Eagle County has model water conservation plan | PostIndependent.com
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Eagle County has model water conservation plan

To many, water conservation may sound like a good idea but hard to put into practice. In Eagle County, the rubber meets the road in a wide-ranging water conservation plan that has saved water and increased conservation awareness.According to Mike Bauer, water conservation specialist with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the plan began to take shape during the drought of 2002.”We had as bad a year as they did on East Slope,” he said. “We saw a real need to teach water conservation.”By early 2004 the district, which provides water to users between the towns of Vail and Edwards, had a plan in place. Now after two years, Bauer said it’s met with some notable success.Bauer spoke about the district’s plan at a water conservation workshop in Glenwood Springs Tuesday.The district provides water to about 23,000 households, Bauer said.About 60 percent of its water goes to outdoor use, keeping lawns green and water features flowing. During high summer the district’s water, which comes from wells close to the Eagle River and Gore Creek, is especially vulnerable to low stream flow.”The end of August and early September is the most crucial time,” Bauer said. Further, the district relies on annual snowpack for its water “and most of that is already spoken for,” Bauer said.As with many Western Slope water districts and municipalities, arid conditions and growing populations beg the question of where to eke out more water for the future.Bauer said his district expects to see a 5 percent increase in demand for water service over the next five to 10 years.That was the question posed in framing the conservation plan, which projected the need for an additional 430 acre feet, or 325,851 gallons, of water – roughly the amount of water used annually by a family of four – over the next five years and 1,000 acre feet in 10 years.The plan also outlined measures that would save water over the long term, including water-efficient fixtures such as low-flow shower heads, xeriscaping, efficient irrigation and examining pipes for leakage.Specifically, it proposed to hotels that they reuse towels and linens instead of changing them every day, thus saving laundry water. Bauer noted that most restaurants in the area do not automatically provide drinking water to customers. The plan also called for restaurants to purchase special water-saving nozzles for their rinse sinks.Currently, the district gives out low-flow shower heads. It also distributes brochures to maintenance personnel in hotels helping them identify areas of water leakage.Several projects, notably with larger consumers such as hotels and homeowners associations, have yielded good results.One of the most effective programs, Bauer said, has been the district’s work with homeowners associations to improve the efficiency of their irrigation systems, many of which are deficient and waste large amounts of water.The district has also offered xeriscape classes at a local park that now has a water-efficient drip-type irrigation system. It conducts tours of local landscaping “to show people ideas for xeriscaping,” he said.In addition, the district now has year-round watering restrictions, which limit yard irrigation to three days per week.”It helps to manage our demand and spread things out,” he said.Its water rates are also “some of the most expensive” on the West Slope,” Bauer said. Despite the high price tag, second-home owners don’t flinch at the rates and routinely use a lot of water.”We still need to get the attention of the high users. We have a lot of folks with two or three water features” created with drinking water, running through their yards, he said.”We feel like we’ve got a start (with the conservation plan), but we have a way to go yet.”Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray @postindependent.com


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