Monsoons, Water Restrictions Making Positive Impact in Dry Summer

by Gus Jarvis
Jul 26, 2012 | 1194 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – For officials keeping a close eye on the Town of Telluride’s ability to treat and produce water during this drought stricken summer, recent monsoonal moisture has, at least for the moment, provided a temporary sigh of relief.

In the past, according to Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton, Telluride’s biggest constraint in providing enough water to meet demand was its overall treatment capacity. This year, though, with little-to-no snowpack visible above tree line, Clifton said the issue has not been about treatment at all but, rather, having sufficient stream flows in the town’s two major water sources – Mill Creek and Still Well (Cornet Creek) – to meet demand.

The issue of having enough water to meet demand first became apparent in mid-June when the Town reached the point where it was treating nearly 80 percent of the water available from the two sources. On June 12, Telluride consumed 1.31 million gallons of water, which equaled just over 75 percent of Telluride’s capacity at those stream flows.

Seeing this trend, Clifton immediately made an Administrative Order enacting water restrictions, which are still in place. (The Telluride Municipal Code states water restrictions must be enacted when consumption of treatment capacity reaches 80 percent).

In an interview on Monday, Clifton said the Telluride community responded well to the water restrictions. Throughout the rest of June and the early part of July, Telluride’s water consumption hovered anywhere from 45 to 51 percent of the total treatment capacity available.

But as the extremely hot and dry weather conditions lingered on, the stream flows in Telluride’s two water sources continued to decline and by July 17, Telluride was right back at that 75 percent mark, despite the water restrictions. In the time period between July 14 and July 18, flows from Still Well insufficient to provide any treatable water to the Town’s water delivery system, forcing the municipality to rely solely on the Mill Creek system. On July 17, .71 million gallons of Mill Creek water was treated, equaling nearly 77 percent of its capacity.

“We were making water as fast as we were consuming it,” Clifton said. “The stream flows just plummeted. There is no water and there is no storage.”

While it’s unclear what the rest of the summer will bring, Clifton hopes the crux of this summer’s drought is now behind Telluride. Monsoonal storms have now taken hold and have started to make a difference.

Since July 19, the Still Well’s flows have been sufficient enough to provide enough water for treatment, and consumption levels on the whole are now hovering around 40-50 percent.

In his report to members of the Telluride Town Council on July 17, Clifton said he will continue to monitor the water flows daily, but with monsoonal weather patterns now in place, he may lessen the restrictions some date in the future.

“The community has responded to the water restrictions really well,” Clifton said. “When I see levels of 500,000 gallons a day in July, people are respecting the water restrictions. The restrictions have helped and the rain has helped even more. Mother Nature is on our side now with the monsoon season upon us and the hot, dry weather largely behind us.”

Clifton added that if and when the Pandora Water Treatment Plant Project is completed and online, future drought conditions will no longer be an issue. While portions of the water delivery system from Blue Lake, located in Bridal Veil Basin, are currently under construction, there are still water rights issues between the Town of Telluride and Idarado Mining Company that have yet to be resolved.

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