Calls for water conservation floated as threat of drought looms in Colorado mountains
While there is little concern of living in a “Mad Max” desert hellscape in our near future, fresh water is slowly shifting from a readily available natural resource to an increasingly scarce commodity across the planet. In the next few weeks, Cape Town, South Africa, may run out of water.
In the Colorado mountains, climate change is causing rising temperatures, shorter winters and lower snowpacks, leading to growing prospects of a statewide drought this summer. Water waste compounds the problem, as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that household leaks alone waste 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide every year. As part of the effort to promote water conservation, the EPA and High Country Conservation Center are asking homeowners to hunt for household leaks during the 10th annual Fix a Leak Week.
While the Blue River Basin is relatively robust this season, the news isn’t good across the rest of the state. According to a February report from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, 71 percent of the state is in some level of drought classification. Statewide precipitation from snowfall is at 70 percent of average, and long-term forecasts indicate the state will see a warmer, drier spring than normal.
“This could be the new normal,” said Colorado River District spokesman Jim Pokrandt. “Colorado’s in our 17th year of sustained, below-average snowpack, and a lot of skiers have already noticed it as there aren’t as many powder days. This year certainly illustrates the fact that drought is in our face.”
“Climate change is going to put an increased strain on already diminished water sources in Colorado,” said HC3 executive director Jen Schenk. “Out in the West, we’re already in a position where we should be conserving water.”
While humans cannot directly control the climate (yet), there are easily manageable ways to save water in our homes. The EPA says that individual households may waste up to 10,000 gallons a year because of leaks. Plugging those leaks is a simple, but effective, way to save a lot of water and money.
“You can be wasting 200 gallons of water a day with a running toilet,” Schenk said. “Even if you think it’s a tiny leak, over time you’re wasting so much water.”
In its 10th year, Fix a Leak Week runs from March 19-25. The aim of the campaign is to get homeowners to think of ways they can promote water conservation at home, either by mending leaks or replacing old fixtures.
“It’s a good reminder that many of us have dripping faucets, running toilets and other leaks that should be addressed for larger conservation issues, as well as helping with the water bill,” Pokrandt said. He added that homeowners should also be wary of hidden leaks.
“What’s even more insidious is if the leak is not in an appliance, but on a water line,” he said. “So people should be vigilant about unusual water usage. If you see unusually high water usage month-to-month, it’s a good idea to get that checked.”
Pokrandt suggested other ways homeowners may save water, including installing low-flow faucets and showerheads as well as inspecting landscape irrigation systems for leaks. Better yet, he said, is to use landscaping that is more appropriate for the local environment.
“A lot of us moved from the East, where they get 40 or so inches of rain, and that makes them think they should have fence-to-fence bluegrass carpeting out here, too,” he said. “You should have regionally appropriate landscaping, and not try not to make your place look like it’s in Charlotte, North Carolina.”
For more information about Fix a Leak Week and ways to conserve water at home, visit the EPA’s website at EPA.gov/watersense/fix-leak-week.
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