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The Daly Peak

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Apr 02

Water Wise: Snowpack and our Rivers

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 10:28 AM by Kelly Vaughn

You don't need to be a skier to know that the snowpack is looking good. According to data from the Roaring Fork Conservancy and a report from Aspen Journalism, the snowpack in the Roaring Fork River watershed reached 127 percent of normal for the week of March 27, and climbed to 144 percent of average by March 30th.

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Photo source: UCLA Newsroom

As spring approaches and locals trade in skis and snowboards for rafts and kayaks, local news on the state of our rivers and status of the watershed will become more common. Prepare by familiarizing yourself with the basics on water in Snowmass Village and the greater Roaring Fork Valley.

What is the Roaring Fork Watershed?

The Roaring Fork Watershed includes the Sawatch, Collegiate, and Elk Ranges. Melting snow in these headwaters collects and joins one of three main rivers (the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan, and Crystal) and drains into the Colorado River. The watershed is approximately the size of Rhode Island and is part of the larger Colo. River Basin, which supplies water to over 30 million people in the southwest.

Why Does Snowpack Matter?

A common snowpack measurement is snow water equivalent, which describes the amount of water contained within the snowpack, and can be thought of as the depth of water that would theoretically result if you melted the entire snowpack instantaneously. Our snowpack provides fresh water to rivers and streams, and fills reservoirs.

A slowly declining snowpack is an indicator of climate change. In spite of a strong snowpack in the Roaring Fork Valley to date, data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on trends in April snowpack in the Western U.S. show overall declines since the 1950's.

Where Can I Learn More About Water Conservation and Efficiency?
Since Aspen and Snowmass are near the top of the watershed every drop we conserve locally has a ripple effect, and there are numerous local organizations dedicated to efficient and effective water supply and management, and stream and river health.
  • Snowmass Water & Sanitation District: Not only does the district provide clean water and treats wastewater for Snowmass Village, they also strive to surpass Colo. and EPA regulations. Their forthcoming Water Efficiency Plan, which will be presented to Snowmass Village Town Council later this month, is a prime example.
  • Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus: The Caucus is dedicated to preserving the rural character of Old Snowmass, protect ecosystems, and monitor and protect the riparian ecosystems of Snowmass Creek, Capitol Creek, their sources and tributaries. Their Master Plan for the Snowmass/Capitol Creek Valleys serves as a valuable resource for collaboration with Snowmass Water & Sanitation, and Pitkin County.
  • Roaring Fork Conservancy: This non-profit organization located in Basalt focuses on water quality, water quantity, and riparian habitat protection, and led a collaborative effort resulting in the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan, a document for effective regional water management. Check out their website for additional programs on watershed education.
  • Reudi Water & Power Authority: Representatives from local governments from Aspen, Carbondale, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Snowmass Village, Pitkin County, Eagle County, and Garfield County serve as members and work together to address matters relating to Reudi Reservoir and the Fryingpan River. The group was a key contributor to the RF Watershed Plan.
  • Community Office for Resource Efficiency: CORE, another key contributor to the RF Watershed Plan, helps engage local communities in long-term water conservation planning to extend Colo.'s water supply as demand increases.

What resources do you follow for news and information on the health and sustainability of our watershed? Share below.

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