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City of Aspen / Roaring Fork River

City of Aspen / Roaring Fork River
Roaring Fork River, Colorado | Edalin Koziol

For decades, large water diversions have reduced the amount of water flowing in the upper Roaring Fork River; only a fraction of the native flow reaches the City of Aspen. At times, more than ninety percent of the native flow of the Roaring Fork is diverted from the river for transmountain delivery to the Front Range and many local water diversions serving various beneficial uses.

To begin exploring streamflow solutions for the Roaring Fork, the City of Aspen lead local efforts by using one of its senior water rights to benefit flows through a critical reach of the Roaring Fork River. On June 10, 2013, the Aspen City Council authorized a nondiversion agreement with the Colorado Water Trust to bypass some water that Aspen would otherwise divert from this reach of the Roaring Fork. The same thing happened in 2014. This increased flows by 2-3 cfs or 10% of average flows during those dry years. This agreement, while an essential short-term fix, would not protect Aspen’s water rights in the long-run.

With financial support from Pitkin County's Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, ESPN, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Aspen Skiing Company's Environment Foundation, we are now working toward a longer-term solution of enrolling Aspen's Wheeler Ditch water rights in our Senate Bill 19 Water Conservation Program, which will protect their water rights from the Use It or Lose It elements of Colorado Water Law. In May of 2016, Aspen’s City Council approved a ten-year non-diversion agreement between the Water Trust and Aspen, and the Colorado River District approved the SB-19 Water Conservation Program. Together, these approvals give the Water Trust and its partners the ability to help low flows in the Roaring Fork during five of ten years using the Wheeler Ditch water rights. In addition to the Wheeler Ditch, the Water Trust is exploring two new water sources that could further bolster flows in the Roaring Fork.

Learn more --  article in the Aspen Daily News.

Aspen to develop river management plan for upper Fork

The city of Aspen is seeking consultants to help it prepare a river management plan for the upper Roaring Fork River, which has been plagued in drought years by low flows as it winds through central Aspen.

“The city of Aspen plans to study the upper Roaring Fork River, from its headwaters to a point just below the confluence with Maroon Creek,” the city’s request ...

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Project aims to restore Roaring Fork flow levels

Healthy Rivers and Streams bestows $35,000 grant to help fund effort

A three-pronged approach to restore local water flows got a shot in the arm on Tuesday when Pitkin County supported a $35,000 Healthy Rivers and Streams grant to help a Front Range nonprofit’s plan to keep more water in the Roaring Fork River.

The project looks to provide a pathway for water right holders to ...

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City of Aspen Gives the Roaring Fork Another Boost

For the second year in a row, the City of Aspen has voluntarily closed the headgate of the City-owned Wheeler Ditch in an effort to improve flows in the Roaring Fork River.  Flows in the river dropped below 32 cubic feet per second (“cfs”) on Wednesday, August 21, triggering an agreement between the City and the Colorado Water Trust designed to keep flows close to the 32 cfs mark, the amount of water necessary to preserve the natural environment in this section of river.

As the USA Pro Challenge bike race flew through picturesque Aspen on Monday, August 19, City of Aspen (City) staff were preparing to implement an innovative pilot program now in its second year between the City and the Colorado Water Trust (CWT). Historically, flows in the Roaring Fork through Aspen are low at this time of year—even in years with good snowpack. Climactic factors during spring and summer such as monsoon rains, temperature, and precipitation all impact streamflows, but administration on the river plays a big part in the amount of water flowing in the river. Water diversions serving various beneficial uses reduce the amount of water in the upper Roaring Fork River, so much so that, at times, less than ten percent of the native flow of the Roaring Fork reaches Aspen.

To catalyze long-term streamflow solutions for the Roaring Fork River, the City led local flow restoration efforts in 2013 by curtailing one of its senior water rights to bolster flows through a critical reach of the Roaring Fork River by 2–3 cfs until late season monsoon rains brought streamflows back up. To build on the success of last year’s pilot streamflow protection efforts and to provide water to the river in the irrigation season when it is often hardest hit by depletions, the Aspen City Council authorized another one-year non-diversion agreement with the Colorado Water Trust at its April 28, 2014 meeting. The agreement describes how and when the City would reduce the amount of water it diverts from the river at the Wheeler Ditch to increase streamflows.

Although 2013/2014 was a great snow year in the Roaring Fork valley, streamflow in the Roaring Fork River has been dropping steadily over the last few weeks. At the end of July, the Roaring Fork was flowing at 60 cfs, but little more than a week later, the river was flowing at 40 cfs (photo). As of Wednesday morning, flows had dropped below 32 cfs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s decreed instream flow rate and the amount needed to preserve the natural environment in this stretch of river.

For more information about this innovative pilot project aimed at understanding streamflows and exploring solutions for the Roaring Fork River, visit the City of Aspen’s project page on the Colorado Water Trust’s website.

Photo Caption: The Roaring Fork River near the Wheeler Ditch headgate just southeast of the City of Aspen was flowing at 40 cfs on August 11, 2014 as it winds its way through the Roaring Fork Valley. Photo Credit: Grand River Consulting.

West-Slope Colorado Towns Restore Local Flows, Even as Thirsty Front-Range Lawns Drink Their Rivers

When residents in Denver, Colorado Springs and other cities on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains turn on their sprinklers to irrigate lawns, they rarely think about the fate of fish in the headwaters of the Colorado River on the other side of the Continental Divide.

But, in fact, competition for water between Front Range lawns and high-mountain fish is growing keen, especially ...

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Aspen Recommits to Improving Roaring Fork Flows

Locals have long been concerned about the amount of water flowing in the upper Roaring Fork River, which is depleted by large water diversions. Last year, in an effort to begin exploring solutions to benefit the Roaring Fork, the City of Aspen reduced the amount of water it took from the river at the Wheeler Ditch which is southeast of downtown. This allows more water to flow downstream through Aspen, bolstering low flows. At last night’s City Council meeting, Council approved implementing the pilot program that the City developed with the Colorado Water Trust in 2013 for a second year in a row. Under the program, the City will decrease the amount of water it takes from the river whenever the local Colorado Water Conservation Board instream flow water right of 32 c.f.s. is not satisfied.

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Aspen is Water Right Owner That Serves the Needs of Citizens and River

Aspen Journalism’s Brent Gardner-Smith published an article (”State of Colorado’s Instream Flow Program is Lauded, Challenged,” Aspen Daily News, Jan. 21) about the financial and legal challenges the Colorado Water Conservation Board faces buying and leasing water rights from owners who donate the water for instream flow. The City of Aspen is a local entity that is ...

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State of Colorado’s Instream Flow Program is Lauded, Challenged

DENVER — At least $100 million a year is available annually in Colorado to spend on land conservation, but only about $1.5 million a year is available for buying water to leave in the state’s rivers.

That’s according to Amy Beatie, the executive director of the Colorado Water Trust, who spoke last week at a forum in Denver marking the 40th anniversary of the ...

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Water administration affects flows in Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork River near Aspen received additional flow for a short while on the 28th and 29th of July.

A senior water right on the main stem of the Colorado River was not receiving its full amount of water.  Administrators curtailed the less senior Twin Lakes diversion, located in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, so that more water would flow down through the stream systems to satisfy the senior calling water right on the main stem of the Colorado. 

Colorado's rivers often see their waters ebb and flow as water rights are administered throughout the year.

Roaring Fork River flow photo

Grand River Consulting recorded 33.7 cfs flowing at this location on the Roaring Fork River above the Wheeler Ditch diversion on Friday, July 26th 2013.

Roaring Fork River flow photo

Grand River Consulting recorded 39 cfs flowing at this location on the Roaring Fork River above Rio Grande Park on Friday, July 26th 2013.

Aspen Water Rights Benefit Roaring Fork

Today, the Roaring Fork River is flowing 4.6 cfs higher thanks to an innovative program created between the City of Aspen and the Colorado Water Trust, inked this June. Historically, flows in the Roaring Fork through Aspen are low at this time of year, as much of the native flow of the river is diverted before it reaches Aspen and local diversions add to the deficit. To benefit flows in the Roaring Fork, Aspen City Council authorized a nondiversion agreement with the Colorado Water Trust at its June 10th meeting. The agreement describes how and when Aspen will reduce the amount of water it diverts from the river at the Wheeler Ditch to increase streamflows, and it has been operating for about two weeks. Aspen has been augmenting the Roaring Fork’s flow by about 4.6 cfs which has been about 14% of the total flow in the reach through Aspen.

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Press Release

In Colo. agriculture, efficient water use doesn’t always pay

Sure, Colorado is in a historic drought, and sure, agriculture uses roughly 85 percent of the state’s water.

It seems obvious, then, that making agriculture more efficient is a surefire way to preserve Colorado’s dwindling water supply. And yet, state water law often encourages farmers and ranchers to use as much water as they legally can, just to keep their water rights ...

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City of Aspen, site visit, June 28, 2013

Edalin Koziol, an attorney at the Colorado Water Trust, travelled to Aspen to participate in a site visit with project partners on June 28, 2013. 

Aspen tries keeping higher flows in Roaring Fork

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) - Aspen is testing a plan to ensure sufficient flows in the Roaring Fork River by reducing the amount of water the city diverts from the stream.

The Aspen Times reports the City Council approved the one-year pilot project last week in an agreement with the Colorado Water Trust.

The program is designed to minimize environmental impacts of drought on the ...

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City commits more water to Roaring Fork

When flows in the Roaring Fork River through Aspen drop below 32 cubic feet per second (cfs), the city of Aspen has agreed to reduce diversions it takes at the Wheeler Ditch, adding as much as 8 cfs to the stream.

To accommodate this project, Aspen will lease less water to third parties than it has in the past, reduce outdoor water use, and redirect other water supplies to meet the ...

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City of Aspen plan will boost flows in the Roaring Fork

Aspen will reduce Roaring Fork water use, curtail diversions to benefit community river

For decades, large water diversions have reduced the amount of water flowing in the upper Roaring Fork River; only a fraction of the native flow reaches the City of Aspen.  At times, more than ninety percent of the native flow of the Roaring Fork is diverted from the river for transmountain delivery ...

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City of Aspen Plan Will Boost Flows in Roaring Fork

CONTACT:

Mitzi Rapkin, Community Relations Director City of Aspen Phone: (970) 920-5082 Email: mitzi.rapkin@cityofaspen.com http://www.aspenpitkin.com/

Phil Overeynder, Utilities Engineer of Special Projects City of Aspen Phone: (970) 920-5111 Email: phil.overeynder@cityofaspen.com http://www.aspenpitkin.com/

Amy Beatie, Executive Director Colorado Water ...

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Press Release

Snowpack 23 percent below average

Despite surpassing last season’s snowpack numbers, the amount of precipitation that has fallen this winter is still well below the average.

Area snowpack is currently 21 percent above what was recorded last year, but it is 23 percent short of the average, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the Roaring Fork Conservancy. 

It took a while for this ...

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Group wants to lease water to benefit rivers

This marks the second year in a row the nonprofit organization is seeking to work with water rights owners who might be willing to lease some of their water to the benefit of a river’s ecosystem

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Drought conditions persist in Roaring Fork Valley

Marci Krivonen of Aspen Public Radio interviewed Sarah Johnson of the Roaring Fork Conservancy about their efforts to secure flows for rivers in the Roaring Fork Basin, potentially in partnership with CWT.  This piece aired on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

Listen here: http://www.coloradowatertrust.org/images/uploads/general/CWT-APR_12.3.13.mp3

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Quantifying the drying during drought

New report looks at low flows in the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers

BASALT, Colorado — Anyone who drove alongside the Roaring Fork or Crystal rivers last summer knows that stretches of those waterways were almost completely dry during the drought of 2012.

But it's hard to pinpoint exactly where those parched sections were, when they dried up and how last ...

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