Mandatory water restrictions prove effective in first 4 weeks |

Mandatory water restrictions prove effective in first 4 weeks

Rocks normally covered by flowing waters sit exposed on the banks of the Yampa River on Tuesday afternoon. Despite recent rains and conservation, the river level on the Yampa remain low.

— Steamboat Springs water users appear to be heeding the mandatory restrictions imposed at the end of June. Despite continued drought conditions, residents and businesses have reduced their water consumption significantly, according to local water district officials.

Jay Gallagher, general manager of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, said a ban on lawn irrigation on Wednesdays combined with an every-other-day watering restriction and prohibition of watering in the middle of the day have helped to drop water consumption by 15 percent during the first 22 days of July.

"The early data is encouraging," Gallagher said Tuesday. "I'm happy we can reach water (consumption) levels that are very modest. That's the kind of metric I like to see."

Doug Baker, of the Steamboat II Metro District, reports similar results for the 400 water customers in the three residential subdivisions west of Steamboat city limits that constitute his district. Water usage in Steamboat II, Heritage Park and Silver Spur is down 16 percent, Baker said.

The 15 percent drop in water use by Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat II Metro District and Tree Haus Metro District customers translates into a savings of about 700,000 gallons per day. Daily usage is down from a June average of 4.6 million gallons per day to 3.9 million gallons per day in the first three weeks of July. Those 700,000 gallons of water being conserved each day also can be thought of as 2 acre-feet, or 1 cubic foot per second of water flowing down Fish Creek, Gallagher said.

In June, prior to the water restrictions being put in place, the average consumption on Wednesdays was 4.8 million gallons. On Wednesday, July 18, a hot day with no rainfall, the water used was 2.9 million gallons, a decline of 39 percent.

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"The response of the Steamboat community has been fantastic," City Manager Jon Roberts said in a news release. "Reducing water demand has allowed us to strike a balance between conserving our water supplies in the reservoirs while also maintaining recommended riparian flows for lower Fish Creek and the Yampa."

The four weeks of water data represent a small statistical sample, Gallagher pointed out, but he expects during the next four to six weeks to build a more valid body of data for analysis. One of the purposes of no-water Wednesdays is to gain an understanding of how much water the city could conserve in an extreme emergency.

As of Monday, Fish Creek Reservoir, on the Continental Divide east of Steamboat, stood at 91 percent of capacity, or the equivalent of 3,700 acre-feet of water. Fish Creek Reservoir is the primary source of tap water for all of Steamboat.

If 91 percent of capacity in late July sounds like the reservoir is nearly full, Gallagher said he's focused on the rate at which the reservoir level will drop between now and mid-September. His staff recently bumped the daily dam release from 15 acre-feet to 20 acre-feet in part to leave some water in Fish Creek, a significant tributary of the Yampa just downstream from the water plant. The dam releases will be brought down again by mid-August, Gallagher said.

Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District needs 9 cfs of inflow into the filtration plant and tries to leave another 9 cfs in the creek. Fish Creek was flowing at 9.9 cfs below the water plant Tuesday morning.

A stretch of July that saw the monsoon flow bringing moisture to Northern Colorado from Arizona has done little to improve water supplies, Gallagher said.

Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District filters and treats drinking water for its own district within the city (roughly south of the intersection of Fish Creek with U.S. Highway 40) as well as the rest of the city. The district can impose fines for water users within its boundaries who violate the mandatory restrictions.

A first violation would include a warning and an "educational opportunity" for the specific customer, Gallagher said. A second violation carries a fine of $50; a third costs $100. The city's water district, which serves the other half of Steamboat, is in the process of enacting an identical fine structure.

Although he hasn't issued any fines yet, Gallagher said he's made a few house calls where watering was taking place at inappropriate times of day. In most cases, he said, the homes were not occupied.

The Steamboat II Metro District has its own enforcement regulations, instituted in the early 1990s. Baker said his office has issued $25 citations to a half-dozen water users who were clearly in violation of water restrictions. A second offense in the Steamboat II Metro District brings a $50 fine, and a third costs $100.

"For the most part, people are receptive to the issue and will cut back," Baker said. "There are still some who don't get it."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

Tips for conserving water

• Avoid watering in windy conditions.

• Adjust sprinklers to avoid watering hard surfaces. Set timers to avoid over-watering.

• Because our clay soils restrict penetration of water, it is better to water for three short intervals than for one long interval.

• When irrigating with a hose, use a spring-loaded nozzle, not a free-running hose.

• 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.

Stage 2 mandatory water restrictions

• Potable water shall be used for beneficial purposes and should not be wasted.

• No outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

• Outdoor watering schedule is based on the last number of the customer’s street address. Odd-numbered addresses can water Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays; even-numbered addresses can water Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. There is no watering permitted Wednesdays.

• No vehicle washing at residences.

• No washing hard surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and parking areas. Sweep with a broom instead.

• No running outdoor water features.

• No use of domestic water for dust control.

• Limit the filling of swimming pools to one filling per year, unless draining for repairs.

• Permits may be secured for newly-sodded lawns and newly-planted trees for as many as 14 consecutive days and for newly-seeded lawns for as many as 25 consecutive days with the exception of Wednesdays.

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