The three lakes in Monument, Palmer Lake and Woodmoor gave the community the Tri-Lakes nickname, but one of those lakes is quickly on its way to being dry.
Residents of Palmer Lake and anyone who has driven by the lake knows there is not much left of the lake.
The reason for the lack of water in the lake is plain and simple: drought.
“We are having the hottest summer on record since 1895, according to CNN,” said Michael Maddox, water trustee for the town of Palmer Lake.
CNN has reported that two-thirds of the United States is experiencing the worst drought in a half-century. Approximately 61 percent of land in the lower 48 states has been experiencing drought conditions, with 1,300 counties across the nation being declared drought disaster zones.
Colorado State University climatologists have reported that 98 percent of the state is facing drought conditions.
Maddox said some residents have questioned why the water is disappearing from the lake, and the drought is the only explanation. Helicopters did not take water from the lake to help fight the Waldo Canyon Fire, and water is not being removed for hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, as some residents believe. And the springs that feed the lake have not been diverted. The flow of the water from the springs is usually enough to make up for what is evaporated unless it is a really dry year. This happens to be one of the driest years.
Palmer Lake Mayor Nikki McDonald said the lake nearly dried up in 2002, the last year Colorado had a major drought, but it wasn’t as bad as it is now. At its deepest, the lake was believed to be at least 12 feet deep but in recent years it has been measuring at about 5 feet deep. Pueblo Reservoir has dropped more than nine feet compared to this time last year, according to Colorado State Parks.
Reservoirs not an option
Although the appearance of the lake is not a pretty sight, Maddox said it is out of the Town Council’s hands. Maddox said many residents have questioned why water cannot be taken from the reservoirs for the lake, but he said that is not an option.
“The reservoirs are our drinking water. We can’t sacrifice the reservoirs for aesthetic purposes,” he said.
Maddox said the town is hoping there is enough water in the reservoirs to last through the summer and into early fall.
“Then hopefully we’ll get a good amount of snow fall to fill them up,” he said.
Maddox said the town doesn’t want a repeat of 1978, when the town ran out of water and had to have water tankers brought in.
Maddox said even if they were able remove water from the reservoirs and put it in Palmer Lake, the lake is so shallow it would evaporate very quickly. The lake also drains at both ends and the town is not able to plug the drains because they do not own the storage rights.
The Palmer Lake Town Council enforced watering restrictions in the spring, much to the dissatisfaction of residents, but Maddox said people are starting to understand the severity of the water shortage and are cooperating.
“That’s why it’s important to conserve now and protect our water supply,” Maddox said.
Maddox has written a report regarding the water issues in Palmer Lake. The full report can be found at www.ci.palmer-lake.co.us; click on “Departments” and then on “Water Department.”
As for the lake, it will take a lot of rain and snow to fill it.