Gypsum tightens water-use regulations, will impose penalties for residents who squander the resource | VailDaily.com

Gypsum tightens water-use regulations, will impose penalties for residents who squander the resource

GYPSUM — This week, Gypsum amended its water regulations to include surcharges and penalties for residents who squander the resource.

But despite the fact that it could hit their pocketbooks, Gypsum residents had nothing to say about the changes. Or, rather, they have nothing to say about them yet.

According to Gypsum Community Development Director Lana Gallegos, the town's decision to amend the water regulations didn't generate any public feedback, aside from the approximately 50 people who attended a special water summit in late February. At that session, town officials reached out to educate residents about the community's water system and inform them about the changes.

But as the year progresses, Gypsum residents will need to take a more active role in learning about town water rules because if mandatory restrictions are enacted, town officials have stated it will be up to residents to find out about the rules.

"It will be the responsibility of homeowners to check the town website to find out if changes will be made in water-use regulations," Gallegos said. "If we get to a fining situation, we don't want anyone to say they didn't know."

Specifically, the new regulations state that if the Gypsum Town Council opts to impose water restrictions, a notice will be posted on the town's website by 9 a.m. the Wednesday following the council meeting. The Gypsum Town Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. In addition to the official website notification, Gallegos said Gypsum plans to spread the work about water regulation changes through social media, newspaper notices and other means.

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Use water wisely

Gypsum has standing water-use regulations. But the Phase I regulations are voluntary.

"We are continuing with our voluntary restrictions, the be-wise-with-your-water-use kinds of things," Gallegos said.

Those rules include:

Water lawns every other day and apply a maximum of 1 inch of water.

Water lawns between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m.

Wash cars and equipment no more than once a week.

• Refrain from using water to clean off driveways, parking lots or streets.

Those regulations become mandatory when Gypsum imposes Phase II regulations. Additionally, when the town proceeds to Phase II regulation, moratoriums on new irrigation taps and hydrant-use permits will be enacted. Penalties and fines will be enacted for individuals who disregard the regulations.

Phase III regulations are even more stringent and prohibit lawn irrigation, vehicle washing, new water taps, evaporative cooling in commercial buildings and any water use for private swimming pools. Finally, at Phase IV, the list of restricted uses will expand to include a restriction of firefighting activities to only actions to prevent loss of life. Additionally, there would be a moratorium delivery of water to water users outside of Gypsum.

The institution of Phase III or Phase IV regulations would be a very dire situation for the town, officials note. But in amending the town regs, they wanted to address a worst-case scenario.

Know your neighborhood

As they publicize the town's water rules, Gypsum officials have particularly stressed the message that residents connected to nonpotable systems should not be using treated municipal water for irrigation.

Several subdivisions in Gypsum — Cotton Ranch, Sky Legend, Chatfield Corners, Buckhorn Valley and more — have raw water systems in place for lawn irrigation. If residents run a hose to use treated municipal water for outdoor uses, then they are subject to fines. The penalties are $50 for a first occurrence, $200 for a second occurrence and $500 for each additional violation. Those charges will be added to individual water bills.

Gallegos said with the regulation changes and the community outreach, Gypsum has positioned itself to handle a dry summer.

"We really wanted to be able to address our issues and we will wait to see what the weather brings us," Gallegos said. "We are as prepared as we can be right now."

That preparation could well prove necessary. As of Thursday, March 15, snowpack in the Eagle River basin was 56 percent of the 30-year average.

Learn more

A comprehensive list of Gypsum neighborhoods served by potable and nonpotable water is available on the town’s website as part of the Water Summit information. Visit http://www.townofgypsum.com.