Our View: When it comes to water, save early and save often
March 12, 2013
A frustratingly slow start to winter eventually gave way to what has been a respectable snow year for Routt County. But without significant snowfall throughout the next month, it's highly unlikely the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs will hold the water needed to get us back to the historic average.
It's never too early to start thinking about summer and the impact another drought year might have on local municipalities, ranchers and businesses throughout the valley. And while Steamboat Springs residents can take some solace in the likelihood that Fish Creek Reservoir once again will fill and provide sufficient water for consumers here, it's the macro view of water consumption that we all should keep in mind as spring approaches.
Last week, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Jay Gallagher discussed the possibility of enacting Stage 2 water restrictions as early as mid-May for the four water districts that provide treated water to city of Steamboat Springs residents and businesses as well as most of the residential neighborhoods immediately surrounding the city. We appreciate Gallagher's proactive approach to conservation measures, and based on the results of last year's mandatory water restrictions in Steamboat Springs, we see no reason not to take similar steps this year.
Winter 2011-12 provided paltry snowpack for our high country, and a warm, dry spring only exacerbated the issue. It was the end of June by the time local governments signed off on mandatory water restrictions, but even a late start resulted in eye-popping consumption savings. The Stage 2 restrictions, which prohibit irrigating on Wednesdays and allow three-days-per-week watering before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m., saved 600,000 gallons each day in July and similar quantities in August and early September.
Perhaps even more significant, the restrictions taught many of us that our lawn and garden watering habits — as well as our in-home water usage — didn't follow best practices and often were unnecessary and even counterproductive. Who knew that grass can be just as green when watered three times each week instead of seven?
Gallagher plans to discuss the early water restrictions with Steamboat Springs City Council, and we hope the result is unanimous support for the plan (ultimately, the city manager has the authority to enact water restrictions). After all, a Water Conservation Plan adopted by the council in 2011 aims to reduce water usage by 5 percent by 2015, 10 percent by 2025 and 15 percent by 2035. Those goals might be easier — and less painful — to hit than many residents would think.