@ColoradoStateU: Groundwater pumping drying up Great Plains streams, driving fish extinctions

A Google Earth image of the crop circles in the lower Arikaree River watershed, highlighting the river reaches that were dry (red), disconnected pools (yellow), and flowing (blue) at the lowest water in late summer 2007. Only one segment of 9 miles of flowing river remained as habitat for fish. The river flows from left to right. Image created by Jeff Falke, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

Farmers in the Great Plains of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and the panhandle of Texas produce about one-sixth of the world’s grain, and water for these crops comes from the High Plains Aquifer — often known as the Ogallala Aquifer — the single greatest source of groundwater in North America. A team of researchers, including Colorado State University Professor Kurt Fausch and Jeff Falke, a CSU alumnus and an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, have discovered that more than half a century of groundwater pumping from the aquifer has led to long segments of rivers drying up and the collapse of large-stream fishes.

If pumping practices are not modified, scientists warn that these habitats will continue to shrink, and the fish populations along with them.

The research team combined modeling from the past and future to assess changes in Great Plains streams and their fish populations associated with groundwater pumping from the High Plains Aquifer. The findings have implications for watersheds around the world, because irrigation accounts for 90 percent of human water use globally, and local and regional aquifers are drying up.

A ‘train wreck’

The Arikaree River in 2000 in early summer, when water is near its maximum extent. Photo: Kurt Fausch

Fausch said the study results are sobering. Based on earlier observations and modeling by Falke and a team of graduate students and faculty at CSU, the Arikaree River in eastern Colorado, which is fed by the aquifer and used to flow about 70 miles, will dry up to about one-half mile by 2045.

“You have this train wreck where we’re drying up streams to feed a growing human population of more than 7 billion people,” Fausch said.

Fausch described the situation as a “wicked problem,” one with no good solution. “More water is pumped out every year than trickles back down into the aquifer from rain and snow,” he said. “We are basically drying out the Great Plains.”

Pumping has dried up streams, small rivers

Since the 1950s, pumping has extracted nearly as much water as what exists in Lake Erie — about 100 trillion gallons — and almost none of it trickles back into the aquifer.

“This pumping has dried up long segments of many streams and small rivers in the region,” Fausch said. From 1950 to 2010, a total of 350 miles of stream dried up in the large area the team studied in eastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska and northwestern Kansas. “Our models project that another 180 miles of stream will dry up by 2060,” Fausch said.

An orangethroat darter, one of the nine remaining native fish species in the Arikaree River. Photo: Jeremy Monroe, Freshwaters Illustrated.

The loss of fish in the area is also a concern. “What we’re losing are the fishes that require habitat found only in the rivers and large streams of the region, and replacing them with those that can survive in the small streams that are left,” Fausch said. “We are losing whole populations of species from rivers in that region because there’s no habitat for them.”

As an example, seven of the 16 native fish species that were once found in the Arikaree River have disappeared since the first surveys were done in the 1940s. These fish include small minnows, suckers and catfish, species that the CSU scientist said are not among those that are currently federally endangered or threatened, so there’s little regulatory authority to preserve the habitats.

“We’re losing fish that people really don’t know about,” said Fausch. “They are cool and very beautiful, but not charismatic.”

Losing a river means losing more than fishes

Effects from the groundwater pumping will extend beyond the fishes and streams, too. Farmers in that area hope to conserve enough water so that future generations can continue to work on the land. And the everyday places that benefit from water could also disappear.

“If they lose the river, they’ll not only lose fishes, but they’ll also lose water for their cattle, and cottonwoods that provide shade,” Fausch explained. “They also lose the grass that grows in the riparian zone, which is critical forage for cattle in summer. Some of that’s your livelihood, but it’s also the place you go for picnics, and to hunt deer and turkeys. If you lose the river, you lose a major feature of what that landscape is.”

Center pivot sprinklers in the Arikaree River basin to irrigate corn. Each sprinkler is supplied by deep wells drilled into the High Plains aquifer.

Fausch said that there are some signs of progress, despite the grim findings. Local officials have put meters on wells to ensure that farmers pump only the amount of water allowed under their permits. And farmers are always experimenting with new technology that will allow them to optimize the amount of water they use to achieve the highest crop yields, since it takes electricity to pump the water from deep underground and this is an important cost to them. This doesn’t mean that the groundwater levels that feed streams are not declining, but instead are declining at a slower rate than in the past, he said.

Growing dryland crops an option

One additional option, though it might be a hard sell, is for farmers to grow dryland crops, meaning that they rely only on rainfall each year, instead of pumping water. The problem is the crop yields then vary widely from year to year, depending on the rain.

“Every farmer understands that eventually they will no longer be able to afford to pump as much water,” said Fausch. “Farmers are amazing economists. New options such as economical drip irrigation are being discussed, and farmers will likely switch to these options when they become available.”

Fausch, who has studied rivers throughout his entire career, grows wistful when talking about the research. “When we lose these rivers, we will lose them for our lifetime, our children’s lifetime, and our grandchildren’s lifetime,” he said.

Even if all pumping were stopped tomorrow, the aquifer would refill very slowly, over the next 100 years or more, said Fausch. As the groundwater table rose, rivers would start to flow again.

“Groundwater declines are linked to changes in Great Plains stream fish assemblages” was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Falke received his doctorate in fisheries biology from CSU in 2009. The research team includes scientists from Kansas State University, Tennessee Technological University, U.S. Geological Survey, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Westar Energy and The Nature Conservancy.

@USGS: High Plains Aquifer Groundwater Levels Continue to Decline

High Plains aquifer water-level changes, predevelopment (about 1950) to 2015. Figure 1 from USGS SIR 2017-5040.(Public domain.)

Here’s the release from the USGS:

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new report detailing changes of groundwater levels in the High Plains aquifer. The report presents water-level change data in the aquifer for two separate periods: from 1950 – the time prior to significant groundwater irrigation development – to 2015, and from 2013 to 2015.

“Change in storage for the 2013 to 2015 comparison period was a decline of 10.7 million acre-feet, which is about 30 percent of the change in recoverable water in storage calculated for the 2011 to 2013 comparison period,” said Virginia McGuire, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. “The smaller decline for the 2013 to 2015 comparison period is likely related to reduced groundwater pumping.”

In 2015, total recoverable water in storage in the aquifer was about 2.91 billion acre-feet, which is an overall decline of about 273.2 million acre-feet, or 9 percent, since predevelopment. Average area-weighted water-level change in the aquifer was a decline of 15.8 feet from predevelopment to 2015 and a decline of 0.6 feet from 2013 to 2015.

The USGS study used water-level measurements from 3,164 wells for predevelopment to 2015 and 7,524 wells for the 2013 to 2015 study period.

The High Plains aquifer, also known as the Ogallala aquifer, underlies about 112 million acres, or 175,000 square miles, in parts of eight states, including: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. The USGS, at the request of the U.S. Congress and in cooperation with numerous state, local, and federal entities, has published reports on water-level changes in the High Plains aquifer since 1988 in response to substantial water-level declines in large areas of the aquifer.

“This multi-state, groundwater-level monitoring study tracks water-level changes in wells screened in the High Plains aquifer and located in all eight states that overlie the aquifer. The study has provided data critical to evaluating different options for groundwater management,” said McGuire. “This level of coordinated groundwater-level monitoring is unique among major, multi-state regional aquifers in the country.”

High Plains aquifer water-level changes, predevelopment (about 1950) to 2015. Figure 1 from USGS SIR 2017-5040.(Public domain.)
Bar graph showing change in water-in-storage, predevelopment to 2015, by state and in total for the High Plains aquifer. States in region include Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. (Public domain.)
Bar graph showing change in recoverable water in storage, 2011 to 2013 (orange) and 2013 to 2015 (green), in million acre-feet by state and in total for the High Plains aquifer. Recoverable water in storage from 2013 to 2015 for the aquifer declined 10.7 million acre-feet, which is about 30 percent of the recoverable water in storage change from 2011 to 2013. This difference is likely related to reduced groundwater pumpage during the 2013 and 2014 irrigation seasons as compared to the 2011 and 2012 irrigation seasons. (Public domain.)

The #California #drought isn’t over, it just went underground — @HighCountry News

Typical water well

From News Deeply (Mark Grossi) via the High Country News:

The race to dig deeper wells is a losing game for small rural communities.

Evelyn Rios wept in 2014 when the well went dry at her home of 46 years – the home where she and husband Joe raised five children on farm-worker wages. They cannot afford another well, so they do without. Her angst only grew as California’s five-year drought dragged on.

Finally, after one of the wettest winters on record, Gov. Jerry Brown announced in April that the drought had ended. But situation remains grim, says Rios, 80, who lives in rural Madera County in California’s San Joaquin Valley. She thought she was being hooked up to the city of Madera’s water system. Now the emergency money for such projects has dried up.

“So, the drought is over?” she asks. “What about us? What about the plans to hook up to Madera’s water? How long will we have to wait now? The drought might be over for you, but it isn’t over for me.”

Full reservoirs and swollen rivers don’t mean that much to people living in rural San Joaquin Valley, where about 1,000 people still have dry wells. Their water sits underground in the nation’s second-largest groundwater aquifer, which was mined and dramatically drawn down by farmers protecting the valley’s $40 billion-a-year agriculture industry.

Legislation passed in 2014 will help regulate groundwater pumping, but it will be at least two decades before the law is fully implemented, leaving communities vulnerable to further groundwater shortages and having to compete with big farms digging deeper wells. In addition, many of those people live in small, unincorporated communities, which often lack the resources to properly maintain community water systems.

Waiting years for safe drinking water has now become a way of life in the valley. It’s one more stress for people who live in California’s most vulnerable social and environmental conditions. They face contaminated water, dirty air, lack of healthcare and language barriers, according to a state environmental screening tool called CalEnivroScreen.

People of color in this farm country die up to 15 years sooner than people who live in more affluent areas of Fresno, according to the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State.

Many of these rural residents will still be without reliable water this year while the rest of California debates landscape watering rules.

The state is trying not to abandon people with dry wells. Starting July 1, an additional year of free water will be delivered to massive tanks that were placed at many dwellings with dry wells, including the Rios’ home.

Which only raises more questions, say water advocates in Central California. One year won’t be enough time to fix all the problems out there. What will happen afterward? Will the state continue to buy water?

Two water agencies petition U.S. Supremes to rule on tribal groundwater rights

Coachella Valley photo credit the Water Education Foundation.

From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Ian James and Jay Calderon):

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on whether Indian tribes hold special rights to the groundwater beneath their reservations, and the court will now have a chance to settle the question in a case that could redraw the lines in water disputes across the country.

The case revolves around whether the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has a federally established “reserved right” to groundwater on its reservation in Palm Springs and surrounding areas in the desert.

Two water districts have been fighting the tribe in court for four years, and on Wednesday the districts filed petitions to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District are challenging a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the tribe has a right to groundwater that was established when the federal government created the reservation in the 1870s.

Managers of the water agencies argue the aquifer is a public resource and the tribe has the same rights under California law as all other landowners to use water pumped from the aquifer.

“This case is important because it’s about the shared resource,” said James Cioffi, president of DWA’s board of directors. “We think it’s our duty to maintain the ownership of the water for everyone.”

Cioffi pointed out that the agency has long provided water to the Agua Caliente tribe for its hotels, casinos and golf courses. He said the motivations behind the tribe’s lawsuit remain unclear.

“Certainly it’s not about access to the water because they along with everyone else in this community has access to all the water they want,” Cioffi said. “We have been partners with the tribe on a lot of their projects and will continue to do so.”

He and other board members at the water agencies say they worry that if the tribe prevails, its privileged rights could drive up water costs for customers and complicate efforts to manage groundwater.

The Coachella Valley Water District’s legal team said in their 47-page petition to the Supreme Court that water scarcity is one of the most pressing problems facing the western U.S. and that if the appeals court’s ruling is allowed to stand, Indian reservations “would have preemptive federal rights that override the vigorous and ongoing state and local efforts to ensure the future availability of groundwater in the West.”

The Supreme Court hears a small number of the cases that are petitioned for review, and the court is expected to announce in the fall whether it will take up the Agua Caliente case.

Groundwater movement via the USGS

The path to a new @EPA #CleanWaterRule will be through the courts

Photo via Greag Hobbs March 29, 2015.

Scott Pruitt now faces an uncertain outcome in the courts. Here’s a report from Patrick Parenteau (Vermont Law School) writing for The Conversation. Here’s an excerpt:

EPA developed the Clean Water Rule in an attempt to resolve uncertainty created by a fractured 2006 Supreme Court decision, Rapanos v. United States. The Rapanos ruling caused widespread confusion about which waters were covered [Click through for the Reagan Waskom and David J. Cooper explainer about Ag and the rule], creating uncertainty for farmers, developers and conservation groups. Efforts to clarify it through informal guidance or congressional action had failed, and EPA acted under mounting pressure from various quarters, including some members of the court.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt unsuccessfully sued to kill the rule, which he has called “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Now he is seeking to accomplish by administrative fiat what he failed to achieve in court. However, he faces a stiff challenge from supporters of the rule, and the courts may not buy his arguments for wiping a rule off the books.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies must follow specific steps when they seek to establish or repeal a regulation. These procedures are meant to establish efficiency, consistency and accountability. To promote fairness and transparency, the law requires that the public must have meaningful opportunity to comment on proposed rules before they take effect.

The Clean Water Rule emerged from an extensive rule-making process that featured over 400 meetings with state, tribal and local officials and numerous stakeholders representing business, environmental and public health organizations. It generated over one million comments, the bulk of which supported the rule.

This process was preceded by a comprehensive peer-reviewed scientific assessment that synthesized over a thousand studies documenting the importance of small streams and wetlands to the health of large rivers, lakes and estuaries. According to a 2015 fact sheet, which has been scrubbed from EPA’s website but is archived here, the rule protects streams that roughly one in three Americans depend upon for their drinking water.

To undo the Clean Water Rule, EPA will have to go through the same notice-and-comment process. Pruitt’s proposal to rescind the rule will be published in the Federal Register sometime in the near future. From that date, the public will have just 30 days to file written comments electronically. (Normally public comment periods last for 60 days, and the Clean Water Rule was open for comment for 120 days.)

[…]

EPA must then review and respond to the comments, make any changes it deems necessary and publish a final rule. Parties with standing can then challenge the final rule, although there is a question as to which court will have jurisdiction to hear them. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on this issue in the fall. In weighing challenges, the key question the court must address is whether EPA’s action is “arbitrary and capricious,” meaning that the agency has failed to consider important aspects of the problem or explain its reasoning.

In a seminal 1983 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that an agency must supply a “reasoned analysis” when it rescinds a rule adopted by a previous administration. The court acknowledged that agencies have some discretion to change direction in response to changing circumstances. However, it noted that “the forces of change do not always or necessarily point in the direction of deregulation.” Further, the court said that a decision to rescind a rule would be arbitrary and capricious if it offers an explanation “that runs counter to the evidence before the agency.”

Pruitt asserts that his repeal “need not be based upon a change of facts or circumstances,” citing a 2009 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia. But in my view, Pruitt reads too much into that decision, which simply held that an agency did not face “heightened scrutiny” – that is, an extra-high bar – when changing policy, but must still “show that there are good reasons for the new policy.” As Justice Breyer observed, dissenting in the same case, “Where does, and why would, the Administrative Procedure Act grant agencies the freedom to change major policies on the basis of nothing more than political considerations or even personal whim?”

Drinking water at risk with new @EPA proposals #WOTUS

Middle Dutch Creek near the Grand River Ditch. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From The Colorado Connection (Josephine Peterson) via The Durango Herald:

The American public will have 30 days to comment on the Trump administration’s plan to repeal and replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule, once it’s published in the Federal Register.

Jan Goldman-Carter, wetlands and water resources director for the National Wildlife Federation, said the move would remove pollution limits from streams and wetlands that supply a third of the nation’s drinking water and which also are home to countless fish and wildlife species.

“The American public has long thought – since the 1972 act – that their water is protected, their wetlands are protected, their streams are protected from pollution,” she said. “None of us can really take that for granted anymore.”

The Clean Water Rule restored protections under the Clean Water Act for headwaters, streams and wetland habitat that had been left uncertain because of convoluted U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Current Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has argued that rolling back the measure will provide certainty to farmers and other businesses by returning regulatory authority to states.

Carter said western states rely on clean water to fuel their multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industries. She pointed to polls that show nearly 80 percent of hunters and anglers favor Clean Water Act protections. Dozens of craft brewers also have come out in support of the 2015 measure. Carter said a majority of the nation’s stream miles and wetland acres are at stake…

But some Colorado legislators see the beginning of the process to rollback this rule as a victory for private water rights.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., called the withdraw of this rule as “a victory for agriculture, rural communities, and all Coloradans.”

[…]

Gardner has been a consistent opponent of the administrative rule from the beginning.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said he also welcomed the news and that the rule was a threat to private water rights…

Samantha Slater, a spokeswoman for Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said the senator is opposed to the rule’s full appeal, and wants only what is best for the state.

According to the Environment America Research and Policy Center, the Clean Water Rule, supported by more than 80 percent of small-business owners, was expected to generate more than $400 million annually in economic benefits. Public comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov.

The EPA plan is online at epa.gov/wotus-rule, and the Environment America brief is at environmentamericacenter.org.

City of Aspen eyes storing water under golf course in lieu of dams, reservoirs

A view of the Aspen municipal golf course from Red Butte. A consulting engineer for the city of Aspen has found that an 'in-situ' reservoir could likely be built to store water under the golf course, which sits on about 75 feet of glacially-deposited rock and gravel. A trench filled in with a clay-like material could be dug around the perimeter of the golf course and water could be poured into the open space in the remaining gravel, and pumped back out as necessary.

ASPEN – In their ongoing search for alternatives to building dams and reservoirs on Maroon and Castle creeks, Aspen officials continue to explore other options, including an underground reservoir that would store water below the city’s golf course.

Aspen City Council reacted favorably to a presentation in May about an “in-situ” or underground reservoir beneath the Aspen Golf Club, with one council member saying it was a “great introductory lesson.”

Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick said last week there is plenty more work to be done.

“City Council had a lot of questions regarding the viability, impact and cost of in-situ storage,” Barwick said, “and they have not yet even begun their review of the storage needs.”

Barwick also said recently that the city does not know exactly how much water it needs to store to meet future needs, but the council is set to hear a presentation on the subject at a July 11 work session.

“All of this, this whole notion of how much water do we need and how much water do we need to store, and all of that, has been based upon very preliminary analysis,” Barwick told the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board on March 16. “And now it’s time to tighten up the whole analysis and do a rational set of studies so we can have a rational discussion with the entire valley about what are we going to do here. How much storage do we need, and where do we want to put it?”

Loose rock and gravel on the edge of the Aspen golf course, showing a glimpse of what might lie below the surface of the course.

Feasible

Don Deere, a geotechnical engineer who has worked on a long list of water storage projects in Colorado, said during his presentation to the council in May that the city’s golf course has the right combination of bedrock and “terraced gravels” required for an in-situ reservoir, in which claylike walls are built in trenches around a rock-filled area to hold water.

“Engineering-wise, it’s feasible,” Deere confirmed this week in a phone interview. “You’ve got to drill it to know for sure if the site’s going to work, but there are some favorable aspects to that site, for sure.”

The 148-acre public golf course is located between lower Castle and Maroon creeks and sits on top of about 75 feet of gravel and river rock left by retreating Ice Age glaciers, said Deere, who is chairman of the civil engineering firm Deere and Ault Consultants, Inc. in Longmont.

An in-situ reservoir under the golf course could hold about 1,200 acre-feet of water, Deere said, which the city could then pump back up to its water-treatment plant if needed.

By comparison, the city has a 10 acre-foot reservoir at its water-treatment plant, which it says amounts to about a day’s use of water for the city’s water system. For comparison, Ruedi Reservoir holds about 100,000 acre-feet of water. Deere called a 1,200 acre-foot reservoir “a small reservoir.”

A potential 170-foot tall dam near Ashcroft on Castle Creek would create a reservoir that holds 9,062 acre-feet of water; a 155-foot dam on Maroon Creek near the Bells would hold 4,567 acre-feet.

The city applied to Division 5 water court in October to maintain its conditional water rights for the two reservoirs on Maroon and Castle creeks, and is facing opposition from 10 parties, including the U.S. Forest Service and Pitkin County.

Much of the opposition is because of the locations of the potential dams and reservoirs, both of which would inundate portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. Some opposers also are questioning whether the city really needs to store nearly 14,000 acre-feet of water.

And as the city tries to answer the “how much” question, they’ve also been looking at the “where” and “how” questions.

A graphic from Wilderness Workshop that shows how the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir would behind a 155-foot-tall dam just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks.

Exploring options

A study of the idea of storing water in old silver mines around Aspen was also presented at the May 15 work session by another Deere and Ault engineer, Victor deWolfe III.

He said it likely would be expensive and complicated for the city to use the old mines, especially as it would be difficult to maintain control of the water in the complex maze of old shafts and tunnels.

The in-situ option, by comparison, sounded more feasible.

Deere looked at two potential locations for an in-situ reservoir, both on city-owned property, the golf course and the city’s Cozy Point Ranch property at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82.

The Cozy Point has a better combination of gravel and bedrock for an in-situ reservoir than the golf course, Deere said, but most of the focus at the work session was on the golf course site, in part because the city currently delivers water from Castle and Maroon creeks to irrigate the golf course.

A graphic from a paper authored by Don Deere shows how the walls of an in-situ reservoir are formed. The paper is called 'Gravel Pit Reservoirs, Colorado's Water Storage Solution.'

A trench, filled in

Deere told the council a reservoir under the golf course could be built by using a long-armed excavator to dig a 3-foot-wide trench around the course through the estimated 75 feet of gravel and river rock down to a solid layer of bedrock.

The trench, which would encircle the golf course, would be filled in with a claylike substance (a soil-bentonite mix) that would hold water. Deere said under the right conditions, such a deep trench, sometimes called a slurry wall, can be dug and filled back in with the claylike material at the rate of about 100 feet a day.

“In a couple of months, on a typical site, I can have a completely lined vessel,” he said.

City-owned water from Castle and Maroon creeks could then be delivered to new and existing ponds on the golf course and allowed to slowly infiltrate into the spaces between the loose rock left in the vessel.

If the city needed to during a drought, it could then pump the water from the new underground reservoir to its water treatment-plant located on a hill behind Aspen Valley Hospital. It’s about a mile from the center of the golf course to the treatment plant.

Water hazards

Councilwoman Anne Mullins asked Deere if the golf course would look the same after an in-situ reservoir was installed.

“I think we’d need to add some ponds, so there would be more water hazards when we’re done,” Deere said, but other than that, “it’s out of sight, out of mind.” And he said this week that after revegetation, no one would even know the in-situ reservoir was there.

As a general rule, Deere said it costs about $10,000 per acre-foot-of water stored to build an in-situ reservoir ­— if favorable soil conditions allow for the standard use of an excavator. But if conditions such as deeper gravel or harder bedrock require a crane and a platform to be used instead, the cost can go up by a multiple of five or six, he said.

Conceptually then, the construction costs of a 1,200 acre-foot in-situ reservoir could range from $12 million to $72 million, according to Deere.

“But we haven’t done a site specific cost estimate for the golf course,” Deere said this week.

He said it would require drilling test holes to know more about the feasibility and potential cost, as it would reveal the true depth of the gravel and the condition of the underlying bedrock.

In May, city officials told the parties in the water court cases that it expected to finish its study of in-situ storage by July. The next settlement conference in the cases is set for the first week of August.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily on the coverage of water and rivers. The Times published this story on Monday, July 3, 2017.