At a glance
Drought preparedness guidelines:
■ Potable water shall be used for beneficial purposes and should not be wasted.
■ No outdoor watering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
■ When irrigating with a hose, use a spring-loaded nozzle not a free-running hose.
■ Adjust your sprinklers to avoid watering hard surfaces. Set your timers to avoid over-watering.
■ Cut your lawn no shorter than three inches to reduce soil moisture loss and to promote deeper roots.
■ Avoid planting trees and shrubs or sodding new lawns during the drier, hotter months.
■ Plant native grasses and shrubs or drought-tolerant species in place of water-intensive species.
Steamboat Springs Local water providers and Steamboat Springs officials are asking residents to conserve water in light of continued dry conditions and an extended irrigation season.
The U.S. Drought Monitor this week indicated that about 30 percent of Northwest Colorado is experiencing severe drought conditions and that mandatory restrictions on water usage are possible for the summer.
“It’s definitely a possibility this year,” Steamboat Public Works Director Philo Shelton said. “It all depends on how much rain we get. What we want to do right now is increase everyone’s awareness.”
Currently, water conservation is being recommended, which is the first of three stages designed to help the community prepare for and respond to drought conditions. For example, it is advised that people not water their lawns and gardens between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. On average, the city estimates 60 percent of treated water is used outdoors, and water usage nearly triples during summer primarily because of irrigation.
“Now is the time to conserve it, so we have it in case we need it,” Shelton said.
In April’s Colorado River District newsletter, General Manager Eric Kuhn was quoted as saying one of the lessons learned during the 2002 drought was that municipal users of Western Slope water were slow to recognize the drought, “and the result was that reservoirs were hit hard that summer before restrictions were implemented, putting the utilities in a poor storage position for the ensuing year. Only a big March 2003 snowstorm saved the water year for the utilities.”
According to an April report by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack for the Yampa and White River basins is 17 percent of average.
“Statewide snowpack looks to have peaked around March 12, a month ahead of the average peak date, and began melting in late March at rates typically not observed until May,” state conservationist Phyllis Ann Philipps stated in the report.
The Conservation Service expects to see Colorado streamflow volumes that are less than 50 percent of average for May, June and July.
One positive is that reservoir storage in the state is 109 percent of what it was in 2011, with Yampa and White River basin reservoir storage at 113 percent.
In the Steamboat Springs area, the concern is not so much the availability of water for domestic use; the concern is the ability to treat enough water to meet demand, especially during peak usage days in the summer.
“Making wise water-use decisions directly affects the rate of future expenditures of public funds,” said Jay Gallagher, general manager of the Mount Werner Water District. “For each gallon we can shave off peak-day demand, we can defer the investment of a dollar in a new filtration bay. It also saves money on your water bill.”
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com