Who We Are?
- To salvage, restore and recreate the natural majesty of the namesake of our town.
- To prevent any future significant water dissipation due to drought and other natural causes.
- To enhance and update surrounding recreation areas.
The Palmer Lake Restoration Committee is a 501 (c) 3 not for profit group. #84-1360279.
1. Does the lake have a hole in it?
No. As in all lakes, evaporation occurs and water levels go down. Evaporation accelerates as the lake gets warmer. Rain, snow, spring water that naturally accrues to the Lake, and water which the Town at times can add to the Lake when in priority, offset the loss by evaporation. In wet times, the Lake rises. In dry times it falls. During an average year the lake level will fall over the course of the summer, until new fill supplies come through winter and spring precipitation.
2. Does the lake need a liner?
No. During wet years, the lake has natural springs that seep through the soil and fills the Lake, and the Lake is somewhat a reflection of naturally occurring shallow groundwater tables. Because the Lake essentially “fills from the bottom” through natural spring flow, if the Lake was lined, these springs would be cut off and the water trapped under the liner water would be unable to naturally fill the lake, become a problem itself.
3. If we fill the lake, will it just go dry again in a few years?
Water needs to be added during most years to replace net evaporative loss, particularly since the Lake’s only source of natural surface fill in its northwest corner was re-directed by the railroad to flow to Plum Creek years ago. In wet years the Lake has largely maintained itself. However, the Lake has regularly received supplemental fill water delivered by the Town via a pipe from the Glen Park reservoirs for over 100 years.
4. Why did The Town of Palmer Lake stop filling the lake with the water from the reservoir?
In the early 2000’s, a combination of drought and more restrictive administration from the State of Colorado acted to reduce natural fill supplies, while simultaneously barring the Town from utilizing available Town supplies to maintain the Lake. The Town in 2013 applied to the Water Court to allow the use of a portion of the “Anchor Ditch” water supplies gifted to the Town by the railroad in the 1950’s to be changed to municipal purposes, allowing the Town to both increase its supplies for residents, and to allow for supplemental fill water to the Lake when in priority and when all other Town demands have been met. This change to a portion of the Town’s water rights was approved in 2016, and since that time the Town has been able to provide supplemental fill water to the Lake regularly in spring and summer months.
5. Is any of the reservoir water owned by Palmer Lake and if so, how much?
Palmer Lake is not a storage facility for any of the Town of Palmer Lake’s municipal water supplies. The Town does contribute supplemental fill water to the Lake from such municipal supplies when in priority, when the Town’s own storage in the Glen Park Reservoirs is full, and when all other Town municipal needs have been satisfied.
6. What happens to the water going over the dam at the lower reservoir?
Downstream senior water users have rights to use water flowing in Monument Creek, as does the Town of Palmer Lake. Which water users have a better right to use water at any particular time depends on the priority date of the water right such users own, which varies from day to day depending on demands and available water supplies. The oldest most “senior” rights are allowed to use their amount of water before any younger more “junior” rights. This is the doctrine of “prior appropriation”. Please go to www.cfwe.org and order the Colorado Foundation for water education Citizens guides for further information on all aspects of water law, science and procedures. Since the completion of the Town of Palmer Lake’s water rights change case in 2016, water “spilling” over the dam of the Lower Reservoir is a prerequisite to the Town’s diversion of water to Palmer Lake for supplemental fill.
7. How old are Palmer Lake’s water rights?
The town has four separate surface water rights. The oldest and most senior is the Town’s original “Anchor Ditch” water right, which was appropriated (authorized) March 1, 1867, and decreed for use with that very senior priority. The Town’s Anchor Ditch right has only has been called out during extreme drought such as in 2002, and even then was legally available to the Town for much of that severely-dry year. The next senior water right is the “Town of Palmer Lake Water System” appropriated February 1,1887, which gets called out more frequently than the Anchor Ditch, but still it has not been called out with any regularity. Third, the Glen Park Reservoir decree for storing water (see 5Q) was appropriated November 25, 1904, making it a relatively junior priority water right within the Arkansas River basin, though it rarely is called out because it is filled during winter months when demand is low. Finally, the railroad gifted to the Town in the 1950’s the remainder of the Anchor Ditch water rights, through these water rights were decreed only for railroad and industrial use. The Town utilized these senior water rights within its municipal system for decades before the realization that they must be changed to municipal use in order to be legally utilized. That change case was initiated in 2013 and decreed in 2016, allowing the Town to make municipal uses of this senior water supply in much the same manner as the Town’s original Anchor Ditch water rights, and further expressly allowing the supplemental fill of Palmer Lake with such Anchor Ditch water rights under specific conditions. The water in the Glen Park Reservoirs is always available for use if present from the winter fill. Please click on www.cfwe.org and order the Colorado Foundation for water education Citizen’s guides for further information on all aspects of water law, science and procedures. The Town also has the right to the use of extensive quantities of groundwater in the Denver Basin aquifers underlying the Town, though this non-renewable resource has not to date been extensively utilized by the Town for its municipal purposes.
8. How much water does the lake hold when it’s full?
Palmer Lake was enlarged to the south from its natural footprint by the railroad in the late-1800’s, and restored back to its natural state during resolution of administrative issues in 2015, when non-native fill and sediment was removed from the north end of the then-dry lakebed and utilized to fill and re-grade the south end of the Lake. Following these restorative efforts, Awake the Lake caused the Lake to be surveyed and capacity curves to be developed based upon that survey. The Lake’s maximum storage capacity is presently approximately 107.98 acre feet.
9. Why would we fill our lake if the aquifers are going dry?
While the Town of Palmer Lake does have extensive Denver Basin groundwater supplies available to it, this resource has never been utilized as a source of fill water for Palmer Lake, which has filled through natural infiltration and supplemental fill through the Town’s surface water rights at times of surplus. While certainly the prolonged drought that Colorado continues to experience has led to declines in aquifers, particularly alluvial and tributary aquifers, the impacts on somewhat confined Denver Basin aquifers has been less severe.
10. Do Palmer Lake citizens have to choose between drinking water and water in our lake?
Simply, No. The Town of Palmer Lake has both surface and groundwater resources with which to supply its residents and businesses with municipal water supplies, and all supplemental fill water to the Lake provided from the Town’s surface resources is available only when the Glen Park Reservoirs are full and all other Town municipal demands have been met.
11. Doesn’t storm water drain into the lake?
Storm water inflow to the natural lake that Palmer Lake indeed is, remains an issue that needs to be addressed. Historically, storm water flows entered the Lake primarily from the West, but also to a limited extent from Ben Loman to the East. Development and alterations to natural flows under the railroad tracks have altered these historical surface water flows, particularly during storm events. When it rains now, storm water no longer flows into the lake from surrounding hillsides, but rather flows north to the West Plum Creek drainage and eventually the South Platte River (where is never used to go), and to a lesser extent south, to the Monument Creek drainage and ultimately Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River, where inter-county storm water management issues continue to arise. Awake the Lake had extensive engineering analysis conducted its engineering consultants in 2015, and it was determined that surface/stormwater contributions from the Ben Loman side of the Lake have been historically minimal, but that a single source of natural historical inflow at the northwest corner of the Lake was significant (perhaps an average of 15 acre feet annually), but now flows to the West Plum Creek drainage following work by the railroad to reduce track flooding. Restoration of thise natural flow patterns may require new culverts and redirecting of natural flows back into the Lake. Although this issue has been considered and some initial potential funding opportunities explored, ultimately such restoration efforts will require the participation and cooperation of the railroad, as these natural flows must be guided under the tracks, and of course the stability of the same is of paramount importance. Awake the Lake has not yet developed a specific plan to redirect these natural water flows back to the Lake mostly due to time and budget issues, and due to a lack of indication from the railroad of any interest in reconfiguring their current drainage patterns. A number of Awake the Lake volunteers have professional experience in these areas, and we continue to explore the best means of developing a cooperative relationship with the railroad with the hopes of restoring Palmer Lake’s only significant natural means of surface fill.