Durango’s daily water usage has dropped about 2.3 million gallons in the last two days in the wake of a massive release of mine wastewater into the Animas River.
Thanks to local conservation efforts, the city will be able to maintain water service through the duration of the emergency, said Steve Salka, the city’s utilities director.
On Friday, residents used only about 3.9 million gallons of water, and that allowed him to add treated water to the city’s Terminal Reservoir, he said. Wednesday, before the news of the spill broke, the city used 6.3 million gallons of water.
The city uses the Animas River as a secondary source of water during the summer when water usage spikes.
Right now, the city is relying solely on the Florida River, and utilities can produce about 5.3 million gallons of treated water per day from this source, he said.
Much of the conservation has been possible because major irrigators in town shut down their sprinkler systems.
While the city is not in urgent need of water from the Animas, Salka expressed frustration Saturday that Environmental Protection Agency officials have not been able to share the levels of heavy metals in the river.
“‘Sorry’ isn’t cutting it any more. Stop telling us you’re sorry and start showing us some action,” he said.
The EPA officials said publicly Friday they are testing for arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead, iron, zinc and other heavy metals.
But the level of these metals in the water will determine how toxic the water is for human consumption.
The Animas River may have regained some of its clarity Saturday, but with heavy rainfall in the high country, government officials predicted another pulse of discolored water in the upper Cement Creek and Animas River.
Durango water users were being asked to reduce water usage with these tips:
Yard use: Sixty percent of the average household’s water use occurs outside. Discontinue outside watering until further notice from the city.
Shorten showers: Turn off the shower to lather up and back on to rinse off.
Put a brick on it: Displace water in older toilets with a brick to reduce the amount it takes to flush.
Check your load: Twenty-two percent of indoor home water use comes from doing laundry. Adjust your machine for proper load size.
In the kitchen: Wash dishes by hand or make sure to run a full load in the dishwasher.