Our View: Water conservation a no-brainer | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Water conservation a no-brainer

— We applaud the city’s effort to implement a water conservation plan for residents and businesses, and we urge officials to consider revising the Community Development Code to reflect the need to decrease our consumptive use of water for irrigating lawns and landscaping.

As it stands, the proposed water conservation plan and development codes that call for dense landscaping and irrigated lawns stand somewhat at odds with one another. An emphasis on xeriscaping and other landscaping methods that encourage the use of native vegetation accustomed to our semi-arid climate could make a significant difference in the amount of water we consume during peak days in the summer months.

It’s those peak demand days that are of the most concern to water district and city officials. Although Steamboat Springs’ daily water usage is manageable for most of the year, the city must build and improve its water and wastewater treatment facilities to handle the highest demands, such as those faced on peak days. Our water consumption peaks in the summer when irrigation demands strain the capacity of our existing treatment facilities.

The water conservation plan, drafted by Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Jay Gallagher; Philo Shelton and the city of Steamboat Springs’ Public Works Department; Bob Keenan, of the Planning Department; and Lyn Halliday, of Environmental Solutions Unlimited, proposes reducing peak-day demand by 10 percent by 2015 and by 20 percent by 2025. Achieving that first threshold, officials say, would postpone the need to build an additional $1 million filtration bay.

Other benefits to conservation include keeping more water in local reservoirs, streams and rivers; being better prepared to handle drought conditions; and reducing the operating and maintenance costs of water treatment and distribution infrastructure.

The truth is, Steamboat Springs has access to significantly more water than its residents and businesses consume. Most of our municipal water supply comes from the Fish Creek basin, which provides about 7,000 acre-feet of water annually to the city. The city also has about 2,000 acre-feet available from wells in the Yampa River alluvium. But city residents and businesses consume only about 3,000 acre-feet every year.

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That doesn’t mean conservation isn’t important and shouldn’t be a top priority for the city, and the proposed water conservation plan is a step in the right direction. As we celebrate Earth Day today, consider making the following conservation practices part of your daily routine:

– Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow toilets

– Take shorter showers and avoid baths

– Turn off the water when brushing your teeth

– Wash only full loads of dirty clothes

– Don’t water your lawn or outdoor plants and trees between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

– Use native grasses and drought-tolerant plant species in your landscaping

– Use mulch to help your plants and trees retain water

– Install rain sensors on your irrigation system

– Cover hot tubs when not in use

– Resist the urge to build outdoor water features like fountains and ponds

Check out the proposed water conservation plan at Steamboatpilot.com for more water-saving tips. And urge city officials to revisit the Community Development Code and its provisions for landscaping and vegetation.