Officials: Town of Gilcrest taking on water

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Gilcrest pond

Gilcrest pond

GILCREST, Colo. — Town officials in Gilcrest say the whole town is taking on water. And it’s not just because of recent heavy rains. They believe it has to do with water rights and decisions made as much as ten years ago.

The say a place to start is by looking at two things in the town: The retention pond and $500,000 sewage treatment plant.

“This retention pond never used to have water in it before 2006 … that is when the state ordered farming wells shut down. But now water from above and below ground is turning this into Lake Gilcrest,” said Mayor Jeff Nelson.

“Our sewer lines are failing in the city because of the rising water table underground, helping damage the streets. Along with that the rubber bladders in our sewer plant are rupturing … again rising water is making them bubble up. One in the finishing pond is ripped, that is the pond where water is pumped back into the river from.”

Residents in the town say they go to sleep to the ‘not-so soothing tones’ of sump pumps at work in their basements. Glen Durant is running 13 pumps in and outside his home.

“My whole basement was destroyed—just after I had it remodeled—because of all the water my home is taking on,” said Durant. “I even put in underground drain lines to take water to the ditch.”

Durant says when he decided to build the water table was deeper than 10 feet, but now state officials say the ground water table is less than one foot below the surface.

And while it would seem like rain is too blame, the Mayor and Durant say no. They blame the ever rising water table on their wells and pumps being turned off by the state nearly 10 years ago. That has added too much water to the ground … so in effect ground water from above is meeting underground water with little relief in sight.

“It’s almost like the town is sinking … we’re worried the whole town could become a lake if conditions stay as they are!” said Nelson.

While there have been years of meetings and panels, most of the folks in this farming community say three things are at play here: they say it is the end result of a long-standing, three-way water fight that pits thirsty cities against senior water rights holders against farmers who for decades only used well water.

Most understand the cities and developers downstream have deep pockets and need more water as cities grow.

Because state leaders determined well water on farm land was coming from rivers owned by people with historic water rights, the state told farmers and ranchers to replace the water in rivers from new sources. While some did many couldn’t.

Then the wells went dry and water began building up from aquifers and from perhaps the sky above … all of which leaves Gilcrest with a sinking feeling.

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