The new falcon herald logo.
Feature Articles

Drowning in water issues

Deciphering information about water sources and understanding basins, bedrock aquifers, alluvial aquifers and so on, is like snorkeling for seashells at high tide. It is easy to drown in a sea of controversial thought, conflicting facts and convoluted opinions about water issues, and the public is treading water trusting anyone when special interests muddy the views and distort the realities.What are the realities? Here is one point of view.Kathy Hare is a 25-year resident of Falcon and a recently re-elected board member of the Upper Black Squirrel Groundwater Management District Board, an organization formed in 1968 by the Colorado Groundwater Commission to watch over and conserve the water supplies within the Upper Black Squirrel Basin.Hare’s ability to understand and intercept the issues is due, not only to experience and a degree in environmental science, but also to a passion for protecting the water supply, which ultimately safeguards privately owned wells and property values.Hare explained how the water supply originates. Hare said the Denver Basin is the major source of water for private wells and commercial water providers in eastern El Paso County. “Think of the basin as a big bathtub that runs from Greeley, Colo. to Falcon, Colo., west along the Front Range and east to Limon, Colo. Within the basin are a number of aquifers (layers in which the water flows). The deepest aquifer is the Laramie/Fox Hills aquifer, and other aquifers within the Denver Basin are the Arapahoe, the Denver and the Dawson.The bedrock (rock foundations) aquifers that compose the Denver Basin are non-renewable water resources. No amount of rainwater will recharge the basin’s bedrock aquifers. The Denver Basin, said Hare, will eventually run out of water. “It’s almost like mining a gold mine,” added Hare, “and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”Somewhere in history, a shallow alluvial (meaning sand or clay – deposited by flowing water) aquifer covering 100-square miles around Black Squirrel Creek, was deposited on top of the Denver Basin aquifers. The new alluvial aquifer, known as the Upper Black Squirrel Basin, is a renewable water source, slowly recharged through precipitation, said Hare. The UBS basin sits on top of the Denver Basin like “icing on a cake,” added Hare.The UBS basin’s aquifers have been a great source of shallow water to farmers and homesteaders in eastern El Paso County for a long time, said Hare. But ranchers and water districts, such as the Cherokee Metropolitan Water District, which sells water to Woodman Hills, are pumping water from the alluvial aquifer at a far greater rate than it is recharged by runoffs, said Hare. According to a 1999 study done by Leaf Engineering, “The useful life of the Upper Black Squirrel alluvium is, at best, another 34 years.” The report also indicated, said Hare, the proposed increased use of the alluvial aquifers could “dramatically decrease the useful life.”How does this affect water users in Falcon?Privately owned Falcon wells are supplied through the Dawson aquifer, which is the top layer of the Denver Basin – a non-renewable water resource. However, Hare said state engineers determined the Dawson aquifer was hydraulically connected to a portion of the UBS basin’s alluvial aquifer, the renewable water resource. Further, one geologist concluded that seepage from the alluvial aquifer occurs when water is pumped from the Dawson aquifer, draining the alluvial aquifer at a faster-than-expected rate.Woodmen Hills water managers, added Hare, have requested permission to pump three of the Dawson aquifer wells, and additional pumping of the Dawson, said Hare, has potential to cause water declines in the Falcon private wells that are already drilled into the Dawson aquifer. Other studies, said Hare, have warned the Dawson aquifer could be “dewatered” imminently if the alluvial aquifer is continuously pumped, and studies cautioned against relying on the alluvial aquifers as long-term water sources.The bottom line, said Hare, is the non-renewable water resources will run out, and the renewable resources are over appropriated and over pumped. “In short,” said Hare, “we can’t take away the people and we can’t stop the building.” However, she said, finding other water resources is the key to smart planning and further development.What are the other water resources?Tapping into deep satellite wells in Elbert, Colo. is one way to bring more water to Falcon, according to the report. The city of Colorado Springs has plans to develop a reservoir – the Jimmy Camp Reservoir, which will be located between Highway 24 and Highway 94, and water could be brought in to Falcon via the reservoir.The El Paso County Water Authority formed in the early 1980s when the county was looking for alternative water resources, said Hare. The authority is made up of 16 water agencies and is not an official county organization; however, in 2002, the water authority came up with an El Paso County water master plan. The plan offers numerous solutions to water alternatives, like the satellite wells and the reservoir, but Hare said private well owners were “outraged” the document did not include their input. One portion of the document mentioned that private well owners could hook up to central water supplies once their wells went dry.A grassroots organization – Protect Our Wells (POW), comprised of Falcon and Black Forest residents, organized in opposition to the county water authority, said Hare. Although the water authority report contains some good data, it should not have been produced without public input, said Hare. “Creating countywide water plans takes a lot of compromise and the county and water authority lost a lot of credibility when they created their plan in a vacuum,” said Hare.County commissioner weighs in on water planDr. Tom Huffman, county commissioner for the Falcon district, said the El Paso County Water Authority’s meetings are public, and county commissioners, water board members and planners never intended to exclude anyone from the development of the plan. “We don’t make the rules regarding water; we are in the position, however, of enforcing them,” said Huffman.The Falcon/Peyton Comprehensive Plan, published in 1993, after two years of monthly meetings between a handful of Falcon residents and county planners addressed water issues. “The concerns of the residents within the Falcon/Peyton planning area are numerous, but it is a concern with the water resources of the area, which is most often expressed as a critical issue.”Hare said commissioners have ignored the plan, and Huffman disagrees. Both agree the plan must be updated. “I have lobbied against a few proposed developments because of that plan,” said Huffman. “One planner for a developer hates me because I’ve managed to get the other commissioners on my side.”The plan is advisory in nature and things have changed drastically since the plan was developed, said Huffman. “When everyone is up to their ears in alligators, it’s hard to keep the plan up to date,” Huffman said. “And the county doesn’t push the people to get involved because the county doesn’t have enough staff to assist with the plan.”Huffman said well owners should be drilling deeper as permits are granted. “People should be fully exercising their well permits,” said Huffman. “It’s like having a straw that goes only two inches into a 10-inch glass of soda.”Meanwhile, the water debate continues to flow in various directions.Next month the NFH will tap into opinions – drilling deeper for answers – from a geologist and a water attorney.El Paso County seeks water rightsThe El Paso County Department of Transportation (DOT) for the Calhan site is seeking water rights from the Arapahoe aquifer. The DOT is asking for an annual production rate of 5.8 million gallons, and an access well could reach to 1,150 feet deep.The DOT is hoping to acquire water rights from the Laramie/Fox Hills aquifer in the Black Squirrel Creek basin, allowing an annual production of 782,000 gallons and a well depth of 950 feet.The purpose in acquiring these rights is to save costs in purchasing and hauling water for dust control on designated graveled roads.According to the March 12 press release, county commissioners passed a resolution to submit applications to the Colorado Ground Water Commission for a water rights determination for the above aquifers.

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers