High Country Conservation Center program receives funding to combat water waste
High Country Conservation Center received over $76,000 to fund a program that aims to reduce outdoor water use in Summit County.
The project will conserve water, reduce future demand and promote water efficiency for water users in Summit County. This includes irrigation certification of local landscapers and government staff, development of a rebate program that incentivizes irrigation audits and equipment upgrades and environmental education designed to drive water savings. At its quarterly board meeting in April, the Colorado River District approved High Country Conservation Center’s funding request unanimously, bringing the program closer to its goal to begin this summer county-wide.
Rachel Zerowin, community programs director for High Country Conservation Center, said that the organization’s partnerships with the towns of Breckenridge, Frisco and Dillon were crucial to getting the program to where it is now.
“They’ve had their eyes on water efficiency for many years,” Zerowin said. “And they are playing a huge part in this. Along with what’s happening across the West, it’s more important now than ever to make sure we’re using water wisely.”
Across the state of Colorado and the western United States as a whole, drought conditions that have persisted over the last several years will continue through 2022. Last week, water officials from various departments gathered to talk about how spring runoff could go in Summit County, and though a lot of conditions are forecasted to look better than 2021, water conditions in the county such as snowpack and soil moisture are still below average.
According to Colorado State University’s extension, urban lawn watering is the single largest water demand on most municipal supplies. Zerowin said that a lot of this program will be aimed at sprinkler use. Specifically this would allow for landscapers to be QWEL-certified, which stands for Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper. She said that she hopes homeowners associations and other property owners to get involved, as well, in order to improve irrigation efficiency in all kinds of landscaping.
“What we’re working to do is to help people improve their sprinkler systems to get the nice growth that they want without wasting water,” she said.
Amy Moyer, director of strategic partnerships, presented High Country Conservation Center’s project to the Colorado River District’s board and said that the funding provided would go toward the first three years of the program.
“For the project benefits, it promotes water efficiency and conservation through some means to reduce consumptive use through better management of outdoor landscapes and irrigation,” Moyer said. “It assists multiple jurisdictions to work toward this effort together. So again, Summit County has 19 water utilities. Within that county, it builds the local knowledge base on the Western Slope.”
In total, the Colorado River District distributed over $500,000 to water projects across the Western Slope. In addition to High Country Conservation Center’s Advancing Irrigation Efficiency Across Summit County project, the Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District received $25,000 to go toward a rehabilitation project that will improve one of the district’s water tanks in order to combat damage from rust.
Zerowin said that right now, partners are working together behind the scenes in order to get the program kicked off by this summer. Those interested can receive more information by June, and Zerowin said there will be informational sessions to inform the public about the program’s goals.
“We really just want to help the county be more efficient,” she said.
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