Watering schedule gets tougher on Tuesday
A compromise reached Thursday – through occasional verbal fisticuffs – is a balance of economic supply-and-demand considerations.
Enforcement of new restrictions put in place by the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority will begin on Tuesday.
The two organizations provide water from East Vail to Wolcott, excluding Minturn.
Hand-watering using hoses with spring controlled flow nozzles will be allowed.
“We’d like to decrease overall use by 30 percent,” said Dennis Gelvin, general manager of the water district, which has requested the towns of Avon and Vail, as well as golf course operators, to reduce lawn-sprinkling by 50 percent.
“It’s foolish to release our stored water for outside lawn-sprinkling,” Gelvin said.
The restrictions adopted were far less stringent than those recommended recently by the staff of the water supply organizations, who suggested an outright ban of lawn-watering.
Summer lawn irrigation accounts for 60 to 70 percent of water use. Water plants in Avon and Vail produce approximately 9.2 million gallons per day.
The decision restricts lawn-watering, as well as plantings larger than 12 inches. It also provides penalties for people violating the restrictions, ranging from $25 for the first offense to an outright disconnection of water services.
The decline in the flows of local streams is far more than what has been experienced before. Most streams are flowing at 20 percent or less of normal. Snowpack this year was 60 to 65 percent of normal, but that fell in the third year of below-normal precipitation.
The depth of the drought surprised everyone – and is forcing some hasty meetings.
“I feel like we’re blind-sided,” said Steve Friedman, Beaver Creek’s representative to the Water Authority Board. “We’ve known this was an issue. I’m bordering on flabbergasted.”
“It’s dropping off faster than anyone anticipated,” added water lawyer Glenn Porzak.
Compounding the lack of runoff was the fact that June’s precipitation was just 13 percent of normal.
The lawn-sprinkling restrictions are designed to reduce water consumption to preserve water stored in local reservoirs for use in the dry winter months. The fear driving the decision not to release stored water for summer use is that another dry winter could deplete reservoir stocks and leave the area without any options. Local reservoirs hold approximately 2,800 acre-feet, or enough water to supply the water district and authority’s 22,000 customers and provide water for snowmaking at Vail and Beaver Creek.
Water Authority board member Bill Sepmeier of Edwards argued that, if watering restrictions are enacted, there should be a moratorium on water tap sales, which last year generated $2.1 million for district.
“We’re committing fraud in my opinion,” he said. “We don’t have the water, yet we’re selling the taps.”
Other water authority board members were less impassioned. They agreed to a one-month moratorium on the Authority’s written commitments to provide water for new developments.
“If you stop selling tap fees, you’ll put the kabosh to construction in this valley,” said board member Buz Reynolds, who also is a home builder.
Authority member Chuck Powers suggested phased restrictions based on water supply and weather and a tiered fee system in which heavy water users are charged more. If summer monsoon rains arrive, they will reduce demand for lawn-sprinkling.
New watering restrictions:
Two days a week for addresses ending in:
– 0-30 – Tuesdays and Fridays.
– 31 to 65 – Wednesdays and Saturdays.
– 66 to 99 – Thursdays and Sundays
– Hours: 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. only.
– First offense – $25.
– Second and third offenses – $100.
– Fourth offense – Disconnection and payment of costs of disconnections, reconnections and/or installation of low-flow restrictors.
– No new seeded or sodded lawns until Sept. 15.
– No new plantings more than 12 inches tall until Sept. 15.