Steamboat water officials are confident users will meet limitations during treatment plant closure
Michelle Carr with the City of Steamboat Springs and Tyler Gilman at Mount Werner Water District are watching water-use levels carefully hour by hour as water users have been asked to stop outdoor watering and conserve more indoors.
“Today is really where the proof is in the pudding,” said Carr, the city’s distribution and collection manager, on Thursday, Sept. 15. “We are watching demand on the hour and making sure we are well within available capacity of the Yampa wells.”
Thus, water officials were happy to see rain on Thursday.
“That definitely helps the situation and maybe alleviates a little burden off of those who were reluctant to shut off their irrigation systems a little earlier,” Carr said.
Normally, increased levels of water use from outdoor irrigation drops off precipitously Oct. 1 with a few higher blips of use the first few weeks in October, Carr said.
But this year, all water users in the city and the water district were asked to curtail and conserve two weeks earlier than normal starting Thursday. Potable water currently is being supplied only by the Yampa Wells Treatment Plant while the Fish Creek Water Treatment Plant is shut down to undergo two months of necessary work.
Mount Werner Water District General Manager Frank Alfone said the general contractor and electricians have been working at the main water treatment plant since Aug. 15 and that work is progressing well to be complete by Nov. 18, before Steamboat Resort’s opening day on Nov. 23.
Gilman, Alfone and Carr said the water-use curtailment has been going smoothly due to joint communications starting with emails and letters to users on Aug. 10. The water entities also reached out specifically to landscapers, property management companies and irrigation businesses.
“Hopefully we won’t have to ask for any further reductions than we are already getting. I feel like we’ve done a lot of outreach, and the few responses we have gotten have been positive,” said Gilman, operations manager for the water district.
City officials said the wet summer helped reduce water use to 3.8 million gallons per day in June compared to a higher 4.7 million gallons per day in June 2021 and 4.1 million gallons per day in June 2020.
“I suspect the majority of the reduced water use was due to the rainier, cooler weather in the early part of the summer, but I believe the community’s greater awareness of water scarcity also contributed,” said Julie Baxter, the water resources manager for Steamboat Springs. “The impacts of the drought in Northwest Colorado last year and the continued water crisis in the larger Colorado River basin have increased the visibility and urgency of water conservation for many.”
The average use per day in June 2019 was lower at 3 million gallons per day. Water use in the city increased by 17% during June through September 2020 compared to 2019, which Carr attributes to many second homeowners spending more time in Steamboat and working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials were anticipating a drop in tourism during the pandemic and a decrease in water use when stage two watering rules were implemented year-round in April 2020.
If conservation targets are not met currently, Carr said the city will stop watering the few fields that are still being irrigated for specific uses such as for soccer games. Beyond that, Carr said the city could identify and reach out to top commercial water users such as large condo associations if necessary if the Yampa Wells Treatment Plant edges toward capacity. Beyond large water users, the rest of the community needs to reduce water use by 10 to 15% to stay within current processing limits, Carr said.
“We’ve had very good response from numerous conversations with HOAs, property managers and landscaping companies, and they are all on board and supportive. So, I think it’s going to work out,” Alfone said.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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