Verdant lawns targeted |

Verdant lawns targeted

City, Mount Werner district develop water conservation plan

Brandon Gee

— Lush landscaping is public enemy No. 1 in a water conservation plan being developed by the city of Steamboat Springs and Mount Werner Water.

The plan sets a goal of reducing peak day demand 10 percent by the year 2015 and anticipates that 60 percent of those water savings will come from irrigation efficiency measures.

“That’s probably the easiest and largest component of overuse,” Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District General Manager Jay Gallagher said. “That’s what we would call the low-hanging fruit. : Most people over-water their lawns.”

The plan recommends guidelines such as no outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., discouraging water-intensive landscapes and encouraging the use of native grasses and shrubs. In dry years or drought situations, the plan recommends more restrictive measures.

Water consumption peaks in the summer in Steamboat. Although use is much lower at other times of the year, water and wastewater treatment facilities must be built to handle the highest demands they will face on a “peak day.” According to the proposed conservation plan, the average peak day demand from 2004 to 2007 was 550 gallons per person per day. Outdoor irrigation use of water is twice indoor use in the summer.

The city and water district estimate that the conservation plan could defer the cost of building new filtration bays as much as $4 million. Every gallon saved, according to the plan, postpones $1 or more toward a new filtration bay.

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Based on his experience living in Denver during a drought, city Public Works Director Shelton said he doesn’t anticipate any pushback from residents regarding the conservation plan.

“Once people got used to it, you still got good (irrigation) results,” Shelton said. “It just manages the resource better.”

Gallagher agreed.

“By and large, I think people are aware of it, and they always want to do the right thing,” he said.

When the plan was presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday, some members complained that some of the city’s development codes could work against the conservation plan because they require water-intensive landscaping. Shelton said the city will look at that as the conservation plan moves forward and try to make sure policies complement each other.

“We’ve long recognized that we don’t have a perfect alignment between conservation policy and landscaping as required in the CDC,” Gallagher said.

The City Council and Mount Werner Water board of directors has reviewed the proposed water conservation plan.

No formal action has been taken on it. Next up is a 60-day public comment period before the city and district will consider a formal adoption of the plan.

The plan also sets goals to reduced peak-day demand 15 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030. Other strategies to reduce water use include encouraging conservation practices indoors and requiring the use or installation of water-saving appliances and fixtures.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210 or e-mail

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