Study shows Dillon’s water supply is adequate |

Study shows Dillon’s water supply is adequate

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Summit Daily file photo/Brad Odekirk

DILLON ” A study of Dillon’s primary water source ” Straight Creek ” revealed the town will likely have enough water to survive a drought year like 2002, but the results will not stop the town from possibly exploring alternative water sources for emergency situations.

The firm yield study was commissioned to determine whether Straight Creek and Laskey Gulch would provide enough water when the town reached build-out.

The town gleans 75 percent of its water supply from Straight Creek, which runs down from the Continental Divide at the Eisenhower Tunnel, along Interstate 70 and into the Blue River in Silverthorne. Laskey Gulch, which lies south of the Williams Fork Mountain Range, provides the other 25 percent.

According to the research firm, Longmont-based Deere and Ault Consultants, a flow of 2.54 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Straight Creek is necessary to support buildout. Half of that amount, or 1.27 cfs, would be available for Dillon because the town shares its water right with the Dillon Valley Water District.

To put that into context, during the 2002 drought, the town saw 24 days when the flow was below the buildout demand of 2.54 cfs, town engineer Dan Burroughs recently told the town council.

But, mandatory water restrictions like the town has instituted in the past could help during a drought situation. In 2004, restrictions reduced water use by 25 percent, Burroughs said.

“For the most part, I think we’re going to be OK at buildout unless we have a severe drought like 2002,” he said.

With water restrictions the town could get by on 1.9 cfs, Burroughs said, adding that Straight Creek’s lowest recorded flow was 2 cfs.

The study considered buildout at 2,100 single-family home uses.

Assuming the town doesn’t purchase more capacity in the treatment plant, it has enough space to add 435 single-family homes, 500 two bedroom, two bathroom condos, 1,700 hotel rooms, 6,690 restaurant seats, 669,000 square feet of office space, 1.2 million square feet of commercial retail, or any combination of the above.

“That’s quite a bit of development for Dillon and … we don’t really have that much room,” Burroughs said. Still, Burroughs suggested Dillon should look at alternative water sources in case of an emergency, such as Straight Creek dries up or the water supply is contaminated by a chemical or fuel spill along I-70 ” or by the aftermath of a forest fire.

One option would be running a pipe from the Old Dillon Reservoir down through the new reservoir into town, Burroughs explained. The town has a 2 cfs water right in Salt Lick Gulch, which feeds into the Old Dillon Reservoir above the Dillon Dam Road.

The town also has water rights in Clinton Reservoir it could look at developing, as well as pending rights in Lake Dillon Reservoir and undeveloped rights in a pending enlargement of the Old Dillon Reservoir.

All the alternatives would require permission from other entities and could be costly, Burroughs said.

In addition to investigating options to augment its water supply, the town may also need to look at boosting its water storage capacity to help in the event of a major fire.

Right now, the town has two storage tanks, which, combined, hold 900,000 gallons of water. But the town would need 960,000 gallons to provide 4,000 gallons per minute to battle a four-hour blaze, the standard it’s attempting to meet, Burroughs said.

Dillon is connected with both the town of Silverthorne’s water supply and Dillon Valley’s water supply designed to provide backup in emergency situations.

The storage issue and the question of developing an alternative water supply are policy questions the new town council will need to address in the future, likely starting with another work session to explore options, Burroughs said.

Councilmember Judee Cathrall seemed open to the idea of further probing the water issue.

“The point here is if we do not have adequate ability to provide water for a fire, then it is our responsibility to try to find a way to do that,” she said.

Why is preparing for the worst important? According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, 2002 was the driest year in the Colorado River Basin since 1579, and a 2003 tree ring study by author C.A. Woodhouse showed water supplies in 2002 were the lowest in 150 years for the Western Slope.

Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at

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