New water right saves Routt County on cost of irrigation |

New water right saves Routt County on cost of irrigation

— In this summer of drought and water restrictions, Routt County Building and Plant Director Tim Winter found a way to reduce the demand the county makes on Steamboat Springs' municipal water supply.

Winter filed for a new water right on an existing well between the jail and the Routt County Justice Center and put the water to use irrigating a large lawn.

The city, which relies on the water filtration plant on Fish Creek for drinking water, has been under lawn watering restrictions that allow people to irrigate their lawns just three days a week since late June.

Winter told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Monday that the county didn't use any treated city water to irrigate the large lawn at the Sheriff's Office this summer. Much of that lawn there covers a future jail expansion area along U.S. Highway 40.

The shallow well — it's just 24 feet deep — was built in 2007 while a new tunnel designed to afford secure transport of jail prisoners to and from their cells and court hearings at the adjacent Justice Center was being built. The well is part of a system that kept the tunnel from filling with shallow groundwater from the nearby Yampa River during construction. Since it was completed, the well hasn't been needed.

Now, the new water right allows the county to tap into as much as 50 gallons of water per minute from the well when it is irrigating the lawn at the Sheriff's Office.

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But even though it isn't tapping into municipal water, the county has observed the water restrictions at the jail site all summer.

Winter said Monday that the county used 2,700 gallons to water the grounds at the Sheriff's Office and Justice Center in June 2011. In June of this year, when water restrictions were in effect for just a few days, water use was down to 920 gallons.

By using untreated well water for lawn irrigation and new, more efficient sprinkler heads, the demand on the municipal system operated by the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District was further reduced, and so was the county's water bill.

Winter estimates the county could recoup the expense of tapping into the well within three years.

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

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