Larger reservoir a boon during hot, dry summer

City cutting back on watering in parks

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— A dry July was evident in Steamboat Springs when the city's water use reached as much as 5.9 million gallons a day.

Even so, officials say Steamboat residents aren't facing a water emergency. But emergency or not, residents should be wise in their use of water, said Jeff Peterson, superintendent of the Mount Werner Water District.

Fish Creek Reservoir on Buffalo Pass is Steamboat Springs' main source of water and is still relativity full, dropping a foot from the spillway since July.

But unlike in other years, most of the water the city is using is coming directly from the reservoir, Peterson said.

Long Lake, another key water source for the city, was drained because of dam maintenance.

"This time of the year, we'd be relying on water from there, before we would use Fish Creek," Peterson said.

Fish Creek has 4,100 acre-feet of water between its shores. That's the same as putting one foot of water on 4,100 acres of land. Long Lake holds 350 acre-feet of water.

The loss of Long Lake's supplies, coupled with the unusually dry summer, has officials happy that they doubled of the size of Fish Creek Reservoir about four years ago.

"It's given us a lot of reserves," Peterson said.

Even though the city's water supplies have held up, Peterson would like some help from the weather.

"We're anxious for rain," he said. "We can't afford to have any problems in the system; if a water main broke, it could be disastrous."

To help supply the city's demand for water, about 1,200 gallons a minute also are being pumped from a well by the Super 8 Motel.

"So if nothing goes wrong, we'll be OK," Peterson said.

For the water district, a dry season presents two problems, Peterson said. First, there's a lack of rain going into natural flows. Second, people use more water during a drought if they are not checked.

Normally during July, about 4 million gallons of water are used a day in the city. In the winter, that total drops to 2.5 million gallons a day.

Residents watering their dry lawns are the biggest draws on water supplies, Peterson said. Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation already cut down on its watering. That's why the fields in some city parks, such as Whistler, are turning yellow.

"We're keeping our eye on things," said Mike McCannon, parks facility supervisor of Steamboat Springs. "It's been tough keeping the grass green and the flowers healthy."

Meanwhile, the Yampa River's flow through Steamboat has been dropping, hitting 92 cubic feet per second on Thursday, according to the U.S Geological Service. Though the Yampa River usually runs low this time of the year, the average flow in early August is 167 cfs.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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