McDevitt: Water conservation ‘crucial’ |

McDevitt: Water conservation ‘crucial’

Cliff Thompson
Special to the Daily Howard "Mac" McDevitt, 64, is seeking a four-year term representing the Avon area on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation Board

When Howard “Mac” McDevitt, 64, retired from his optical technology consulting company, he headed west from Virginia because he wanted to get in as many ski days as he could.

He headed to Eagle County. But he does more than just ski. He’s put his business management background to use over the last six years as an Avon Councilman, and now he’s seeking a four-year term representing the Avon area on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation Board. That board oversees water and wastewater operations. The election will be held Tuesday.

“I’m retired, and I have the time,” he said. “I’m old enough to have seen a lot of bad communities, so I’ve got some perspective on that.”

He said his two years on the board have shown him there is a steep learning curve – and he thinks it’s responsible to seek another term to put that experience to use.

McDevitt has already served two years on that board after redistricting created two more board seats. He’s being opposed by Avon resident Larry Pardee.

There are four key things that McDevitt said he would like to pursue as a board member.

“I want to focus the district on (water) conservation,” he said. “It’s crucial. They haven’t gone as far as I like to see. It will take time to go in the right direction.”

The second objective he has is ensuring the Avon sewer plant avoids the odor problems it experienced two years ago. “I want to make sure that never again will it experience an odor or safety problem,” he said.

He’s also a strong proponent of consolidating the two water districts that serve 22,000 people in the eastern half of Eagle County. A water subdistrict operates from Dowd Junction east and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority serves from Dowd Junction west to Wolcott. Both are operated under contract by Eagle River Water and Sanitation.

“It takes a lot of (duplicate) staff time and effort,” he said. “It’s somewhere between very important and essential. With consolidation we should have the same ground rules that shouldn’t change when you go beyond Dowd Junction.”

McDevitt also said he wants to see more strategic planning for the district to ensure adequate water and also to serve as a vehicle for continuing conservation efforts.

“Responsible planning and redevelopment is the byword,” he said. “You need to have reservoirs in order to have water when you need it – that’s a big one. It becomes more important as Lake Powell goes down.”

Lake Powell in Utah is approximately half full. It supplies water to the states in the western half of the Colorado River Water Interstate Compact. If it dries up, water from Colorado will be used to fill the void. That could mean curtailing water use in the mountains.

One of the longer range objectives he’d like to pursue is changing municipal and county planning requirements for lawns and trees. McDevitt is an advocate of Xeriscaping, a gardening technique that uses less water.

“Conservation is important. We live in a high mountain desert. We don’t need to delude ourselves thinking we can continue with lots of lawns,” he said. “It’s not responsible to require blue spruce. We need incentives to cut back. Design guidelines need to be slanted toward more conservation.”

As if to prove his point, McDevitt said he hasn’t had a lawn for the last 25 years.

How to fund new reservoirs, conservation programs and acquiring new sources of water will make for some difficult decisions by the board, McDevitt said. Acquiring water and building reservoirs are huge ventures, he said, and It’s likely water rates will need to increase, but that will have to occur slowly.

“You can’t jump into it. People would rebel,” he said. “It has to happen slowly over time.”

McDevitt and his wife Karen have lived in Avon’s Wildridge for the last decade. They have two grown sons. When not serving on elected boards, he said he enjoys hiking, biking, skiing and tennis.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

Support Local Journalism