December 18, 2011--Town’s water supply drops unexpectedly (Telluride Daily Planet)

Telluride’s municipal water supply comes from Mill Creek, an energetic, splashy stream that courses year-round through steep, wooded terrain northwest of town. The creek normally meets the town’s demands just fine through the cold winter months and high-demand periods, but over the last couple of weeks, the water began to drop unexpectedly to very low levels. It rebounded a bit following this week’s storm, but remains unusually low. The town is in the process of firing up a temporary system that will pump water from downstream back up to its plant, located at the top of Mill Creek Road, to make up for the levels. And while it’s not time to panic yet, said Town Manager Greg Clifton, the town is urging people to conserve. “Any little thing that can be done to help conserve water is good,” Clifton said. He urged residents to use less water when doing dishes, try to do laundry less often and take shorter showers. He hopes businesses will take care with the amount they use as well. The town began noticing decreased flows about 10 days ago, said Bill Goldsworthy, Telluride’s plants supervisor. At first officials thought it might be an anomaly, but the pattern persisted. “I’ve been here for 30 some odd years and I’ve never seen it this low in December,” Goldsworthy said. The town doesn’t measure cubic feet per second on Mill Creek, he said, but it has an 18-foot head gate on the stream, and when water flows over it, the town has water. “Last week there was a point where it was seven inches below the head gate,” he said. Clifton said hydrologists and engineers attribute the drop to a thin snowpack (which translates to a lack of ground insulation) and very cold temperatures.

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