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In 2015, 43 well owners in Elbert County were contacted by the U.S. Geological Survey through the Colorado Water Science Center, and were asked to allow their well water to be monitored for three years. Sensors that recorded data hourly were placed in six of the wells, and 38 wells were visited for manual samples from 2015 to 2018. The purpose of the study, which was requested by Elbert County commissioners, was to monitor the water situation in the fast-growing county.
According to Colin Penn, hydrologist with the Colorado Water Science Center, the Upper Dawson aquifer varied.
“The Upper Dawson was pretty variable, with trends both up and down” said Penn. “All of them were within plus or minus one foot per year range.”
There are five bedrock aquifers in the Denver Basin aquifer system, with Upper and Lower Dawson being in Elbert County. Other aquifers include Denver, Arapahoe and Laramie-Fox Hills. According to Penn, all have their eastern extent in Elbert County.
Trends in the Lower Dawson aquifer showed the largest declining trends, with four wells showing a declining trend greater than 1.5 feet per year, and one well declining at .25 feet per year. One well in the southwest part of the county showed a slight increasing trend, according to Penn.
Sam Albrecht, Elbert County manager, said the results of the study is the first step in understanding the water needs of the county, and the county has committed to continuing the study of local well water levels.
“Now that we’ve got the report, let’s sit back and consider what our next steps are,” said Albrecht. “What do we want to do in the future? We wanted to look at Elbert County specifically, that’s why we wanted to do our own studies to get a better picture of what’s going on here.”
Forsgren Associates presented the BOCC with a Rural Water Supply Study in February 2018, and projected that population in the county could reach “to a population of over 68,000 by 2050.” (The 2016 estimated population in the county was 25,231.) The Forsgren report includes future water planning options, including water conservation, and was requested by the previous BOCC.
Commissioner Chris Richardson said the USGS study will be used in conjunction with the Forsgren report.
“This study is being used to really verify what the Forsgren report says,” said Richardson. “We’re watching the water to see if it we can really confirm what’s in the report. It was written with an underlying assumption that we’re running out of water, and it’s happening now. Well right now, we need to monitor the water and find out how much we actually have, and how long it will last.”
The county received a $10,000 Smart Water grant from the State Division of Water Resources to help fund and coordinate efforts to study water issues in Elbert County.
“We feel good about our water situation right now, but we also want to use scientific studies to help plan for the future,” said Albrecht. “Now we all need to sit down and talk about water.”
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