Roaring Fork River – Wheeler Ditch
How Did This Project Come to Us?:
The City of Aspen, concerned about the effect of local diversions and large transmountain diversions on native flow with the river reached out to Colorado Water Trust to find a solution to bolster streamflow. The partnership began with two single year agreements in 2013 and 2014 that provided short-term support to river health, and eventually led to a long term agreement that would bolster flows and protect the City’s water rights.
Non-Diversion Agreement, Water Conservation Program (In 2013 and 2014, the Water Trust entered a non-diversion agreement with the City of Aspen for senior water rights to support flows in a critical reach of the Roaring Fork River. In 2016, a 5-in-10-year non-diversion agreement was formalized through SB-19 to bolster flows in the Roaring Fork during five of ten years)
The City of Aspen, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Laffey-McHugh Foundation
2013, 2014, 2016, 2021
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 non-diversion 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.
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, which will protect their water rights from certain elements of Colorado Water Law. Together, these approvals give the Water Trust and its partners the ability to bolster flows in the Roaring Fork during five of ten years using the Wheeler Ditch water rights.
Photo Credits: Edalin Koziol
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Mitzi Rapkin, City of Aspen, (970) 920-5082, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Hornbacher, City of Aspen, (970) 429-1983, email@example.com
Phil Overeynder, City of Aspen, (970) 920-5111, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Mitzi Rapkin, Community Relations Director
City of Aspen
Phone: (970) 920-5082
Phil Overeynder, Utilities Engineer of Special Projects
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Phone: (970) 920-5111
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