As a local real estate agent it’s part of our job to disclose where the water comes from for every property we list and sell. In fact, the state of Colorado was so concerned that a few years ago they added a “Source of Water” addendum to the contract printed boldly that states: “SOME WATER PROVIDERS RELY, TO VARYING DEGREES, ON NONRENEWABLE GROUND WATER. YOU MAY WISH TO CONTACT YOUR PROVIDER (OR INVESTIGATE THE DESCRIBED SOURCE) TO DETERMINE THE LONG-TERM SUFFICIENCY OF THE PROVIDER’S WATER SUPPLIES.” The good news is that around here depletion of aquifers isn’t an issue because most of the towns and small water companies are tapped into springs. Do you remember the old Coors ads touting that they brewed using only “Pure Rocky Mountain Spring Water?” Well, it turns out that some spring water is pure and some is, according to the State of Colorado, actually “ground water under the influence of surface water.” The difference is huge when it comes to treatment. Everyone who has taken a drink from a stream while camping or on a hike has heard of giardia (and some have had first-hand experience with it!) but because of a nasty little bug called cryptosporidium – which is particularly difficult to treat and can be deadly to infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems – the state health department is cracking down.
Faced with this, the Town of Paonia is investing heavily in additional treatment equipment to achieve what is known as “4-log” or 99.99% purity. Tap holders of the Pitkin Mesa Pipeline company recently received a letter notifying them that the state has reclassified their spring sources up Stevens Gulch to recognize the influence of surface water and they will have to upgrade their treatment to meet the tougher standards. The cost of that system could be a little hard to swallow when spread over so few taps.
Faced with having to spend a million dollars or more to upgrade its plant, the Town of Crawford has opted prove that its springs are not influenced by ground water. But that is not an easy, or inexpensive, task either. Using a hyper-fine portable filter machine they have to rent from a place in Carbondale and haul by ATV some twelve miles to the spring site, they started taking samples in August which are analyzed by a lab in Grand Junction at a cost of about $500 a pop. So far so good, but the testing regiment will have to be done for several more months before the state will be satisfied. And, according to those in the know, there are several other small water systems serving the public that are facing having to either prove-up or gear-up. It’s a big deal, affecting a lot of people and adding significant cost, which may be fixing a problem that doesn’t even exist. While it may come at an increased cost, having a tap deliver near perfect water to your home is more desirable than getting it from a well, and way, way better than having to haul it for a cistern.
(This article was also published in the Merchant Herald.)