Breck takes first step toward implementing water restrictions |

Breck takes first step toward implementing water restrictions

by Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council members approved an emergency ordinance Tuesday night that establishes the framework by which water restrictions can be enacted.

But those water restrictions might not come for at least another two weeks, if then. Not everyone is convinced the restrictions are necessary.

“These restrictions are symbolic,” Councilmember Dave Hinton said during a discussion of the issue at a work session Tuesday afternoon. “They may not be necessary. I wonder if we’re not overreacting.”

Gary Roberts, water superintendent for the town, said although he doesn’t believe the town will have problems meeting its municipal demands, because there is no predicting the future, it could be a good time to begin conservation efforts. Any restrictions would be enacted in a resolution by the town council.

“It’s not critical for us now because there’s enough flow in the river, but our interest in it is emphasizing that it’s not something to be cavalier about anymore,” Roberts said. “It could get worse, and water restrictions would get people accustomed to thinking about it.”

The town of Breckenridge and some outlying areas get water from the Goose Pasture Tarn in Blue River. This year, the water flowing into the tarn is at 20 percent of normal – about the same as is seen in November. This, Roberts said, is consistent with other river flows throughout the county.

“The tarn is full; it is spilling,” he said. “But that water flow could drop dramatically. Our big concern is what that will mean in November or later.”

“It could get critical in the winter,” Roberts said. “This is the lowest stream flow we’ve ever seen. And if we don’t get a blanket of snow, and if we do get a deep freeze in the fall, flows could even get worse. There are no historic records for anything this dry, so it’s difficult to predict how the fall, winter and summer will go. It could be the first time the town has to dip into storage for municipal use.”

Hinton, who supports the ordinance that establishes the framework, said if people want to conserve water, it would be better to build more storage capacity.

“We’ve paid dearly for our water rights,” he said. “Previous councils have worked hard to make sure we have enough water. Just to do something so we can feel some pain because the rest of the community is feeling some pain doesn’t make sense to me. I’m in favor of enacting legislation that helps. I’m not in favor of enacting legislation that makes us feel good. If we’re going to do something, let’s do something that will affect us in the future if the drought conditions.”

Town Manager Tim Gagen said if the town implements mandatory water restrictions, it would give water managers a better idea how conservation efforts affect municipal supplies. It could also educate people on how they use their water.

“This community has an obligation to conserve water,” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “I’m sure a lot of people won’t like it, but that’s the decision we have to make.”

Roberts said he considers the stream flow situation serious, but realizes that enacting water restrictions could scare people.

“It’s a wise move to be prepared for the future,” he said. “When you look at the trend in the state – the streams keep dropping, the reservoirs are drying up – there’s this smoking gun that says this is probably going to get worse. If we have to get into storage, that’s the time for urgency on water restrictions.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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