Head: Landscapers decry new water restrictions | VailDaily.com

Head: Landscapers decry new water restrictions

Deck: Group seeks modification that could stave off economic hardships

Word Count: 680

For the three dozen landscaping companies in the Vail Valley, the newly imposed watering restrictions enacted by the water districts earlier this week are something they fear will become an economic disaster.

They’re asking the local water districts to reconsider their restrictions and impose, new modified restrictions that would target just their water-dependant industry. It is seen by some as the first of many chapters on the politics of water and development.

“These restrictions are targeted at the landscape contractor,” said John Rosenfeld of Johnnie’s Garden in Minturn. “The water district may have not informed the public how everyone can cooperate to save 30, 40 or 50 percent.”

Restrictions imposed Tuesday by the Eagle Valley Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Water Authority allow lawn irrigation two days a week, as well as preclude altogether the watering of newly seeded or sodded lawns or planting new vegetation 12 inches high or taller. Hand-watering using a hose with flow controlled by a spring nozzle is allowed, but landscape contractors say that’s not an efficient use of water.

Additional restrictions, possibly forbidding all outside lawn-sprinkling, are expected to be enacted today during an emergency meeting of the water districts.

“There’s certainly been an acknowledgement recognizing there are different segments of the community impacted by watering restrictions,” said the district’s Dennis Gelvin.

The economic spinoffs of the impending impacts to the landscaping industry will be steep. Rosenfeld, president of the local chapter of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, said 248 local landscaping jobs will be lost and the area will lose a payroll of $1.19 million over the next six weeks. Nursery stocks valued at $2.8 million will wither, he said, and the industry will experience $3.48 million in lost revenue.

Car washes and auto detailers are not restricted, said Rosenfeld, adding that landscapers are bearing a disproportionate share of the impacts.

Gelvin said the restrictions are designed to restrict use in the area where it can have the greatest impact – lawn watering.

The area is in the midst of the deepest drought on record. Local streams, upon which the area is dependant for water, are flowing at just 20 percent of normal – or less. Lawn sprinkling accounts for 60 percent or more of summer water use.

“We’re still six months away from the traditional low-flow period,” said Gelvin. “The statistic that has me more concerned is that Gore Creek was flowing at 14 cubic feet per second (cfs) last Thursday, and now it’s at 10.

That’s a pretty dramatic drop.”

Rosenfeld said he believes the water suppliers should have initiated conservation measures sooner. He’s asked everyone to conserve, he said, rather than instituting regulations that will have a dramatic effect on the landscaping industry. He and the other members of the local landscaping community requested, in writing, the water districts consider a different plan in which a “bank account” of water would be issued, to be used as needed, rather than a blanket restriction.

Landscaping contractors maintain and create new landscaping. Those in the maintenance end of the business won’t be as impacted as those whose business is built on new plantings and lawns, said Ziggy Gosiewski of Intermountain Landscaping of Avon, who has operated his business here for 22 years.

“We need some time to react in a prudent manner,” Gosiewski said. “Would they shut off the water to Vail Resorts or the American Gypsum Wallboard plant without communicating with them first? I don’t think so.”

Gosiewski said he feels more dialogue between landscape contractors and the water authorities would improve the situation. Landscaping contractors have been de facto water conservation ambassadors for the water districts, Rosenfeld said.

“For decades we’ve been changing the sprinkling irrigation clocks and adjusting irrigation,” he said. “There are several ways we can manage even more prudently.”

Support Local Journalism