Enough water upvalley until 2025 | VailDaily.com

Enough water upvalley until 2025

Cliff Thompson
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyThe Eagle River, which supplies much of the county's water, flows past the waste water plant in Avon. A study has revealed the eastern half of the county has enough water for developments planned through 2025.

EAGLE COUNTY – When will there no longer be enough water to support more growth?It’s a question that has not yet been answered, but a recent survey conducted by water providers in the eastern half of Eagle County gives a partial answer. It shows there’s adequate water for development already planned through 2025.The survey conducted by consultant Stan Bernstein shows the overall water use from Wolcott to East Vail will increase nearly 30 percent by 2025, based on the planning information available from local governments.”For the growth we’re projecting, the water rights have already been dedicated or cash-in-lieu has been paid to acquire additional water rights,” said Becky Bultemeier, finance manager of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which runs water and sewer operations for the eastern half of the county. “We have the capacity to serve all of them.”Developments that don’t bring existing water rights to the water district when they apply for water service can pay the water district to use water it stored in area reservoirs. The survey, however, did not include undeveloped land that has not yet been zoned.

Water-per-personCurrent water use is calculated at 22,942 SFEs – or single family equivalents. An SFE is defined as the amount of water used by a residence smaller than 3,000 square feet and housing four or fewer people. Over the next 22 years water use will grow nearly 30 percent to 29,584 SFEs, but that may not mirror the population growth because water conservation is spreading and less water per-person is being used.Most projections of growth show the county’s population doubling from its current 45,000 people over the next 60 years.In Vail, where there are 8,839 SFEs of water demand, the redevelopment of the village and Lionshead is expected to add 1,008 SFEs, with most of that occurring in the next six years. Development will include 100 residences on the West Day lot in Lionshead and 70 condos, a 35,250 square-foot commercial space and a 36-room hotel next to the gondola, as well as other construction.From Dowd Junction to Wolcott, an additional 5,634 SFEs will be needed by 2025. Growth will be greatest at the Village at Avon – home to the Wal-Mart and The Home Depot just east of Avon – where water usage from homes and other projects planned there could increase from its present level of 255 SFEs to 2,425 – an 851 percent increase. Water use in Edwards and the various subdivisions comprising Cordillera are projected to increase SFEs by 72 and 56 percent respectively as the areas expand.

Undeveloped areas – ranch lands that haven’t been zoned for development – are not included in the survey, Bultemeier said.”They’ll have to bring additional water rights to us in order for us to serve them,” she said.Wiser water useSince 2001 the amount of water used by residents and guests has decreased substantially. In 2001, single family equivalents used 323.6 gallons a day. In the drought year 2002 that increased to 327 gallons per-day, and the water district began an intensive water conservation program.Those conservation messages may have taken hold quickly, Bultemeier said, because in 2003 usage dropped to 212 gallons per-SFE per-day. So far this year usage has been 207.5 gallons, or just two-thirds of that used in 2001.Some of the additional water needed to fuel additional development will come from a pair of reservoirs at the headwaters of the Eagle River – Homestake southwest of Minturn and Eagle Park east of Camp Hale.

Eagle Park can hold 3,000 acre-feet when full and Homestake supplies the county with 1,000 acre-feet out of the 45,000 it holds. An acre-foot is enough water for a family of four for a year and it can cover a football field a foot deep.Construction of a 50,000- to 105,000-acre-foot reservoir at Wolcott has been proposed. That would use water pumped up from the Eagle River during high flows and released during low flows. That water would be exchanged with other water users downstream for the right to take more water out of Homestake and Eagle Park, which are upstream of all development.Building more reservoirs is widely regarded as the solution to providing water for additional development.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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