Drought conditions call for water conservation | SummitDaily.com

Drought conditions call for water conservation

Paige Blankenbuehler
summit daily news

The Colorado River Basin, a group of leading advocacy organizations, is launching a new campaign to urge the region’s urban communities to do their part to put the Colorado River on a sustainable path after this drought year.

The 90 by 20 campaign, which launched in early August, is asking communities in Colorado to commit to achieving residential water usage rates of 90 gallons per capita per day by 2020.

Focused on limiting residential use of water by asking utility customers to work with their residential customers, campaign organizers are striving over the next eight years to achieve average usage rates of 90 gallons per person per day. The usage includes the water to wash, cook and clean and irrigating landscapes.

If utility companies across Colorado meet the benchmark, the region would save over 1 million acre-feet of water per year – enough to supply Denver for three years.

The Colorado River is the most important source of water and economic activity for seven basin states: Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The river produces drinking water for some 36 million people and supports jobs in the region’s tourism and recreation industries, according to campaign organizers.

“The 90 by 20 campaign believes it is time to focus on affordable solutions that everyone can achieve,” said Drew Beckwith of Water Resource Advocates. “If we’re going to restore balance in the region’s water resources, everyone needs to work together and reach for a common goal.”

As a headwater county on the Colorado River Basin, Summit County works closely with Denver to allocate water resources.

Lower water levels will put an enormous burden on the region’s economic viability, said Jody Berger, 90 by 20 campaign organizer.

“Many utilities are moving in the right direction but it is not enough,” Beckwith said. “From Colorado to Arizona, we need everyone to work in concert toward the same objective.”

Denver Water has committed to limiting use of water during severe drought years with its advertising campaign as a primary driver for conservation.

The campaign helps customers appreciate the value of water by encouraging them to “Use Only What You Need.” A 2011 survey found that almost 95 percent of respondents recognize the advertising campaign.

“In an extremely dry year like this one, the importance of our customers valuing water is even greater,” said Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water. “Despite higher-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average precipitation this year, our customers have responded by using less water than expected based on the conditions.”

Other groups are rallying to keep the Colorado River at a healthy level.

Thanks to the Colorado Water Trust and the State Engineer’s Office, the Colorado River will get a measure of relief in September. Some “extra” water historically used for irrigation will help boost flows in some critical reaches of the Colorado.

The water trust, privately funded primarily through donations, will pay for the short-term lease. No public money is being spent on the lease.

“Instead of that water being used for irrigation it will be used for instream flows just downstream of where it would have been diverted,” said Colorado Water Trust attorney Zac Smith.

Four instream flows could benefit from the lease: Granby to the Fraser, Windy Gap to the Williams Fork, Williams Fork to Troublesome Creek and Troublesome to the confluence with the Blue River, according to Smith.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User