No fire, water restrictions in short-term forecast |

No fire, water restrictions in short-term forecast

Matt Stensland

— What a difference a year makes in Northwest Colorado.

Officials say the near-term forecast for the Steamboat Springs area is free of water and fire restrictions, and most of Routt County is not experiencing any drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In Moffat County, a majority of the county is experiencing just abnormally dry conditions.

Last year at this time, Steamboat residents already were restricted on when and how they could use water because of a dry winter. On April 1, 2013, the snowpack on Buffalo Pass was 72 percent of average.

By July, drought conditions persisted, and local officials put fire restrictions in place that put the kibosh on campfires except for those in designated campgrounds.

"I hope we don't have to go into fire restrictions, but you never know," Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said.

On April 1 this year, the snowpack on Buffalo Pass was 119 percent of average, putting the area in a much better position moving into summer. The 90-day forecast also brings encouraging news.

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"It's looking like it might be a wetter than normal year and a little warmer, too, so we'll see how it plays out," Struble said.

Struble has no problem transitioning into summer with a lower risk for wildfires, especially after two consecutive years of being on high alert.

"I think we're a lot better off than last year, especially the forest," Struble said. "If we have a problem, it will probably be to the west from Hayden to the county line."

The National Interagency Fire Center recently reported that a moist spring has mitigated much of the fire risk across the northern Rockies, at least until regular fire season conditions develop in July and August.

Water providers in the Steamboat area recently informed landscape and property management companies that current conditions do not warrant water restrictions.

"We have no reason to enact the water restrictions at this time, but we're encouraging everyone to use water wisely," said Jay Gallagher, general manager of Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District.

Gallagher said one of the two triggers for Stage 2 water restrictions is when the snow water equivalent on Buffalo Pass is 80 percent of average on April 1. Water providers also look to see whether the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures for the summer.

Water providers will continue to monitor weather conditions and water supplies.

"If conditions call for it, we will call for water restrictions like we did in 2012 at the end of June," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said water restrictions put into place in 2012 resulted in a 15 percent reduction in water usage, which equals about 400 acre feet of water.

"It really paid off in the long-run," Gallagher said.

Restrictions in 2013 resulted in a 10 percent reduction in water usage, or about 250 acre feet.

Gallagher said Steamboat residents typically use about 3,000 acre feet of water each year, with about half of that usage occurring the summer irrigation season.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

Water-saving tips

• Do not water outdoors between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

• Avoid watering on windy days when 30 percent can be lost to evaporation.

• When irrigating with a hose, use a spring-loaded nozzle; no free-running hoses.

• Discourage tree-planting and the seeding or sodding of new lawns from June 15 to Aug. 31.

• Encourage the use of native grasses and shrubs or drought-tolerant species on new or redeveloping properties.

• Discourage water-intensive landscapes.

• Encourage cutting lawn grass no shorter than 3 inches to reduce soil moisture loss and to promote deeper roots.

• Limit the filling of swimming pools to one per year, unless draining for repairs is necessary.