Project Active

2013 – 2014, 2016 – Present

Roaring Fork River – Wheeler Ditch

This Water Conservation Program restores flow to the Roaring Fork River through the City of Aspen during dry years.
 
Through 2020, the Wheeler Ditch Project has restored over

million gallons

acre-feet

of water to the Roaring Fork River.

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. 

Tools Used:

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)

Project Partners:

The City of Aspen, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Laffey-McHugh Foundation

Project Years:

2013, 2014, 2016, 2021

 

Project Story: 

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 Roaring Fork River is a popular spot for outdoor recreation.

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
Use the flow dashboard below to learn about the operations of the Wheeler Ditch project, and just how much water has been restored to Roaring Fork River over the project’s lifetime. Just click or hover over the graphs below to learn more!

If you have trouble seeing the graphs below, click here

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...