Petition drive launched to oppose closing
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Early last week, rumors circulated claiming that a free spring located in Gillette Flats in between Divide and Cripple Creek would be closed down for good.
Once the rumors came out they immediately sparked outrage on local social media groups.
And apparently, the agency responsible for the shutdown is the state of Colorado.
The spring sits in the straight away in the Gillette Flats area right before the KOA campground just off of Hwy. 67. For several years, both locals and tourists have used the well to get free water for their families and animals. Nearly everyday people can be seen at the well filling up anything from water bottles to large tanks and cisterns.
The well has existed for at least the last 30 years, but some locals say that the well has been in that location for over a century. In the 1800s, the spot where the well is located was a small town of the mining district called Gillette, which once served as a railroad stop. The town was best known for being the location of Colorado’s first and only bull fight that has ever taken place. Some believe that the well was put there when the town of Gillette existed in the early 1900s and late 1800s.
Last Tuesday, during a local water board meeting in Florissant, it was announced that the Colorado Division of Water Resources have plans to permanently cap off the free water well in November.
According to representatives from the state agency, the well is located on Colorado Department of Transportation land and it is not permitted for its current public use.
The recent action comes as a result of the state-wide drought. Earlier this year, the state’s Division of Water Resources increased their enforcement of water rights laws. According to the state officials, the water that comes out of the Gillette Flats well actually belongs to the Arkansas River Basin and belongs to people that have legal water rights. The officials claim that when people take water from the well, they are cutting in line and stealing the water from the legal water rights holders.
Once the well gets shut off, the water will flow into the Arkansas River Basin and provide more water to the entities that have legal rights to it.
Last May, the state agency says that they contacted local officials in both Cripple Creek and Florissant to see if they were interested in setting up an augmentation plan in water court to make the free well legal.
This would have meant that either Cripple Creek or Florissant would have had to use their water resources to replace the free water people were getting out of the wells. According to the state officials, they were unable to come up with an agreement to make the use of the water at Gillette Flats legal.
According to Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker, county officials had nothing to do with the decision and have no control over what happens to the well. In the last week, some false rumors abounded that the county was the responsible party.
But the commissioners adamantly denied these allegations. In the past, they have stated that they have supported the public use of the spring.
The state agency also said that the free water well is a safety concern. Since the well is unregulated, there is no testing getting done to ensure water quality to make sure that it is not contaminated. These regulations are place for legal water districts.
However, many locals disagree with the state’s decision to permanently shut off the free water supply.
According to the locals that are upset with the decision, thousands of people depend on water from the well. Many people living outside of Cripple Creek claim that they have no water on their land and they use water from the well because they cannot afford to purchase it. Many others claim that the well has been used for several years and nobody has ever gotten sick or had problems with water quality.
Save the Gillette Flats Water
Shortly after the announcement was made, a petition opposing the well closure started circulating on social media sites.
The petition seeks signatures to “Save the Gillette Flats, CO Water from Manipulating Greedy Hands.” Within days, the petition already had over a thousand signatures and that number has been steadily growing every day.