100 Years Ago Today: Breckenridge Issues Water Warning

Summit County Journal, February 8, 1919

People of Breckenridge, Colorado! Stop running your water at full blast all night! We know the pipes in your house might freeze and burst during the winter but our tiny reservoir only has a few feet of depth left! And the water pressure is so low that we couldn’t fight a fire if one broke out right now!

Summit County Journal, February 8, 1919

You can imagine the panic of the town’s Water Committee when they learned of so many people turning the tap all the way on before heading to bed. The author of this article suggests that residents can turn the water on overnight, but only slightly, in order to prevent freezing pipes. What a suggestion! Ok, sure, leave your water running…but only a little!

What other option did they have though? Pipes weren’t insulated and most homes were heated by a stove in only one room. Brrrr.

Summit County Journal, February 8, 1919

Throughout Colorado’s history, water has been more valuable than gold or silver ever were. Colorado is the 7th driest state in the U.S., and the threat of drought, fire, and simply not having running water has always been a concern. Just look at the drastic measures Denver Water has taken over the years to secure water rights.

During the Great Depression, Denver Water bought foreclosed properties in the town of Dillon in order to build a reservoir where the Blue River met Ten Mile Creek and the Snake River. By 1959 they owned so much of the land that they forced the residents to move their entire town to build the Dillon Reservoir, which was completed in 1963. Meanwhile, they drilled the 26 mile long Roberts Tunnel under the Continental Divide to send water from Dillon Reservoir, through the mountains, and down to Denver.

Image result for dillon reservoir
Dillon Reservoir today

In 1919, Dillon Reservoir had not yet been dammed, so the reservoir referenced in the article is the tiny Sawmill Reservoir, which still exists today. It’s up the ski hill to the west of town.

Sawmill Reservoir today compared to the size of Breck

100 years ago today, Breckenridge residents were leaving their water running full blast all night to prevent their pipes freezing, and the town issued warnings that the tiny Sawmill Reservoir was drying up and leaving the town in danger of fire that couldn’t be stopped because the water pressure and level was so low.

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