Source Water Protection Plan

The Little Elk Creek HOA provides potable water for its residents and a few others. The system includes three shallow wells underlain by an impervious shale layer, a treatment and distribution system. The well water quality is high with no recent exceedances. As such, water quality needs only protection. However, water quantity issues occur during the winter months. The surface water comes mostly from Little Elk Creek, a tributary of Capitol Creek. Capitol Creek water quality is high. The watershed is well protected, exhibits steep slopes, mostly undeveloped and should remain undeveloped. A few large ranches pasture a few horses and cattle and a small amount of rural development is possible. Forest management and geologic hazards present potential hazards. Subdivision items that could compromise water quality include septic systems, augmentation ponds, residential practices, roads and fuel storage tanks. Seven primary and three secondary issues are discussed and solutions offered to protect the present and future potable water supply.

The potential financial and water supply risks related to the potential contamination of one or more of the community’s water sources are a concern to the Little Elk Creek Steering Committee (Steering Committee). As a result, the Steering Committee believes the development and implementation of a source water protection plan for Little Elk Creek and our community can help to reduce the risks posed by potential contamination of its water source. This source water protection plan was developed to establish protection areas, prioritize source water protection concerns and identify local source water management approaches that can be implemented to protect the source water. A source water assessment report was accomplished by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in 2004 and the results were used as a starting point in developing this source water protection plan.

The Steering Committee recommended adopting a "drinking water supply protection area" that is larger than the source water protection area defined in the source water assessment report. The drinking water supply protection area was re-delineated (redefined) from the source water assessment report through discussion, on-site observation and the use of historical data, involving stakeholders and experts. The drinking water supply protection area defines the region where Little Elk Creek has chosen to implement its source water protection measures in an attempt to manage the susceptibility of their source water to potential contamination.

The Steering Committee adopted a two-step strategy recommended by the CDPHE for prioritizing the water sources and potential contaminant sources on which source water protection measures will be focused. The first step of the strategy prioritizes the water sources based on their total susceptibility and/or physical setting vulnerability scores/ratings, contained in the source water assessment report, while the second step prioritizes the potential contaminant sources based on (1) their prevalence, (2) the potential threat they pose, or (3) how prevalent and threatening the potential contaminant sources are.

In applying this strategy, the Steering Committee recommended focusing source water protection measures on the most threatening discrete contaminant sources and the most prevalent dispersed contaminant sources. Further, those sources closest to the wells both in a surface and groundwater flow sense were of the highest priority.

The Steering Committee reviewed and discussed several possible source water management approaches that could be implemented within the drinking water supply protection area. These management approaches may help reduce the potential risks of potential contamination from the prioritized potential contaminant sources. The purpose of voluntarily implementing source water management approaches is to apply an additional level of protection to the drinking water supply by taking preventive measures at the local level (i.e., county and municipal level) to protect the source water. The Steering Committee established certain acceptance criteria as part of identifying and selecting the most feasible source water management approaches to implement locally. The Steering Committee recommends the following list of source water management tools to be implemented by Little Elk Creek and Pitkin County Planning Commission where applicable in the drinking water supply protection area:

Ultimately, the Steering Committee will:

  • Educate the public via source water protection outreach materials.
  • Create inspection and management programs for septic tanks and curb stops.
  • Coordinate efforts with the Pitkin County Environmental Health Department, Pitkin County Community Development, White River National Forest, Basalt Rural Fire Protection District, and Pitkin County Road and Bridge.
  • Maintain good communication with surrounding subdivisions and other private and public landowners in the vicinity and encourage minimal development.
  • Maintain good communication with the CDPHE.
  • Maintain certified operators in charge with a good continuing education program.
  • Monitor changes in land use in the Little Elk Creek and Capitol Creek watersheds.

The Steering Committee estimates that it will cost approximately $13,000 in time and materials to implement these management approaches. Funding to cover these costs will come from grants, Pitkin Environmental Health Department and the HOA. Implementation of these management approaches is expected to begin in June, 2011 and will be ongoing following their establishment.

This source water protection plan includes additional voluntary commitments by Little Elk Creek to (1) track and report on the effectiveness of the source water management approaches that have been implemented, (2) apply source water assessment and protection principles to citing new water assessment and to revise their source water protection plan accordingly based on any major refinements.