions and charged higher rates for excessive water use, the snowpack had dropped to below 10 percent of average by early May.

“2002 was so dry, on May 4, virtually all the snowpack was gone,” Overeynder recalled.

Aspen’s municipal water supply is drawn from Maroon and Castle creeks. The city has also refurbished a well since the 2002 to further augment its supply.

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


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