Our View: Egregious use of irrigation water is simply irresponsible (editorial) | VailDaily.com

Our View: Egregious use of irrigation water is simply irresponsible (editorial)

Vail Daily Editorial Board

… Is the only word to describe the actions of several hundred water-wasting customers of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

That district on Monday, Aug. 13, sent mandatory use-reduction letters to customers using more than 10,000 gallons of water every week in the midst of what may become the driest summer on record in the Vail Valley.

Those using that more than 10,000 gallons per week are being told, not asked, to cut back, and do it now. Those who don't cut back face a $500 fine the first week, and water disconnection if their water-wasting continues.

It's frankly hard to imagine using that much water, given that the average district customer uses about 7,000 gallons per month. What, besides a rice paddy, needs that much irrigation?

For those who for some reason believe that water comes from the faucet, here are some facts:

• Most of our valley's potable water comes from local streams.

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• Those streams are fed by snowmelt.

• Snow was in nearly-historic short supply last winter.

• There's been very little summer rain to provide even short-term relief for our streams.

The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District has three main jobs: providing water for domestic use; keeping a water supply for fire fighting; and preserving streamflows for aquatic life.

The final item on that to-do list isn't just a good idea, it's mandated by state law. The best way to keep water in our streams is to cut back on outdoor watering as much as possible.

While about 95 percent of all water for indoor use is returned to streams, evaporation and absorption into the soil means very little irrigation water makes it back to its source.

If the district is going to accomplish its mission, then people need to cut back on outdoor watering. According to the district, local towns and recreation facilities have already cut their outdoor water use by between 25 and 40 percent. The residential wasters should do the same.

Landscaping is expensive, and new landscaping needs a lot of water. Still, if a homeowner can't get by on 10,000 gallons every week — a level that seems absurdly high — then fines and, perhaps, disconnection seems an entirely reasonable response.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.