Water usage suggests skier numbers up | VailDaily.com

Water usage suggests skier numbers up

Cliff Thompson

The number of skiers on Vail and Beaver Creek mountains last weekend has not been released by Vail Resorts for fear it may create investment expectations in the publicly traded company, so a far more elementary analysis yields a view of how busy we were.

Anecdotal evidence from business owners suggests there were more visitors in town than at this time last year, and that’s backed up by effluent release statistics.

The overall volume of wastewater released at the Vail, Avon and Edwards, wastewater treatment plants, which serve the resort areas of eastern Eagle County, showed a 16 percent jump in volume Saturday and a 3.4 percent increase Sunday.

But interpreting how wastewater flows correlate to the numbers of skiers is not easy, particularly this year, said Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s Bob Trueblood. In previous years a volume of approximately 200 gallons per person per-day was the rule of thumb for correlating water use with numbers of users. This year is different.

“It’s hard to gauge,” he said. “This year, with the drought, water conservation is starting to have an impact on consumption. The numbers show more people are coming back to the valley.”

Day skiers, who stop, ski and use little water beyond what they drink, also change the equation. Destination skiers, however, do use more water.

The 16 percent increase over last year’s numbers may only be semi-significant because last year’s total was reeling from the double or triple whammy of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, a lack of snow and a deepening national recession.

If this year’s 4.51 million gallons-per-day effluent outflow from all three plants is compared to 2000’s total of 4.34 million, it’s only a 3.8 percent increase, Trueblood said.

Sunday was up 4.6 percent compared to last year, but it was down 20 percent compared to 2000.

Avon’s wastewater plant Saturday, Beaver Creek’s opening day, showed a 25 percent increase in wastewater volume over last year. That was a short-lived phenomenon, however, Trueblood said, because the following day the wastewater volume was dead even with 2001 and slightly less than 2000’s volume.

The Edwards wastewater treatment plant, meanwhile, showed a small increase over last year, Trueblood said., partly due to the opening of the 237 room Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.

The district produced a total of 4.8 million gallons per day of treated drinking water Saturday and 2.4 million Sunday, nearly double last year’s snow-drought impacted total.

In summary, the totals are better than last year’s, indicating more water use, but not as much as 2000’s totals.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.

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