Water rules in Steamboat are likely to last | SteamboatToday.com

Water rules in Steamboat are likely to last

Brent Boyer

— As Steamboat Springs nears the one-week mark since mandatory water restrictions were put in place, officials say it's still too soon to determine what impact they're having. But expect the restrictions to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Jay Gallagher, general manager of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District that serves residential and commercial customers on the eastern half of Steamboat, including the ski resort base, said it likely will take a couple of weeks before he and other water district managers can tell how well the restrictions are, or aren't, working.

"It's really hard to tell in these early days because we're really in the implementation phase," Gallagher said Tuesday. "We're still doing the messaging. It takes time."

The Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, the city of Steamboat Springs Water District, the Steamboat II Metro District and the Tree Haus Metro District jointly enacted the water restrictions Friday. Gallagher said the restrictions began one day after Fish Creek Reservoir, the primary source of municipal water for the four districts that serve Steamboat and its immediate surrounding neighborhoods, stopped spilling over its dam.

When that happens, Gallagher said, it means inflow to the reservoir has been surpassed by the amount of water leaving the reservoir. That phenomenon happened about four weeks earlier than usual this year, Gallagher said, noting that flows in the Yampa River and Fish Creek have reached historic lows.

The hope is that the mandatory restrictions will curtail the amount of water being consumed throughout the city and thus slow the rate of discharge from Fish Creek Reservoir.

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Among other things, the mandatory restrictions assign days of the week for lawn irrigation based upon whether a homeowner's address is an odd or even number. Wednesdays are a no-water day for all users, regardless of address.

Gallagher said his staff is posting signs throughout their district alerting customers to the restrictions. He acknowledged that it takes time to get the message out, including the time it takes landscaping companies to visit each of their clients to adjust sprinkler timers and schedules.

Gallagher also said the restrictions are likely to remain in place until, or unless, a heavy monsoon season significantly changes the area's water situation. He cautioned residents against the false assumption that passing thunderstorms and the rain they bring can quickly alleviate water shortages.

Joe Zimmerman, the city of Steamboat's water and wastewater superintendent, said enforcement of the restrictions hasn't begun. The Steamboat Springs City Council likely will be asked to pass an emergency ordinance setting a new fine schedule for water restriction violations, he said. The goal of the fine schedule would be to have it mirror the one in place for the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, which is a special district and doesn't have to go through the city for enforcement.

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.

"Kind of like the leash law, if you give too many warnings people, don't take it seriously," Gallagher said.

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.

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.

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