City must store more H2O to meet legal requirements
by Rick Langenberg:
Even with a wet April and a bevy of spring storms and near Arctic temperatures, Woodland Park city leaders wasted little time last week in okaying yet another round of water restrictions.
But some are wondering if the city will be able to save enough water in the future due to a lingering drought without going dry, shutting off the faucet or enacting tougher conservation plans. With the new restrictions, local residents can only douse their yards twice a week with water, starting May 9. Plus, they must abide by restricted hours for watering and face bans during windy days. And for locals who want to enjoy green public parks and a super lush golf course, they may have to lower their expectations.
If anything, the Woodland Park City Council would like to see sterner rules. “Let’s have some intelligence here,” said Councilman Bob Carlsen, who complained about seeing automatic sprinkler systems running during rain storms in the past. He cited the Shining Mountain golf course and other users as prime violators.
But according to Utilities Director Kip Wiley, the Stage Two watering restrictions now enacted by city leaders are the strictest that can be imposed. He also assured Carlsen and other leaders that officials will be monitoring local sprinkling activities, but noted that just because certain systems do run during the rain doesn’t mean that these users are violating the new rules. In some cases, Wiley said that watering during rainy days isn’t a bad move. He also made it clear that the city must abide by its own rules by cutting back on the watering of sports fields. “We too are sensitive to that,” said the utilities chief. Ironically, the new cutbacks in watering come in the wake of a fairly wet and cold month. In fact, in the first few days of May the area got hit with a snow storm that delivered several inches of snow to parts of Teller County and even several feet in other parts of the state.
Wiley gave a more upbeat report regarding recent moisture tabulations. He said conditions have definitely improved from a year ago, but stressed that the region is still below average in its total accumulation levels from local sources and in shares it buys at reservoirs outside the region. For the most part, Woodland Park is still reeling from two consecutive drought years. “2012 was not a good water year,” explained Wiley. He said conditions have improved in the last few weeks in the Colorado and Arapahoe river basins, the source of water that the city obtains from Twin Lakes and the Colorado Canal Company, which is pumped through Colorado Springs’ Homestake Pipeline. These sources are critical as they pave the way for meeting the city’s augmentation requirements to allow it use its current amount of physical water.
The real challenge for Woodland Park is meeting its legal H2O requirements next year and in the future. “The physical water needs are not expected to be a problem in 2013. However, the outlook for future years is uncertain at this time and we are planning for future years,” said Wiley in his staff report that recommended the new round of restrictions.
The main problem issue has been lower snowpack levels for the last two years, which have impacted reservoirs that the city buys augmentation water shares from, such as Twin Lakes and Colorado Canal, with these lakes falling below their average supply of water.
To help plan for the future, the city wants to save at least 300 acre feet of water, so it can meet its augmentation requirements. One acre foot of water is equivalent to about 326,000 gallons.“We want to save as much water as we can,” said Wiley. In addition, the city is now trying to lease more shares from Twin Lakes, located at the base of Independence Pass. Unfortunately, the city won’t know about its entire water status until next winter. City elected leaders didn’t object to any of the restrictions or raise any additional red flags. In a previous meeting in March, at least one councilman inquired about the city’s “trigger point” in proposing new restrictions. But several city officials have cited the complexity of the city’s water scenario that is determined by a variety of factors.