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Posted on: July 29, 2019

Water Department Receives $186K+ Grant to Augment River Flows and Enhance Municipal Supply

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Water Department Receives $186K+ Grant to Augment River Flows and Enhance Municipal Supply

The City of Aspen is pleased to announce its water department is the recipient of a $186,356 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to investigate how the City of Aspen can temporarily use other people’s agricultural water rights for environmental and municipal purposes.  The system of using water rights owned by others is called ATM – Alternative Transfer Methods.  ATM is a concept adopted by state legislators to allow flexibility for various water rights holders to share their legally owned resource on an intermittent basis without losing it, jeopardizing the water right owner’s legal standing, diminishing its value, or drying up agricultural land.

In addition to the more than $186 thousand dollars from the state, the City of Aspen contributed $15,000 and Western Resource Advocates matched the City’s $15,000 for a total of $206,356.  Wilderness Workshop has also contributed in-kind services.  

The goals of this grant are to look at adding water to the City’s municipal supply during dry periods and help river flows in our local watershed by leaving more water in the river whenever possible.  

“The Aspen water department staff will be using the funds to explore potential projects with willing agricultural water rights holders who want to partner with the City to temporarily share their water rights in exchange for compensation,” said Margaret Medellin, Utilities Portfolio Manager.  “This is exciting because this is the first application of an ATM to benefit a West Slope municipal water supply.  Our task now is to work with our team to explore potential partners in the Upper Roaring Fork Watershed.    We will also look at what strategies might work for using an ATM on the East Slope that would keep more water in our basin.  Our focus now is on potential projects and partners.”

The City already operates an ATM for the Wheeler Ditch, which allowed the City to bypass flows it has legal rights to during the 2018 dry season.  The bypass allowed more water to stay in the Roaring Fork River during a time that the river needed as much water as it could get.

The partnership for the grant application between Western Resource Advocates, Wilderness Workshop and the City of Aspen came about during the due diligence process on the water court case related to the City’s storage rights on Castle and Maroon Creeks.  

“Together we saw an opportunity to collaborate,” Medellin said.  “Partnering to protect the environment and our water rights is more productive than using our resources to fight each other.  We are glad the Colorado Water Conservation Board also saw merit in our vision.”

The City is contracted with Western Water Partnership to work on its ATM research and grant application.

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