The city of Aspen took what an environmental consultant labeled an unusual and amazing step Thursday night by asking residents if it should retain conditional water rights tied to dams and reservoirs on two cherished streams.

Environmentalists didn’t show up in droves with pitchforks or divining rods in hand, but roughly 40 people outside of city government attended to learn more and weigh in.

The city filed for water rights on Maroon and Castle Creeks in 1965 as part of a long-term plan to address water supply. Aspen was awarded a “place in line” in 1971 by a water court. The conditional water rights were awarded for a proposed 9,062-acre-foot reservoir in Castle Creek Valley and 4,567-square-foot reservoir in Maroon Creek Valley.

The city has to submit a diligence filing periodically, currently every six years, to show “they’re making progress on these water rights and not just sitting on them,” said Larissa Read of Common Ground Environmental Consulting. She facilitated the city meeting.

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