by Rick Langenberg:
The Woodland Park water police may be on the watch this summer for delinquent homeowners who douse their lawns during windy days and in the afternoon, commercial abusers, including golf course and sports field operators, and people that violate forthcoming bans.
Get ready, as the days without H2O restrictions are ending due to projections of more drought-like conditions for the area. Plus, the option of enjoying super green park facilities or links fairways may be a frill of the past. That conclusion was made clear last week during a water presentation by Woodland Park city officials at their Jan. 17 council meeting. “We are doing the right kind of planning so we don’t have to panic in two years,” said City Manager David Buttery. The city manager told the council that staff members want to caution the community about preparation steps to assure that it has enough water for the long-term future.
This will translate into definite 2013 water restrictions, which the council will address in early April. Most likely, these will include policies that only permit lawn watering two or three days a week and only for specific times. Plus, builders of new homes must submit irrigation sketch pans and new residents can’t have trophy-size lawns that exceed a 2,500-square-foot area. In addition, enforcement action against water abusers will increase.
Utilities Director Kip Wiley assured the council that the city isn’t in danger of running out of water with its source of local wells and resources and augmentation outlets, outside the area, such as Twin Lakes. In fact, he estimated that the city generated about 850 acre feet of water in 2012, which represented a 12 percent hike from the previous year. (One acre foot of water is equivalent to about 326,000 gallons). “We have water, we are just planning for the future,” said Wiley.
The new Utilities chief, who replaced long-time veteran Jim Schultz, cited the current drought conditions as the real wild card in the equation. Currently, he said the amount of water the city obtains from outside the area, such as from its shares at Twin Lakes, is less due to diminishing reservoir quantities. Some of these prime lakes that serve many cities in the Front Range are well below capacity levels, according to Wiley.
But Wiley said the city would have a better handle in tabulating these numbers by the spring, when the region starts receiving much more snow and rain. He stated that short-term predictions call for a dry season, with precipitation and reservoir levels not even reaching those of 2002, the time of the Hayman fires.
On the other, hand, Wiley said the city’s local sources of water are faring quite well. That’s good news because the city now generates about two-thirds of its water from local wells and reservoirs. But the talk of low lake and reservoir levels in key parts of Colorado, outside Woodland Park, made several city council members nervous. They sought more details.
In response to these concerns, Wiley, emphasized that the city has an ample amount of water, but needs to plan better for the long-term. Buttery stated that the city finds itself in a similar situation as Colorado Springs, which also is mulling water restrictions.
Based on a conceptual plan presented last week, local homeowners will be staring at various options, calling for residential watering for only two or three times a week. In addition, the city may outlaw any watering if the wind speed exceeds 10 miles per hour and will impose tough restrictions on planting new lawns. The reaction to the plan was mixed by members of the WP City Council.
A few leaders mentioned the need to monitor water use better in the area. Councilman Bob Carlsen questioned the watering practices of the Shining Mountain Golf Course. “They could do a better job of conserving,” said Carlsen, who alleged that the course has had its sprinklers on during certain days it rains. Other potential abuses were cited in the area.
However, Mayor DaveTurley portrayed a different scenario and believes that Woodland Park citizens and business owners have done quite well on the water conservation front. “We don’t have that many people watering lawns in Woodland Park,” said the mayor. Wiley said city officials would monitor the irrigation activities of residents and business operators alike in 2013. A full plan will be presented in early April. “It will happen this summer,” said Wiley, when announcing the possibility of definite water restrictions.