Learn where your water comes from
Ryan Summerlin April 19, 2013
You turn on the faucet and are greeted with a stream of clean water – cold, warm, hot – a reliable, seemingly never-ending source of life. It’s a fact that we take for granted in our modern society.
“When you ask people, ‘where does your water come from?’ they point to the sink,” said Dave Koop, water foreman for the town of Frisco. “There’s more to it than just the faucet.”
On April 28, Koop will lead a tour of the surface water treatment plant in Frisco as part of a bigger water discussion started by the Summit Reads program. This year, Summit Reads is focusing on the book “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,” by Cynthia Barnett, which encourages readers to establish their own water ethic.
Koop’s goal is to educate people about the different elements of their water system and point out that cornices of snow and other visual evidence of excess water can be misleading in a headwaters community like Summit County.
“There’s an appearance of abundance,” Koop said. “So we use it, use it, use it.”
Koop said water conservation shouldn’t be a trend and that real responsibility goes beyond sporting a T-shirt or putting a bumper sticker on your car.
“What bothers me,” Koop said, “is that everyone jumps on the bandwagon and it’s more knee-jerk than an informed decision. … To do the lifestyle takes energy and thought, and that makes the difference in the long term.”
The water in Frisco originates from five locations: four wells and a surface water treatment plant that draws from Tenmile Creek, Koop said. Koop leads periodic tours through the plant, showing groups ranging from school classes to town officials the process of filtering Frisco’s water.
It all starts with water rights, Koop said, and those rights are ranked by seniority based on the date they were acquired.
“Just because it’s sitting there doesn’t mean it’s ours,” he said. “You don’t own it; you just have the right to use it.”
The water department’s role
It’s the water department’s job to interpret those water rights and manage production levels for the community.
“We can produce up to our water right, which is 1 million gallons per day,” Koop said. “But just because you can produce it, do you need to?”
Being responsible with Frisco’s water is big part of what the water department does, from taking and filtering only what is needed from the ground and Tenmile Creek to doing leak surveys every three years on all 33 miles of water main and 1,900 service lines, Koop said.
Be water wise
Starting the conversation about water use can be tricky, Koop said, because water authorities don’t want to tell people how they should be using their slice of the water pie.
“Use water wisely,” he said. “We don’t want to tell them how to use it. Businesses, homes, parks – they have different expectations. … If you soapbox, all meaningful discussion goes out the door.”
The more people know about the water they use to drink, bathe in and even water their plants, the more they are reminded that it’s a finite resource that needs to be respected and conserved.
The upcoming tour of the surface water treatment plant in Frisco will walk people through the steps of the water filtration and delivery process from stream to faucet, Koop said.
“You can’t complain about people not knowing (about where their water comes from) and not be willing to show them,” Koop said.