Aspen to enact stage one water restrictions

The city of Aspen is poised to enact water restrictions based on current drought conditions.

Aspen City Council on Monday agreed with city staff’s recommendation to declare that “stage one” water shortage conditions exist.

A formal resolution will be adopted during council’s regular meeting Tuesday that will limit people’s water usage.

Aspen and portions of Pitkin County are under moderate and severe drought conditions due to high temperatures, below average precipitation and high winds.

“We feel pretty strongly (about phase one water restrictions) based on current conditions and how this summer is panning out,” Tyler Christoff, the city’s director of utilities, told council during a work session.

The first phase of water restrictions is a 10% reduction in indoor and outdoor use and it is voluntary. However, the city encourages people to conserve on their own regardless of drought conditions.

Public facilities are directed to implement water use restrictions for parks, golf courses and other uses, such as street washing.

Council most recently enacted stage two water restrictions in 2018, which was the year of the Lake Christine Fire on Basalt Mountain.

Council also declared a stage one drought in 2002 and 2012.

Aspen’s municipal water supply comes primarily from Castle and Maroon creeks.

But unlike many community supplies, the Aspen water system has very little water storage, relying primarily on direct stream flow, according to Christoff.

The system does not allow the controlled release of water to match water demand. Instead, it depends on the consistent release of water from snowmelt.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said time is of the essence in getting the word out that water is in short supply.

“It takes awhile to get the level of voluntary compliance that you would like if people take this seriously,” she said. “I think getting the word out there that water is going to be very tight this year is not something people have on their minds right now. … It’s still very green looking, it’s pretty lush, there’s no wildfires yet but the flows are definitely the most concerning and as we all know we have extremely limited storage for water capacity.”