Water, Water Everywhere in Leadville Today
Publisher’s Note: This series was originally published in Spring 2017. It’s a comprehensive history of Leadville’s water supply, one of the most cherished natural resources in Leadville Today. Now more than ever it’s important to understand where local drinking water supplies come from, who manages it and what the future holds, including responsible growth on all fronts. So study up and then tune back in when LT brings you Part Four which includes a major upgrade for the Big Evans Water Treatment Plant currently underway, as well as what’s next underground for Colorado’s OLDEST water system!
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Old man winter is slowly loosening his icy grip on the high country and the alpine rivers and streams are starting to flow. The running waters are a sign of spring to most, a vital part of the business for others and a guarantee to provide some of the state’s safest (and most tasty) drinking water to Parkville Water District customers in Leadville.
And this year, Parkville’s General Manager Greg Teter is breathing a bit easier knowing that last summer’s upgrade project to the historic flume at Big Evans Reservoir will be able to bear whatever flow streams Mother Nature throws out them this spring.
It’s almost hard to believe that the system in place just one year ago looked more like an old miner’s sluice box. But the truth be told that’s exactly the type of engineering that was in place in the early 1900s when the bypass flume was first built, adjacent to Big Evan Reservoir as a diversion point. However, all that changed last summer (2016) when the flume was replaced with a state-of-the-art diversion system, that is making Parkville Water District the talk around the water cooler.
Leadville Today was there to record the historic event, from pictures to videos interviews, stay tuned to watch as 19th century good intentions become a 21st century locally designed and constructed, in-budget project that everyone can be proud of!
So come along as the Water, Water Everywhere series begins, taking readers on an historic understanding of where Leadville’s water comes from, what water rights Parkville owns and an incredible series of upgrades in recent years that is making Parkville Water District the talk around the water cooler. Drink it in!
Part One: Use it or Lose it!
First in Use, First in Right. That’s how Colorado’s very complicated water laws work. And once again, it’s Leadville’s mining heritage that catapults it to the top of the heap. Before Colorado was even a state, miners were settling in these parts, looking for their fortune and using water to do it. And since they were some of the first users, they also secured some of the first rights when it comes to water.
“If you look at the state’s water rights tabulations,” explains Teter. “It starts off on page one with the most senior rights and Parkville’s water rights are on page one.”
The water rights that Parkville owns in Iowa and Evans Gulch are 1860 water rights. That’s almost as far back as things go, but after that first page, there are about 300 pages of other calls on the river. And with appropriation law, it’s the senior water rights that get satisfied before anybody else’s. First in Use, First in Right.
“We are always going to be guaranteed access to our water rights,” concluded Teter. And with recent upgrades to the system, the glass got a lot fuller.
Remember, Leadville does not get its surface water supply from the Arkansas River Basin, but rather high to the east side from the Mosquito Range, in Evans Gulch. Those snow-filled basins melt into rivulets, that feed into tributaries, like Evans Creek, and finally reach Big Evans Reservoir, east of Leadville. Eventually, the water is brought to the Big Evans Water Treatment Plant on East 7th Street, where it is monitored and tested. Eventually, that clean drinking goodness flows through the pipes and into your faucet (if you live within the district!)
So what’s in store for Parkville’s future? How does their water supply and distribution system look for the projected growth for Leadville and Lake County? That’s what Leadville Today will cover in PART TWO in the Water, Water Everywhere series. Stay Tuned!
The Parkville Water District Board of Directors meets the second Thursday of every month at 5:15 p.m. at the Parkville business office at 2015 N. Poplar Street (next to Pizza Hut) in Leadville. The public is encouraged to attend.
Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company that publishes two news sites: Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2017 All content is original and protected under copyright. No portion or information contained therein may be published or re-posted without prior written permission from the publisher.