Summit County braces for drought conditions

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Daily file photo Dillon Reservoir hit near-record lows in 2002 when the drought was at its worst.

Summit County water districts are preparing early for possible drought conditions this summer, implementing voluntary water restrictions, while the Summit Board of County Commissioners considers implementing a stage-one fire ban.

“I think it’s very likely that we’d recommend the stage one,” Commissioner and wildland firefighter Dan Gibbs said. “All the indicators reflect that it’s time to have a county fire ban.”

The ban would apply only to unincorporated parts of Summit County, but Gibbs said the U.S. Forest Service is also considering a stage-one ban for the entire White River National Forest and it wouldn’t be unusual for the towns to follow suit.

The ban would likely prohibit backcountry fires, but could make allowances for fireworks over the Fourth of July.

The commissioners will vote on the ban at their meeting Thursday.

Meanwhile, as dry conditions persist and the last of Summit County’s snowpack disappears, the Town of Frisco and the East Dillon Water District already have voluntary water restrictions in place.

“We entered the year in our aquifer with higher than normal levels,” East Dillon Water District administrator Bob Polich said. “But they have dropped rapidly.”

Voluntary water restrictions mean conservation is strongly encouraged, but restrictions are not enforced and violators won’t be cited.

The restrictions could be tightened depending on the weather over the next few months.

“In our case, we’re purely talking speculation because we’re in the peak of our aquifers right now,” Polich said. “We have to monitor when it gets to the end of July and August. There’re so many factors that are going to be involved (including) whether monsoonal flows come in July.”

The Town of Breckenridge has not implemented voluntary water restrictions yet, but continues to encourage customers to be water conscious.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re closely watching it,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo said. “We would encourage people to conserve as much water as possible.”

The Snake River water district is currently not under any kind of water restriction, although the policies are in place to implement restrictions if it becomes necessary.

Water for the Snake River district is drawn from an alluvium and connected to a system of wells. Water levels have remained high enough to avoid restrictions.

“All our water comes from wells, it does not come from something that’s going to dry up,” Snake River Water District executive director Barbara Mertus Munyon said. “We have lots of water that’s going to run through.”

It is unlikely the district will enforce restrictions this summer, she said.

Snake River District officials guess the continued healthy flows may stem from last year’s mudslide, which knocked out a significant number of trees that would have otherwise been competing for the same water.

Most of Summit County saw less than an inch of precipitation through the first three weeks of May, and some parts received less than half an inch.

Recent drought maps put the better part of the county in the “severe” drought category, the third highest of six categories, according to data from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

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