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City needs your help to conserve water

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

Durango city officials hope residents will join them in making water rationing unnecessary this summer through conservation.

“The most important thing is to have community awareness and involvement,” city Utilities Director Stephen Salka said Monday in briefing water commissioners about possible drought issues. “It’s important not to use water in a wasteful manner.”

Cooperation is preferable to coercion, he said.

Salka, who was hired a month ago today, said the city is doing its part. Utility workers are plugging leaky pipes and maintaining equipment, he said. A gate at the city reservoir intake on the Animas River has been repaired and the reservoir is being topped off in case of an emergency.

The reservoir has a capacity of 74.1 million gallons, a 10-day supply at the current rate of use, Salka said.

If it doesn’t rain, the situation could change, Salka said. But no decision has been made about how to meet an arid summer and fall.

Even-odd-day watering of gardens and lawns or limiting hours of watering are possibilities, he said.

“It’s prudent to reduce the use of water in this situation,” Salka said.

It appears residents are getting the message, Salka said. The city population has increased since 2002, the peak of a severe drought that saw the Missionary Ridge Fire spread over more than 72,000 acres, but water consumption is down.

In May 2002, residents used 305.6 million gallons of water, compared to 290 million gallons in May 2012. June use in 2002 and this year, was 350.6 million and 350.3 million gallons, respectively.

“Residents are doing what they ought to be doing,” Salka said.

The flow in the Animas River barely topped 300 cubic feet a second Tuesday. The channel was carrying 481 cfs on June 8, 2002, the day the Missionary Ridge Fire started, but dropped to 172 cfs June 30.

The city fills Terminal Reservoir, which holds 74.1 million gallons of water, from the Florida River by gravity flow and from the Animas by pumping.

Salka said the city doesn’t want to lay down regulations unnecessarily.

“We have to be good stewards,” Salka said. “Our residents are knowledgeable and stay informed. Being part of the solution is the best practice.”

daler@durangoherald.com

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