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Water plan on agenda

Broad blueprint for conservation could save cash for taxpayers

Blythe Terrell

If you go

What: Water conservation plan meeting

When: 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday; presentation at 5 p.m.

Where: Centennial Hall, 137 10th Street

More information: The conservation plan is available at steamboatsprings.net and http://www.mwwater.com.

Local water and sustainability experts hope to help residents save money and the environment.

They’re sharing a wide-ranging water conservation plan with the public this week. Their first goal is to slash peak water use in the Steamboat Springs area by 10 percent by 2015.

Lyn Halliday, principal of Environmental Solutions Unlimited, has worked with city officials and the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District to create a plan to hit that goal. The team will show the plan to the public and seek feedback Wednesday at Centennial Hall.

“A lot of people think we have a lot of water because we’re at the headwaters,” Halliday said. “And that’s kind of true, but one of the key points that’s made in this draft plan is we can really save a lot of dollars and capital improvements in the future by having to build a lot fewer filtration plants that have to treat the water before it’s delivered.”

Conservation also makes economic sense, she said.

“A lot of businesses are or should be interested in this because water has become more expensive,” Halliday said. “So not only is it good for our sustainability efforts communitywide, but it can save money.”

The 63-page plan serves a couple of purposes, said Jay Gallagher, general manager of Mount Werner Water. Water officials want to be able to respond to water emergencies such as droughts or wildfires. Also, the Colorado Water Conservation Act requires entities that supply at least 2,000 acre-feet of water a year to have a conservation plan.

An acre-foot is the amount of water that would cover 1 acre to a depth of one foot. Steamboat and Mount Werner each supply about 1,500 acre-feet of water, Gallagher said. But the area is growing, so the water utilities are likely to hit that 2,000 acre-foot mark eventually.

Gallagher pointed to the reduced public costs as an additional benefit. Under the plan, the community would reduce peak water usage by 15 percent by 2020 and by 20 percent by 2030.

“If we can shave off 10 to 20 percent of that peak demand, or at least retard the growth of that demand, it means we don’t have to put as much infrastructure, which is public dollars, into the ground,” Gallagher said.

The plan includes asking people not to water outside between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and to use landscaping that doesn’t require much water. It includes stages with more severe conservation measures to be put in place during water emergencies.

Gallagher; Halliday; Public Works Director Philo Shelton; Joe Zimmerman, water and sewer systems supervisor; and Senior City Planner Bob Keenan put together the plan, which they presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council in April.

Wednesday’s event will include an open house that starts at 4 p.m. The plan creators will do a presentation at 5 p.m.

They hope the plan will push Steamboat toward becoming a conservation-minded city.

“It’s part of creating a sustainable community,” Gallagher said. “It makes good economic sense, and it means that we can conserve our water resources both raw and our potable water infrastructure and get the best out of it, get the most out of it.”


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