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The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Water Department has expanded its water resources following the purchase of shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company, located between Buena Vista and Leadville.
“To better serve our customers, Pueblo West Water is always actively looking to add beneficial water rights,” said Jim Blasing, Pueblo West Director of Utilities. “This purchase of 4.3 shares of water rights from Twin Lakes provides a small increase of water available to the Pueblo West Metro District.”
The Colorado Division of Water Resources oversees a system that ensures the orderly distribution and management of the state’s water resources. The concept of prior appropriation is central to most systems in the west, which allow rights owners, ranging from individual farmers to municipalities, legal rights to use water. Similar to an individual’s personal investment portfolio or a bank account, every water utilities department in Colorado supplies water to their residents by maintaining a portfolio of water rights. Water providers are always looking to diversify their water portfolio and storage capabilities for drought contingency plans.
“This is why any amount of water rights, no matter how small, is sought after by every community,” Blasing said.
This purchase of 4.3 shares from Twin Lakes is small. Twin Lakes generates an average yield of 1 acre foot per share. The average residential home in Pueblo West uses approximately 0.4 acre feet, or 130,000 gallons, of water per year.
The source of these water rights is beneficial because of its location in the Twin Lakes Reservoir, where over 90% of Pueblo West’s resources reside. It’s why, even though Pueblo Reservoir is in Pueblo West’s backyard, it only functions as a storage account.
“Pueblo Reservoir is like a bank with account holders from different municipalities,” Blasing said. “We own only 2.8% of that water. So if you scoop up one cup of water from the Pueblo Reservoir, Pueblo West owns only 1.5 teaspoons.”
For the past two summers, the Pueblo West Metropolitan District entered Stage 1 Voluntary Restrictions, in which residents were asked to voluntarily reduce their monthly water use by 10%. Severe drought conditions the past two decades, as well as growth in Pueblo West, has resulted in the steady depletion of Pueblo West’s water storage, which is below 90% of capacity. Pueblo West’s water storage accounts are used to serve as a safeguard for the community’s water supply for two years, a practice of several water utilities. Any time Pueblo West’s water reserves fall below 90%, it triggers water restrictions.
The purchase of these water rights is not near enough to lift Pueblo West out of water restrictions, and residents’ personal water conservation efforts impact our community’s water supply far more than new water rights purchases.
“For example, an undiagnosed leaky toilet could result in the loss of approximately 10,000 gallons of water in a month,” said Katherine Kallenbach, Pueblo West Water Conservation Specialist. “That’s why water conservation is equally important as finding new sources of water.”