Dry Year Leads to Collaborative Water Conservation

May 15, 2013


The Crystal River near Carbondale had low flows last summer during an especially dry summer. An effort is underway now to get communities in the Valley to conserve water.
Credit Marci Krivonen

An effort is underway in the Roaring Fork Valley to get all of the communities here to collaborate on saving water. A local non profit will go before the Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday with a blueprint for how to do that. It’s called the Roaring Fork Watershed Regional Water Conservation Plan. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, it’s meant to help keep water in local rivers.


Last year’s exceptionally dry summer brought flows in the Crystal River down to a trickle. Low snowpack and little rain were partly to blame. But, water users were also taking their fair share.

Jason Haber is Energy Programs Manager at the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE. He says this year, an effort is underway to get communities to conserve water.


"We’ve seen over the last couple of years severely impacted flows in the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers. There’s a real need and opportunity to think about how can we keep some of that water in the river, or get it back in the river more efficiently," he says.


Haber has been shopping his regional water conservation plan to the five communities in the Valley. So far, Aspen, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, Basalt and Carbondale have given at least initial approval. Haber speaks with Glenwood Springs Council members Thursday night.


The regional plan would get all jurisdictions on board with implementing things like rate structures for water users that incentivise conservation, leak detection programs and education initiatives.


Lee Ledesma with the City of Aspen’s Water Department says the City has been working to conserve water for decades. So, it makes sense to sign onto a regional plan, she says.


"When we do have droughts and when we do have serious issues on streamflows, we can all work together as a team because it is one watershed and what happens in Aspen effects those communities downstream from us," she says.


The regional initiative would be an umbrella plan for the entire watershed. Inside of that, separate plans would be laid out for each community. Jason Haber with CORE says the river doesn’t change when it travels from one town to another, so policies should stay somewhat consistent.


"This is an opportunity to tie together these communities and build relationships and figure out how we build these relationships collectively, rather than operating in a vacuum."


He says the plan has the potential to save communities money and energy. But, Sharon Clarke with the Roaring Fork Conservancy says the plan won’t put water back into streams overnight. Municipalities have to take additional steps to do that. Still, she says, it’s a good start.


"We absolutely need to be going in this direction," she says.


If all the towns sign on, CORE will apply for a state grant which will fund development of the Roaring Fork Watershed Regional Water Conservation Plan. If all goes accordingly, Haber estimates a plan is likely a year out.