The city of Aspen is considering buying water from Ruedi Reservoir, which would give it more long-range flexibility if climate change curtails the natural streamflow of area rivers.
In a rare opportunity, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Ruedi allotments, is putting the available water up for sale.
The city is considering spending around $500,000 on the rights for 400 acre feet per year. Controlling that amount of water would mean that, in a dry year, the city could would have a cushion if downstream users on the Colorado River that have rights senior to Aspen’s “call out” water rights. This happens when water is too scarce to meet everyone’s needs.
Aspen City Council heard information on the proposal at Monday night’s meeting, and is expected to vote on the matter at a meeting next week.
Phil Overeynder, former utility department head who works on a consulting basis with the city, said that acquiring the water rights would essentially provide a hedge against global warming.
While current conditions in Maroon and Castle creeks, and also some groundwater wells the city uses, are adequate to supply the town with water in historically dry years, that may not be the case in the future, because of changes in snowpack and runoff patterns that may result from climate change, Overeynder said.
If less water is available, it might harm the city’s ability to pursue things like runoff-capturing ponds and a system that would take water from the sanitation district facility and pump it back up the hill to the golf course.