Meeting stresses importance of water conservation plans
State agencies and nonprofits concerned with water conservation urged water providers to create conservation plans for their municipalities or districts at a workshop in Glenwood Springs Monday.The workshop, which continues today, is the fifth in a statewide series presented by Great Western Institute, the Colorado Water Wise Council and Western Resource Advocates.Agencies or local governments providing more than 2,000 acre feet of water annually – providing water for a town of about 8,000 people – are required by state law to have water conservation plans. But because of a lack of staffing, that requirement is not enforced, said Tammie Petrone of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Office of Water Conservation and Drought Planning.However, the office also has a strong incentive for creating such a plan, since it offers hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to both plan for water conservation and initiate programs.”Water conservation plans need to be integrated into as many aspects of local resource planning as possible,” said Bart Miller of Western Resource Advocates.The challenge for many water providers, said Tracy Bouvette, of Great Western Institute, is to find funding for the plan, which must be in place to apply for a state grant.Bouvette, who outlined the steps to creating a water conservation plan, said all aspects may not fit with a particular water provider.”We’re just trying to get everyone to move in the right direction” of being good environmental stewards and financially responsible to water users given that water prices are most likely to increase over time, he said. “It isn’t the easiest process, but if it gets people talking, it’s progress.”The first step in forming a plan is to figure out just how much water is being used in a municipality or district on a per capita basis. Also key is understanding who the biggest water users are, such as hospitals, jails and other institutional-sized groups, which could give the largest rate of return on water conservation measures.Bouvette pointed out that more than 40 percent of the water used in towns and cities occurs outdoors in lawn sprinkling or other irrigation. That amount is even higher on the arid West Slope, up to 55 percent in some communities.Overwatering and defective sprinkling systems can cost governments millions of dollars to replace wasted water.Water systems must be analyzed to determine where and how much water is being lost. Conservation measures must be put into place, and enforced either through regulations or guidelines, and monitored for compliance. Such measures could include drip rather than spray irrigation systems, water-efficient appliances and outdoor xeriscaping with drought-tolerant plants rather than bluegrass lawns. Even more important, the plans must be reviewed annually and revised if necessary, Bouvette said.The goal of such plans is not to curtail water use but to provide it efficiently.”We are not trying to change your service but to be more efficient in how we provide it,” he said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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