Gilcrest cuts police department to pay for problems caused by rising groundwater

Mayor calls on lawmakers to pass House Bill 1332

GILCREST, Colo. - A Colorado town has cut its police force to pay for damage caused by rising groundwater.

The mayor of Gilcrest tells 7NEWS that $450,000 is needed to replace the liners at the sewage treatment plant.

The liners have bubbled up creating black lumps in the lagoons at the plant.

The failing liners are just part of the problems for the community.

"We also have problems with sewers," said Gilcrest Mayor Jeff Nelson. "Our sewers are collapsing because of the groundwater levels coming up and we have problems with our roads, with sinkholes. You look down some of our roads and it looks like a little wave undulating up and down the road."

Many farmers and officials in northern Colorado communities blame the high ground water on wells being shut down along the South Platte River.

The state began shutting down wells in the early 2000s to protect people who have water rights along the river.
 
Nelson is calling on state lawmakers to pass House Bill 1332, which would create a plan for reducing groundwater levels.

A report presented to lawmakers in December 2013 seems to support the need for some changes to water management.

The Colorado State University report found the practice of curtailing wells and returning water to the aquifer has played a part in the rising groundwater, especially around Gilcrest, Fort Morgan, Sterling and
Julesburg.

The report also found the current system works for most water users, but calls for changes in some areas.

Gilcrest's mayor is worried about how much pressure his town's budget can take.

"We just couldn't afford it any longer. And it's getting worse all the time. Now we got to come up with more money and what's going to go next? We just can't afford it," said Nelson.

Nelson estimates the water level was 25.7 feet below the ground's surface in 1982. He estimates current the water level is now 12 feet below ground.


 

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