Glenwood Springs asked to join watershed conservation planning
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Five municipal water providers from Aspen to Glenwood Springs are being asked to partner up in taking the next steps to implement the now year-old Roaring Fork Watershed Management Plan.
The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) is seeking a Colorado Water Conservation Board planning grant to develop a regional water conservation plan for the watershed.
In addition to the $75,000 grant, CORE is asking for between $5,000 and $7,500 each from the cities of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen and the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District to cover the estimated $100,000 to develop the plan.
A watershed conservation plan would encourage water conservation measures on a regional basis. It would be in addition to local water efficiency and management plans, which include suggestions for consumers to reduce water usage as well as restrictions on water use during periods of drought.
Although Glenwood Springs’ primary municipal water source is from No Name Creek in the Flat Tops north of the Colorado River, and thus outside the Roaring Fork watershed, the Roaring Fork River does provide a backup supply for the city.
Development of a regional water conservation plan was among “10 urgent actions” spelled out in the March 2012 Roaring Fork Watershed Management Plan, said CORE’s Jason Haber during a recent presentation to Glenwood Springs City Council.
“While there are still relatively few regional water conservation plans being implemented, they are becoming more common as a water management tool in watersheds that span multiple jurisdictions, because they work to bring together stakeholders within the entire watershed,” Haber said in a written proposal to the council.
CORE recently received a small grant from the Water Conservation Board to determine if there’s enough support for developing a regional conservation plan.
To date, the city of Aspen, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, and the towns of Carbondale and Basalt have agreed to join the regional planning effort, Haber said.
Two smaller water providers in the Roaring Fork Valley, the Mid-Valley Metropolitan District and Roaring Fork Water and Sanitation District may also be asked to participate, he said.
The city of Glenwood Springs is already ahead of other jurisdictions in establishing its own water management plan. Such plans are required of municipal providers that sell more than 2,000 acre-feet of water per year, under the 2004 Colorado Water Conservation Act.
Approved in 2009, Glenwood’s plan includes several drought management measures and targets for reducing water usage, depending on the severity of drought in a given year.
Water efficiency plans are intended to be reviewed and, if necessary, updated every five to seven years, Haber pointed out. Although the Glenwood plan was developed only four years ago, the regional planning effort could be used to update the local plan as well.
“There could be some economy of scale in updating all of the plans at the same time,” using the information gathered for the regional conservation plan, Haber said.
Glenwood council members expressed general support for joining in the planning effort, though Councilman Matt Steckler expressed some reservations.
“It seems like a good idea to be doing this, but budgets are tight, and it sometimes seems like we’re just planning to plan,” Steckler said during the May 16 discussion with CORE. “I need to know what kind of concrete benefits we will get out of this.”
Steckler also questioned why Garfield County wasn’t included as a potential partner in the project. Haber explained that the counties, while including some of the larger water users, are not water providers the same way as municipalities.
The Glenwood council directed city staff to review a proposed memorandum of understanding to participate in and help fund the effort, and to bring it back before council at an upcoming meeting.
As part of the watershed planning effort, CORE has already arranged with the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to have graduate students assist with the project. Among their research activities will be to:
• Assess the Roaring Fork Watershed resources and community characteristics, identify planning partners and document historic and existing water conservation policies and processes.
• Analyze current and future ecological and hydrologic conditions of the Crystal River near Carbondale, including a determination of the causes and implications of stream dewatering and resulting changes in river flows.
• Review existing Colorado regional water conservation plan models, to help determine what to include in the local watershed plan.
• Analyze public outreach and education strategies about water conservation, including successful and unsuccessful efforts already be used locally.
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