Our View: Good to the last drop

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Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

There’s nothing like severe drought conditions to change one’s perspective on the availability of clean municipal water. Here in Steamboat Springs, where we’re just about as close to the top of the watershed as one can get, our apparent abundance of water usually is taken for granted.

This summer has provided some new perspective for many residents and business owners, and appropriately so. The four water districts that serve residential and commercial customers in the city of Steamboat Springs as well as some of its bordering neighborhoods enacted mandatory water restrictions in late June as part of an effort to cut back on water consumption. We think those restrictions were appropriate, and not necessarily because of concerns of water shortages this year but because of the longer-term water needs of the city, particularly in the event of an emergency such as a large-scale wildfire.

The community’s response to the water restrictions has been superb. Water officials reported last week that usage is down about 15 percent since the restrictions were enacted. That’s a significant number that equates to about 700,000 gallons of water per day. On one recent Wednesday in mid-July, water usage was down 39 percent compared to the Wednesday average in the month of June. Wednesday is the one day of the week where no irrigation is allowed under the water restrictions.

A wetter-than-usual July undoubtedly has helped some water customers satiate their appetite for green lawns and gardens without having to turn on the spigot every day. But we hope the restrictions also have underscored the value of water conservation practices not only for cutting back usage but also for their ability to maintain healthy lawns that require less frequent watering than many property owners previously would have thought.

As Master Gardener Deb Babcock and environmental consultant Lyn Halliday have written in the pages of this newspaper, proper lawn and garden watering practices allow for healthy, drought-tolerant vegetation without huge consumptive use of our most valuable natural resource. But our yards aren’t the only areas where we can make a dent in our water consumption.

The city announced this week the beginning of installation of new water meters for all of its customers. The Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District already is 75 percent done with the installation of similar meters for its customers. The new meters will allow for detailed readings of water usage at each city tap. That means it will be easier to pinpoint problems such as leaks or running toilets. Solving those issues could result in significant water usage savings down the road.

If the current drought patterns persist, as some scientists have forecast, changing our habits to conserve water will pay dividends to our community. This summer is serving as an example of what we can accomplish when government and residents work together to adopt and implement smart conservation practices.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

There are serious privacy concerns regarding wireless meters.

It is truly a big brother mindset that water district will continuously monitor the water usage of each individual customer. It may be with good intent to detect problems, but could easily also be used by law enforcement to determine if resident has a hydroponic watering system on a timer.

It is a troubling big brother mindset when the customers have no choice and the water district does not offer the means for customers to easily continuously monitor their own usage as part of a home automation system while keeping that info private from others.

Even to the extent that big brother is looking to be helpful in detecting a leaking toilet, water usage is charged and it is legal to have a leaking toilet. Are we going to have the water usage police knocking on people's door telling them to fix a toilet? To replace the high flow shower head?

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rhys jones 2 years, 3 months ago

Scott -- Considering that hydroponics are LEGAL, for a significant portion of the population -- those with MJJ licenses, and their caregivers -- and that the list of license-holders is confidential, and law enforcement theoretically has no access to this list -- I think they have bigger fish to fry than the lowly pot grower.

Big Brother can read your newspaper from outer space, watch your comings and goings with their ever-growing network of video cameras, and listen to your conversations, even through the walls. They can follow your paper trail, your debits and charges. Their surveillance potential is vast already, and I seriously doubt they will add water-monitoring to the list. But I guess ya never know...

We've got half the population watching the other half already. Surely that will soon double back on itself, the watchers watching the watchers.

One thing everybody loses sight of, and that is, we NEVER lose the water, it just gets redistributed. Back when my Mom worked for the EPA in water treatment, she told me they estimated that the water that fell from the sky to land here in Colorado, passed through an average of SIX organic systems on its way to the Pacific -- that's people or cows that ingested it and returned it to the system. We should feel lucky to be first-generation users -- and even that which drips by a leaky toilet flapper, gets returned to the system. Water never gets wasted -- it just gets moved.

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Jay Gallagher 2 years, 3 months ago

The installation of wireless meter reading is the first step towards developing a customer portal that will allow customers to monitor their own usage. We expect to beta test this capability in 2013.

Jay Gallagher General Manager, Mt. Werner Water

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