Former City Manager Larry Borger thinks the city’s claims that nothing can be done about the dwindling Ketring Lake are all wet.
“I think the city’s getting a bad rap about this, and I’d like to see if we can get something going,” he told Littleton City Council on Aug. 6. “The clear implication is that the lake is going dry, and there’s nothing to be done. There is something to be done, and the city is indeed working on it.”
He says the best short-term solution is to divert water from Englewood’s McClellan Reservoir in Douglas County. Englewood is legally obligated to let Littleton have 35 acre-feet of water a year to replace evaporated water in Cooley Lake, which is south of South Platte Park. But Littleton only uses about 19 acre-feet a year, so Borger feels the city has a right to do whatever it wants with the other 16.
Borger says the water could be carried via the High Line Canal to Broadway and Caley Avenue, then gravity would take it the rest of the way to the park.
A longer-term solution would be to drill a well, he said, which was addressed in July by Dan Brown, attorney with water-law specialists Fischer, Brown, Bartlett and Gunn. He said the city can use whatever groundwater is under public land and not connected to a tributary with rights assigned to it, but getting to it is an expensive challenge. There are currently no wells accessing the basins, as far as Brown can tell.
“It becomes not a legal question, it’s a physical question,” he told council. “They’re expensive, so you don’t want to put them down there and then find out there’s no water there.”
After Denver Water took over Littleton’s service in 1970, it agreed to keep Ketring Lake full, to the extent possible, with water channeled from the High Line Canal. But after several years of drought conditions, Denver Water decided to let the canal stay empty in 2013 and the lake is drying up.
Littleton City Manager Michael Penny told the Aberdeen Village HOA that people have asked about using City Ditch water to fill Ketring, which was installed as an irrigation lake, but the ditch is well below Ketring in elevation and at least a half-mile away.
“We would have to acquire more water rights — not a quick process,” he wrote in his email to the neighbors. “We really don’t have any other ideas for getting water to fill Ketring Lake. It would be difficult to justify using water for this purpose when we need to use water for more important reasons, especially in drought years.”
Deputy City Manager noted that council will hear more about the city’s water situation from Wright Water Engineers during a study session Aug. 22.