Letter: A ‘yes’ on 5A is a ‘yes’ for Snowmass Creek | AspenTimes.com

Letter: A ‘yes’ on 5A is a ‘yes’ for Snowmass Creek

As a resident of Old Snowmass and chairwoman of the water committee of the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus, I am writing to share a "transbasin" perspective on the importance of funding water efficiency and conservation in Snowmass Village.

What does water conservation by the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District have to do with Old Snowmass? Everything — because we all rely on a single source of water. While the town of Snowmass Village and the Snowmass ski area are in the Brush Creek watershed, and Old Snowmass is in the Snowmass Creek watershed, nearly all of the water used for the town and for snowmaking comes from Snowmass Creek.

And lucky for all of us, through the leadership of Kit Hamby and the board, the district has adopted and implemented a water-conservation plan that makes it one of the most efficient and proactive municipal utilities in the country. That is good for Snowmass Village as it pursues sustainability goals, and that is good for Snowmass Creek.

Since 2005, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District has pursued two critical, long-range strategies for conserving water: developing off-stream storage in Zeigler Reservoir and, at the same time, investing in water conservation. With respect to the first, water stored in Zeigler Reservoir allows the district and Aspen Skiing Co. to pull water from the reservoir for municipal and snowmaking needs when the flows in Snowmass Creek are very low, thereby avoiding the need to pump water out of the creek. This is especially important during winter months, when sections of the creek and creek bottom are frozen, flows are low and trout "nests" (called redds) are most vulnerable. As climate change progresses, creek flows are predicted to be lower in late summer, too, and Zeigler Reservoir will be critical for meeting municipal water needs and protecting the creek at this time of year, too.

As for water conservation, Snowmass Water and Sanitation has demonstrated how pricing incentives and visionary investments in state-of-the-art leak detection and water-line replacement can transform municipal water operations. Between 2010 and 2012, the treated water losses of the district dropped from levels as high as 40 percent to 4 percent. For Snowmass Village residents, that means that their municipal water supplier is one of the most efficient in the country. For Old Snowmass and Snowmass Creek, that means less water needs to be diverted from the creek and more robust flows are available to support healthy fisheries and ecosystems. It's good for everybody.

The Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus and Snowmass Water and Sanitation are working together in a very productive partnership to advance practices in both watersheds that protect Snowmass Creek while supporting existing and future water uses. Irrigators and homeowner associations in Old Snowmass are adopting voluntary water-conservation programs. And the caucus is working to install gauges in the creek to better measure flows relative to the state's minimum instream flow right. Together with the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, we are demonstrating the potential for transbasin water conservation in our shared creek. So, from the neighbors over the divide, the water district's continued investments in leak detection and conservation are essential, and the mill-levy funding to support those investments is critical.

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Chelsea Congdon Brundige

Chairwoman, Water Committee, Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus

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