With statewide drought conditions persisting, local providers said Mesa County residents need to voluntarily curb their water use by 10 percent."Be extra mindful," Colorado Mesa University Water Center coordinator Hannah Holm said. "Make outdoor watering more efficient, like not watering the sidewalk. Make sure you're not watering too much. Become more precise. ... Check for toilet leaks. Limit shower time.""Stage 1 Drought" conditions have been officially acknowledged by all four Grand Valley water utility entities - the City of Grand Junction, the Clifton Water District, the Town of Palisade and Ute Water. Providers are standing together, sending a unified message of conservation to the public, Ute Water Conservancy District public information officer Joe Burtard said. Voluntary measures to consume less water, especially irrigation water, should be taken seriously by everyone including local government."Conserve (water) this year and use it responsibly, so we don't have to enter a Stage 2 Drought," Burtard said.
While there's definitely water limitations seen throughout the Grand Valley now, a Stage 1 Drought means mandatory restrictions aren't yet in place. Burtard said the Grand Valley has experienced three droughts in recent years - 1977, 2002 and now 2012. This summer marks the first time there's been a response plan in place to actively engage the public.There's enough water stored from 2011 right now, Burtard noted, but voluntary restrictions are imperative for the community's future water levels. Water providers have been preparing their drought response for months. They knew "a Stage 1 Drought was coming down the pipeline" as early as February because of lower snow-pack levels.Though water stores are sufficient now, conserving water for the future is imperative if drought conditions persist, he added."The entire state of Colorado is in drought," Burtard said. "We have no idea what 2013 will bring. If we have similar snow patterns next year, we will be in severe drought because we won't have the water stored up."
If drought conditions persist, Burtard said residents may see heavier water-use restrictions across the board next summer. "The next step would be a 'Stage 2 Drought,' which would be mandatory restriction," he said. "We'd be requiring that people conserve water and cut back on water usage, specifically outdoor water use."Not being able to fill swimming pools or water lawns are examples of Stage 2 Drought mandatory restrictions."The drought and the water supply will only get worse as the summer progresses," Burtard said. "All water providers are actively preparing for that."Ute water's terminal reservoirs - Jerry Creek Reservoir 1 & 2 - are currently being expanded to increase storage capacities for treatment."We're raising (the reservoirs by) 125-140 additional acre feet, just so we're running those reservoirs at the maximum level of storage," Burtard said.
According to Holm, little steps can be taken to get big results, if everyone participates in conservation efforts."You can keep your lawn pretty healthy if you water twice a week for 45 minutes," she said. "That's a pretty reasonable guideline. Most people water more than that."Burtard also said using domestic water for irrigation purposes can be a huge expense, and "you're also depleting a resource for the domestic water providers.""The domestic water should be used for domestic purposes, especially in a drought, because, like the irrigators, we have a limited amount of water," he said.Irrigation water is already being limited in the Redlands area, Holm added. The Redlands has the only canal in the Valley drawing from the Gunnison River, "and they need certain water levels not just to provide water but to provide power to lift the water up above the level of the main canal. The other irrigation providers draw from the Colorado and don't have to lift water as high."For more information on the Drought Response Information Project, visit www.thedripwebsite.com.