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Glenwood Springs takes steps to enforce water restrictions

The city of Glenwood Springs says it’s time to get serious about water rationing.

City Council adopted on first reading Thursday an emergency ordinance establishing graduated fines “for violations of any rule, regulation or order rationing or limiting water use during a water shortage,” according to the ordinance. 

Fines would be $50 for first offense, $100 for second offense and $250 for third offense. After that it would go to court.

“Obviously, compliance is always our goal. Typically the first contact is educational. We have door hangers and information on water conservation,” city attorney Karl Hanlon said.

Councilor Shelley Kaup moved to adopt the ordinance, councilor Paula Stepp seconded, and the vote was unanimous.

Hanlon said in an email that the ordinance should be on the consent agenda at the Sept. 3 City Council meeting and would go into effect that day if passed.

Glenwood Public Works director Matt Langhorst gave a presentation during the meeting about the city water system, challenges from the Grizzly Creek Fire and watering restrictions.

Residents were asked to water on alternating days starting Aug. 15, with odd-numbered addresses watering on odd days and even-numbered addresses watering on even days. Langhorst said that on Aug. 16, the city used 4.4 million gallons, the third highest usage of the summer. Usage on Aug. 19 was 4.3 million gallons, the sixth highest usage of the summer.

“The alternating day thing, I’m not sure if people are abiding by it,” Langhorst said, adding that another possibility is people may be watering for twice as long on their alternating day.

“We found in 2001-2002 when we imposed watering restrictions use went up. … I can tell when watering restrictions are on because there’s water running down the driveways when I walk through town,” Hanlon said.

Kaup asked if the city is still watering its parks.

“As far as I can tell at this point the parks have changed their watering schedule. … They’ve also volunteered some of the more established parks like Sayre Park and Veltus Park to go to every second or third or fourth day, because they don’t need as much water,” Langhorst said.

But then there’s the coronavirus Catch-22.

“We’re also in COVID still and people want to use the parks, so there’s this conflicting thing of we want to be outside and not walking on dead grass but we still need to conserve water,” Langhorst said.

The Grizzly Creek Fire forced the closure of the Grizzly Creek water intake, which Langhorst said in a previous interview normally provides about half of the city water supply this time of year. The rest of the water the city needs has to be pumped from the Roaring Fork River.

“We could cover about 3.3 million gallons of water with the water that’s in No Name right now. So if nobody waters outside, we can cover that,” Langhorst said at the Thursday meeting.

Since then the Grizzly intake has been opened and is supplying water to No Name Creek, Langhorst said in an email.

But that doesn’t mean an end to watering restrictions.

“We will be switching back and forth between No Name water and Roaring Fork pump water as rains come and go and cause erosion and possibly debris flows in the two creek canyons. This would make it very difficult to get information out to people on what our supply is on a daily or even hourly basis some days, so residential watering restrictions will stay in place for the remainder of the irrigation season,” Langhorst said in the email.

So the pumps have to keep running.

“The pumps were not designed to do what they are probably going to be asked to be do,” Langhorst said at the meeting.

Their intended purpose is short-term use during maintenance or to repair damage, he said.

And there are additional costs associated with running the pumps.

“We’ve never run the pumps continuously before. They cost $1,000 a day to run, just in electricity. The plant isn’t used to the sediment load coming out of the Roaring Fork … which costs three times as much chemically to treat the water. So you’re looking at somewhere between half a million to $750,000 change in operations of the plant just by running the pumps over a year,” Langhorst said.

He had a couple of suggestions to handle water supply issues in the future.  

“We are looking at taking a separate water line up Red Mountain so that the No Name/Grizzly Creek 24-inch waterline and the pump station line are not one in the same. Due to the two sources being hooked to the same line we cannot pump from the Roaring Fork River and gravity feed water from No Name at the same time. As you can imagine, being able to pull from both water sources at the same time would be very helpful to supplement water flows as needed,” Langhorst said in the email.

The other improvement is a sediment basin in front of the plant so the heavier materials can be separated before the water goes into the plant. 

Langhorst said consultants are already looking into both projects.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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