Rains ease demand on city water plant

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— Concerns about the ability of the city's water treatment facility to deal with a recent increase in water usage have ebbed a bit due to the rainstorms that have passed through the dry Yampa Valley in recent days.

"Our operations were on the edge of capacity until recently," said Dan Birch, manager of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District. Water usage in the Steamboat Springs area decreased significantly during recent rainstorms as residents turned off their sprinklers.

Although Fish Creek Reservoir, the city's main source for water, is nearly full, the wastewater treatment facility, long overdue for an expansion, has been pushed to its limits lately.

When water usage rises, the wastewater treatment facility must process more water. July's water-use levels rose due to the drought and due to increases in tourism, both of which the water treatment facility anticipated. Employees couldn't, however, forecast just how intense the heat would be.

"July is historically the hottest month of the year here," Birch said. "But this July has been the hottest and driest I've ever experienced in Steamboat Springs. Water demands have been quite high."

Birch also attributed the rise in water usage to increased growth in the community.

The wastewater treatment plant is running at more than 80 percent capacity. That level triggered a state law that requires that the plant be expanded. However, a funding shortfall is keeping Mount Werner Water and the city from breaking ground on a planned $9 million expansion.

Luckily, though, the worst seems to have passed for this summer. Tourism, after last weekend's influx of visitors here for mountain bike races, rodeos and athletic tournaments, is expected to be on the decline until Labor Day weekend.

"The occupancy forecast always peaks in July," Birch said.

And though weather forecasters say the heat will return, it shouldn't get has hot as it did in recent weeks, Birch said.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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