From The Telluride Daily Planet (Heather Sackett):
During a recent meeting in Broomfield, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) approved a $60,000 grant from its Water Reserve Supply account for the town to conduct a water system analysis. Half of the grant money will come from the Southwest Basin Roundtable account, while the other $30,000 will be from the CWCB statewide fund. Rico and Southwestern Water Conservation District will contribute an additional $30,000 each for a project total of $120,000.
The town will hire a water engineer to conduct the study, which will find ways to increase water efficiency, quality and productivity for residents.
Kari Distefano, who became Rico’s town manager in May 2017, said one of the first things she did was to hold a community meeting to assess residents’ priorities regarding the town’s infrastructure.
“Water rose to the top,” she said. “Our water system is problematic. I looked in our reserves and decided we needed some help.”
Rico has two water sources — an alluvial well just north of town and Silver Creek, which flows into the east side of town and is a tributary of the Dolores River. The Silver Creek system is currently offline because it does not meet the Colorado Department of Health and Environment turbidity standards for surface-water filtration and is only used as an emergency backup system.
The well, which has junior water rights, only provides .178 cubic feet per second because it must comply with instream flow requirements on the Dolores River. That amount of water is adequate for Rico’s current population of roughly 200 year-round and 500 summer residents, but would not be enough if the town were to grow. The well provides water to 31 commercial and 242 residential taps, respectively.
The study will determine what it would take to re-establish Silver Creek as a water supply.
“I’m hoping (the study) will tell us what it’s going to cost to upgrade the filtration system,” Distefano said. “The ultimate goal would be to combine the two systems and have a redundant source of water. To allow more growth, Rico needs a little more volume.”
The water analysis also aims to find a way to relocate the aging outdoor water meter boxes to inside residences, making them less vulnerable to damage from the elements.
Pat Drew, a Rico water consultant for Rico, has been helping the town with regulatory compliance issues. He said the water study also will evaluate weaknesses and leaks in the system…
The project also will meet some of the goals laid out in Colorado’s Water Plan, which Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled in late 2015, as well as goals identified by the Southwest Basin Roundtable Basin Implementation Plan. Those goals include providing safe drinking water to southwest Colorado’s citizens and visitors, promoting wise and efficient water use through municipal conservation, and supporting water reuse strategies.