Our View: Good to the last drop
July 31, 2012
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.
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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.