SUMMIT COUNTY - State officials have begun doing something about the illegal use of wells in the region. Wells that are being used for irrigation purposes could be red-tagged soon.
After the well issue has been here awhile, Scott Hummer, a Division 5 water commissioner for the State Engineer's Office, concluded that "This issue is here to stay." Some local officials are concerned that this well "crisis," as some have called it, could have a possibly adverse effect on the Breckenridge real estate markets in the area.
In order to correct this issue, and make sure that all have access to water for household purposes, state officials are going to be looking at more than 4,000 wells and how they are being used, with more than half of these being located in the Upper Blue.
With the number of residents and businesses growing, the problem can only get worse as more people use well water for other purposes. By consuming more water for irrigation, the amount of water available to all - especially for the user who is downstream is increasingly diminishing. Some wells have even already gone dry.
In an ongoing effort to bring about a solution to the problem, two plans have been augmented. These will enable the local well users to buy rights to surface water, and to ensure that there is enough water to go around. The areas that will see the highest levels of enforcement are those where augmentation is available. Other areas, such as those of the Upper Blue, and the area between the Breckenridge and the Dillon Reservoirs, are referred to as a critical reach, said Hummer.
The problem became noticed when the State Engineer's Office last year noticed that hundreds of wells in the County were using water illegally - contrary to the permit they were issued. Quite probably, the enforcement measures could go so far as to shut down those wells, or to revoke the well permit.
Oddly enough, new well permits continue to be issued at a rather alarming rate. With wells now numbering about twice as many as when the problem began the amount of water available remains the same. Enforcement is likely to get a quick issue to those who misuse what water there is.
Hummer also indicated that similar efforts of enforcement are also occurring in Grand County, and in South Platte, some wells have already been shut down.