The Water Committee was formed to explore opportunities for water users to protect the creek flows and riparian habitat. The goal of the committee, and the Caucus, is to protect the ecosystems of Snowmass and Capitol Creek.
Snowmass Creek, and its tributaries East and West Snowmass Creek, provide water for agricultural irrigation in the Snowmass and Capitol Creek valleys, including Wildcat Ranch, and the adjacent Brush Creek basin. The Creek is also the source of water for municipal and snowmaking water used by the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District and the Aspen Skiing Company serving Snowmass Village, the Brush Creek basin, and the Snowmass Ski Area. Virtually all water demands in the Brush Creek basin are supplied with water diverted from Snowmass Creek.
For more than 30 years, the Caucus has been committed to protecting healthy instream flows in Snowmass Creek, particularly during low-flow conditions that typically occur from December through March and occasionally in August and September. In 2012, the Caucus commissioned an engineering study, The Future of Instream Flows in Snowmass Creek (AMEC Environment and Infrastructure), to evaluate potential impacts to the Creek associated with future growth, climate change and water management practices.
Over the past decade, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District (the District) has made extensive investments in conserving water. With the recent development of Ziegler Reservoir and ambitious leak detection, water metering and incentive pricing, the District is doing a great deal to ensure that flows in the Creek are protected, particularly during the low flow winter months.
During late summer months, the biggest demands for water from Snowmass and Capitol Creeks come from irrigators. The Caucus produced “A Water User’s Guide for Protecting Flows in Snowmass Creek” to help our neighbors – ranchers and gardeners – understand the importance of adopting efficient water management practices to help protect the health of Snowmass Creek. We are now embarking on an effort to assess the conditions of Capitol Creek, and explore opportunities for water users to protect the flows and riparian habitat of that Creek as well.
Since 1978, the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus has organized and directed a long series of initiatives to protect the ecosystems of Snowmass and Capitol Creek.
Advocated for stream flow protection for Snowmass Creek in Colorado Supreme Court; secured science-based State instream flow water right; performed annual monitoring to measure flows and fish populations.
Analyzed and supported purchase and construction of Ziegler Reservoir by Snowmass Water and Sanitation District to meet District's emergency water needs and buffer Snowmass Creek from "direct draw" mid-winter pumping for snowmaking.
Installed stream gages to monitor flows at critical locations on Snowmass Creek.
Lotic Capitol Creek Study - Executive Summary
From native cutthroat and rainbow trout, to ranchers and rural residents, the Capitol Creek watershed is an essential resource for all who reside in the Capitol Creek basin. But, the watershed needs care to keep it healthy and thriving, especially in the face of regular use and climate change. In order to determine water management solutions that preserve our way of life in the Capitol Creek Watershed, honor the basin’s biodiversity, ranching heritage and shifting water needs, the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus conducted an investigation to examine the following questions:
• How does water use in the basin alter stream hydrology?
• How do those alterations impact the stream ecosystem?
• How can we best manage basin water use to simultaneously support agricultural water demands and promote functional stream ecosystems?
Utilizing Comprehensive Hydrologic Assessment as basis for:
– collaboration with Snowmass Water and Sanitation District in support of long-term agreement to protect minimum instream flows;
– outreach to ranchers, homeowners, and HOA's about water efficiency and conservation options to protect the Creek.