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Continuous drought keeps Aspen under tight water restrictions

City utility department keeps water users in stage two level

The Roaring Fork River as seen with EcoFlight on Saturday, May 28, 2022.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

For the third year in a row, the city of Aspen will continue to be under stage two water restrictions due to elevated drought conditions in Pitkin County.

The U.S. Drought Monitor last month elevated Aspen and Pitkin County from abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, according to Steve Hunter, the city’s utilities resource manager.

Not only has the area experienced above-normal temperatures and below normal precipitation, Aspen started this spring with below average soil moisture.



What that means is that drier soils will infiltrate snowmelt runoff reducing the amount reaching the streams, according to Hunter.

He said while the Roaring Fork watershed did see beneficial precipitation over the Memorial Day holiday, it was not enough to reduce the current drought conditions which are expected to persist in the coming months.




The city’s drought response committee has recommended in a staff memo to Aspen City Council that the municipality remain in stage two water restrictions, which it has been since the fall of 2020.

Pitkin County and the city have been in drought four out of the last five years, according to Hunter.

The 2021-22 snowpack was average to slightly above average for the Roaring Fork watershed as Western Colorado saw above average temperatures and below average precipitation in April and May, which have accelerated snowmelt, according to Hunter.

Stream flows in the Roaring Fork watershed are estimated to be from 45% to 80% of average, and most rivers are predicted to have a smaller and earlier peak than normal.

A stage two water shortage is designed to incur a 10% to 15% reduction in water use system-wide and between 15% and 25% in outdoor water use.

Hunter said without a city-wide reduction in typical water usage, agricultural and recreational activities, as well as fish and wildlife habitat along the Hunter, Maroon and Castle creeks, and the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, could be negatively impacted.

He added that public safety concerns resulting in increased fire and flood hazards, as well as negative economic impacts due to decreased tourism, are also expected to occur if drought conditions persist.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo confirmed on Friday that Fourth of July fireworks over Aspen Mountain will not occur due to wildfire danger, which has been a norm for the past few years.

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Stage two water restrictions

• Watering of any lawn, garden, landscaped area, tree, shrub or other plant is prohibited from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Water every other day on an “odd-even” schedule, which means watering according to address number.

• There is no washing of sidewalks, driveways, parking areas, tennis courts, patios, or other paved areas apart from cleaning for sanitary purposes. Any washing must follow stage two water restrictions, including washing before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

• There is no refilling of swimming pools with water furnished by the city.

• Permitted landscape installations will be allowed if they comply with existing water efficient landscape ordinance standards and follow current stage two water use restrictions.

• No new water connections will be authorized. However, existing authorizations will be honored.

• Tier 3 and 4 water rate surcharges will continue.

 

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