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City wants you to cut water use

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Shorten shower time by 2 minutes or bathe with a significant other. Put a brick in the toilet tank. Wash only full loads of laundry. Water the grass less.

However you do it, the city of Durango would like you to cut back your water usage by 10 percent.

High summer water usage, especially from sprinklers systems irrigating the grass, combined with low water flows in the Animas River is putting a strain on the reservoir, officials said during a City Council meeting Tuesday.

The city’s terminal reservoir is currently about a foot below the level it should be.

Officials would like to maintain it at maximum capacity so the city can respond to crises such as wildfires or a sudden loss of water.

For most of the year, the Florida River is sufficient to meet the city’s needs with a daily supply of 5.7 million gallons, but in summertime, the city’s average of daily water usage is 9.5 millions gallons. The reservoir must be supplemented with water from the Animas River.

The city has three water pumps at Santa Rita Park. Since the peak water usage day of June 22 when the demand reached almost 14 million gallons, the city has been able to use only one pump because the water level in the river has gotten so low.

Because of the drought, water from Florida River is expected to diminish to 5.2 million gallons a day.

On an optimistic note, the demand has slackened with the recent rainfall. The city did not need to withdraw any water from the Animas River on June 30.

“Hopefully, we’ve come through the worst of it,” Councilor Dean Brookie said.

City officials think voluntary measures might be sufficient to get through the season.

Asking people to voluntarily decrease their water by 10 percent is “thought to be a first good step,” said Steve Salka, director of utilities. “These are all small changes, but they will help us maintain the water level in the reservoir.”

Mandatory water restrictions, such as limiting lawn irrigation to even or odd days, also can backfire as people over-water to make up for the days they did not use any water.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc also admonished those who have been less than thoughtful during the drought, noting there have been two arrests for illegally withdrawing water from fire hydrants and people also have been trying to bypass their water meters with creative plumbing.

The city’s water dock near Serious Texas Bar-B-Q on the Frontage Road parallel to U.S. Highway 550 has been abused by noncity residents. For a fee of 25 cents for about 16 gallons, noncity residents can withdraw city water to take home.

One man used it to clean out his horse trailer, muddying the equipment.

“We have to clean it up, disinfect it because that’s people’s drinking water,” Salka said. “(The water) is so cheap, they misuse it. They use it like a car wash.”

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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