Steamboat Springs water conservation plan cites utility, efficiency improvements |

Steamboat Springs water conservation plan cites utility, efficiency improvements

Steamboat Springs resident Wally Cerise tests the waters of the Yampa River on Monday afternoon. City and Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District officials have created a water conservation plan

— Local water officials say their updated conservation plan is essential to reducing water use that, if unchecked, could nearly double in Steamboat Springs by 2035 and cost ratepayers millions for infrastructure expansion.

The plan outlines short- and long-term strategies to ultimately reduce local water use 15 percent by 2035. The reduction is viewed on a per capita basis that accounts for increasing population. The conservation plan's nearly 40 strategies include water system improvements and increased maintenance, customer-efficiency incentives such as rebate programs for water-saving appliances, increased public outreach, water use audits and more.

"This water conservation plan is really an investment in our future," Laura Frolich, a city water resource technician, said to Steamboat Springs City Council last week.

The Colorado Water Con­ser­va­tion Board gave the city a grant of more than $15,000 in 2010 to help the city and Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District upgrade their collaborative conservation plan. The draft plan is open for public comment through Feb. 23. Electronic copies can be found with this story at,

and through the city and Mount Werner Water websites. Paper copies are available at City Hall on 10th Street and in the Mount Werner office on Clearwater Trail. After public comment — and comment from the CWCB, which received the updated draft in late December — the plan will be returned to City Council and the Mount Werner Water board for approval by resolution, then submitted to the CWCB.

Frolich said a primary goal of the plan is to help the city qualify for grants to implement conservation programs.

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That implementation is expected to increase this year. City water customers already may have noticed informational flyers in their bills. Frolich told City Council a rebate program could provide financial incentives for customers to install water-efficient clothes washers, dishwashers, toilets and irrigation equipment.

The city also could analyze city parks this year to see whether water rights on local creeks could be used for park irrigation.

Population projections are driving increased conservation efforts across the state. Melissa Elliott, conservation manager for Denver Water, said widespread efforts have helped their customers achieve a 19 percent reduction in water use, compared to "pre-drought" levels measured from 1993-2001.

On Friday, the CWCB released a report that states statewide water use could double by 2050.

Water use in Steamboat is increasing on a similar scope.

The city of Steamboat Springs and Mount Werner Water produce about 1 billion gallons of water per year, combined, through their shared filtration plant. That figure could increase to a combined 1.8 billion gallons of water per year by 2035 and could cost ratepayers $6 million for new filtration bays alone, according to data in the conservation plan.

The plan also includes a drought preparedness program, which sets guidelines for water restrictions during emergency shortages.

City water and sewer rates increased this year and could continue to extend throughout the next decade, to fund more than $70 million worth of water and wastewater improvements facing Steamboat Springs.

Much of the conservation detailed in the plan could occur with improvements to existing infrastructure.

The conservation plan states that the city's water system has an estimated water loss of 19.9 percent, with about 12 percent loss for the Mount Werner district. Combined, that's a loss of about 16 percent of produced water annually, or 156 million gallons per year.

"This water is categorized as non-revenue water and is due to distribution system leakage, metering inaccuracies, un-metered use and non-metered park irrigation," the plan states. "These losses would be addressed by implementing utility-initiated programs detailed in this plan."

The plan sets a target of reducing that loss by 58 million gallons, to 98 million gallons a year, by 2035.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail

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