TELLER COUNTY — The question of how to best moderate the use of the Gillette Flats spring along Highway 67 has long been looking for an answer, and thanks to two bright college students, the spring has the potential to stick around for years to come.
High up in the mountains of rural Teller County, water doesn’t just come at a push of a button. Most residents depend on water wells.
But just off the shoulder of Highway 67 at mile marker 57 is the Gillette Flats spring. For years, residents have shown up to the springs with buckets and other containers with water. Because no one holds the water rights to the spring, they’re able to fill up for free.
Until recently, the spring water emptied out into a large trough. People were able to dip containers into the trough and take away large amounts of water very quickly.
“People would be coming up with a trailer with a whole bunch of big tanks on it and a motorized pump and people could possibly be leaving with anywhere around 500 gallons at a time,” Colorado School of Mines student Dodd Weyandt said.
Over the years, the spring has grown in popularity.
“They figured out that people really liked to use this spring,” Colorado School of Mines student Natalie Brooker said.
The Colorado State Water Division became concerned unlimited free use of the Gillette Flats spring could potentially deprive people downstream, who do hold the rights to the water, of getting their water.
“So they needed a way to either, which would be worst case scenario, either cap off the spring or either meter that water,” Brooker said.
Brooker, along with Weyandt, took on the task of finding a way to meter the spring as part of their classwork at Colorado School of Mines.
“The Gillette Flats spring organization, the community organization there, were the people that we were working hand in hand with,” Weyandt said.
The organization, which is a nonprofit, had to find a way to limit costs. Rather than spending thousands of dollars hiring a professional firm to come up with the plan, they turned to Colorado School of Mines.
“They came to the school and said here’s the issue… we want to try and make is so people can keep using the water,” Weyandt said.
Weyandt and Brooker got to work. They drew up plans for meter that could be installed to monitor how much water is being used at the spring.
“We were able to create a much more simpler system than I think they were originally thinking, which has been super helpful for them,” Brooker said.
In total, Brooker estimated the total cost to install the meter would be between $500 to 600.
“As students, we were able to help them free of charge, in essence, because it was something we needed to do for school anyway, and it was really a great learning experience," Weyandt said.
The meter isn’t in operation yet. COVID-19 prevented Brooker and Weyandt from being able to do the work themselves. There are still some permits they’re waiting on, but they’re hoping the meter will be in operation soon.
As for the million-dollar question: “I think we got an A on it,” Brooker said.