Well monitoring could yield much-needed info

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The many water meetings this year in Westcliffe reflect the complexities and urgencies of water issues here. On Oct. 22, San Isabel Land Protection Trust welcomed 55 people from Custer and Fremont counties to a presentation by hydrologist Valda Terauds on groundwater and wells in our fractured rock areas.

Valda helps lead San Isabel’s Sustainable Sangres initiative, a collaborative effort to develop pathways to keep our region forever wild and beautiful, with abundant wildlife, sustainable agriculture, flowing water and thriving rural communities and economies. This work is an example of how land trusts can help communities beyond just land conservation. Of the five land trusts operating in this area, only San Isabel has tackled these issues.

Valda’s talk began by showing how geology determines the amount and distribution of groundwater. She explained how wells behave in fractured rock and the threats to long-term sustainability of our precious groundwater resources. Those attending discussed the potential consequences of over-pumping in fractured rock areas in the context of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District’s proposed augmentation plan. Augmentation does not provide water directly to the fractured rock areas, but instead leads to more rapid groundwater depletion.

Valda presented evidence of water stress already occurring in the Wet Mountain Valley, including wells going dry and people altering their daily activities to preserve their wells. She discussed sustainable alternatives in fractured rock areas to allow for more – and more diverse – water use, including permaculture, rainwater harvesting and hauling water. Valda emphasized that sustainability means achieving a balance between groundwater pumping and recharging our groundwater resources. That starts with more and better information about the structure and nature of fractured rock areas and how aquifers interconnect.

Valda’s investigations show that very little scientific research has been completed on the fractured rock aquifers here or elsewhere in Colorado. San Isabel invited participation in developing a community well monitoring network, and nearly half the people at the meeting indicated interest in participating. The network would help determine whether, how and where our fractured rock aquifers already are experiencing pumping stress.

We hope that Custer and Fremont county officials, as well as local property owners’ associations, will support this effort. We welcome inquiries about and support for this project. Anyone wanting to help may call San Isabel at 783-3018 or email Valda at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Fractured Rock Aquifer Presentation

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