City Of Aspen Water Plant Tour Promotes Awareness And Conservation

The Rocky Mountain City of Aspen partners with a conservancy group on a drinking water plant tour to promote awareness and conservation.

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Communities don’t come much more environmentally aware than Aspen, Colo. The city is a leader in renewable energy and aspires to draw all its energy from solar, wind and hydro power.

So residents of Aspen and surrounding resort communities are receptive to messages about conserving water. About two dozen of them toured the city’s two drinking water treatment plants last September in an event arranged with the Roaring Fork Conservancy, named for the river that flows through Aspen.

Charlie Bailey, treatment supervisor in the Water Department, invited the Aspen Daily News to cover the event and so multiplied the reach of the education and conservation messages he gave to the tour group.

Tight supplies

Conserving water in Colorado is critical. “Right now water sources are dwindling,” says Bailey. “Conservation is pretty much the only way to create new water sources, because there isn’t enough water out there to go around.”

Aspen draws its drinking water from Castle Creek and treats it using a conventional process. The water plants have a combined 20 mgd capacity. During the tour, Bailey and Laura Taylor, the city’s A Operator, described the treatment process and the steps the department takes to minimize chemical additions and limit withdrawals from local streams.

The tour included a visit to the 10-acre Leonard Thomas Reservoir, which provides initial settling before treatment. The process in the plants is meticulous. “We monitor everything every day and night — our incoming NTUs, our chemical dosages, hardness alkalinity, pH,” Bailey says.

Water for all

Bailey notes that water awareness in western states is especially important because water rights are at issue. “The water belongs to somebody — it belongs to all of us,” he says. “The City of Aspen has senior rights on Castle Creek, Maroon Creek and the Roaring Fork going back to the 1880s, but the water still belongs to someone else on down the line. We have to be stewards and watch what’s coming in, what we’re using and what’s going out. We try to nail that down to minimum intakes and minimum discharges and keep as much water in the river as possible.”

He urges tour visitors to learn about their water no matter where they live — where it comes from, how it’s treated and what the local water utility does for conservation. He also emphasizes Aspen’s close cooperation with the area communities of Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

“We know all the ladies and gentlemen in those water departments and we all have the same philosophy,” he says. “We all help each other. Collectively, we want to conserve the resource and use only what we need. We’re all on the same page up here.”   


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