Our beautiful resource hogs: Aspenites fight report of water-guzzling

Aspenites, long vilified as second-home-owning, heated-driveway-loving, jet-setting energy hogs, use 10 times more water than the average American, reported the Denver Post on Monday, citing a new report from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Not so fast, say Aspen officials, who are arguing today that the data is flawed.

From the Denver Post report:


Colorado Front Range residents are using less water, but some parts of the Western Slope have seen per capita water use explode in the past decade, according to a new state study…

Residents of Pitkin County, home of Aspen, used 1,851 gallons per person each day, the data show, as Elbert County folks used 111 gallons each.

That reported use is more than 10 times the national average of 179 gallons, and nearly eight times the state average of 240 gallons.

But in an Aspen Daily News story today, reporter Catherine Lutz noted that the Denver Post never indicated in its story that the report is still a draft:

[The Colorado Water Conservation Board’s] report, however, is a draft, and staffers are working on a number of inconsistencies they’ve been alerted to since it came out in June, said CWCB’s Eric Hecox, section chief of the water supply planning division…

The Pitkin County data was flagged for follow up, he said, because it was assumed there had to be some inconsistencies on how either the total water delivery or total population was calculated. For example, the population of Aspen’s water service area had somehow decreased by 10,000-15,000 people, Hecox said. And there are many communities in Colorado, like Aspen, that have high second-home owner and tourist populations that have to be factored in.

Meanwhile, wrote Lutz, the story of Aspen’s excessive consumption was picked up by local radio stations KAJX and KSNO—as well as 9News.com and The Associated Press.

County Commissioner Rachel Richards, who sits on several water boards, bemoaned the bad—and potentially inaccurate—press:

Richards said the reporting of the study could “take on a life of its own,” reinforcing the stereotype that the Western Slope uses water heavily and potentially influencing things like discussions over trans-basin diversions.

“I’m personally very concerned about reading this because Aspen has a great story to tell about the conversation measures it has put in in the last decade,” she said.

That includes extensive work on leak detection and repair, and tiered water rates that charge more for more water use. The rate system was revised in 2005 and again in 2006, and resulted in a 22 percent reduction in annual water usage by Aspen water customers, according to the city water department’s Web page.

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