Summit Cove water supply clear as mud
SUMMIT COVE – The East Dillon Water District will hold a special meeting Tuesday to try and clear some muddy waters among its Summit Cove-area customers.Why? Because mud is what came out of household taps in parts of Summit Cove and the surrounding neighborhoods Sunday morning.The muddy tap water may be another sign of the lingering drought, district administrator Bob Polich said.High demand and a drop in the water level of the aquifer were at least some of the factors that led to the murky situation. Between a quarter and a third of the district’s customers may have been affected by the “pumping incident” that began about 5 a.m., Polich estimated.The district draws water from seven wells near Summit Cove Elementary School, relying on the Soda Creek aquifer for up to 400 gallons per minute. One hundred gallons per minute is pumped in from the Snake River system. Polich said that water is used to augment the system when pumps are stopped to let the aquifer recharge. Polich said that during a drought, a water engineer predicts if the aquifer can’t provide enough water for everyone in the service area to have unlimited landscaping. It’s not clear what the limitations of the supply are.Polich said the engineer concludes that average precipitation years would likely provide enough water to sustain the area at buildout, and that the supply is only guaranteed in wet years. Summit Cove residents Cindy and John “J.D.” Murphy said they tried unsuccessfully to purify the water with their handheld pitcher filtration system.”We were a little concerned,” Cindy Murphy said. “I took a shower in it that morning. That kind of freaked me out. I didn’t realize I was taking a shower in mud,” she said.Polich said district experts and water consultants are still studying the event to pinpoint the exact cause. The district provides water to about 1,350 users in the Summit Cove, Snowberry, Soda Creek, Whispering Pines, Meadow Wood and Swan Meadow Village neighborhoods. With a full house in Summit County for the Fourth of July weekend, water demand was high Sunday, as irrigation systems around the district’s service area kicked in, toilets were flushed and dishwashers started.Water levels in the aquifer are low – lower than the 2002 drought year, according to Polich. One of the wells started drawing water from a record depth.”We were down at a level we’ve never really pumped from,” Polich said, explaining that the pumping capacity exceeded the system’s ability to clear the water.Polich said the system had been operating under high demand since June 15, with little fluctuation. “Suddenly, there was a dramatic drop in the level,” he said. The wells are monitored with remote sensors, and Polich said the operators have already learned from the event.”We discovered the maximum pump rate under these conditions,” Polich said.Up for discussionAt the Tuesday meeting, the district’s board will hear reports on the event and discuss water restrictions. Polich said about 90 percent of users are complying with voluntary water restrictions. By working with specific homeowner groups to reduce exceedingly high usage, Polich said the district could avoid mandatory restrictions, though that topic will be on the table.The district recently wrote the Soda Creek at Lake Dillon Homeowner’s Association about water consumption for some of the 107 homes in that neighborhood, said Summit Cove resident Marilyn Petter. Russ Camp, A Soda Creek homeowner association officer, said the HOA had plans to address the issue at a board meeting last night.Polich also said the district is working with Keystone Resort to address any joint water issues. The Soda Creek drainage is hydrologically connected upstream to parts of the Keystone Ranch area.”We’re in conversation with them right now to make sure there aren’t any issues that affect us,” Polich said.Raising the cost of waterThe district board may also eye increasing the surcharge for customers who use more than 23,000 gallons per quarter to spur more conservation, Polich said.The district reduced water use significantly in the past few years, from 108 million gallons in 2001 to 96 million in 2002. In 2003, annual volume was 83 million gallons, for a total drop of 23 percent in three years. The district owns a water-rights portfolio worth about 90 acre-feet, with a historic average use of about 15 acre-feet annually. According to Polich, that’s more-than-adequate to provide for buildout, provided property owners adhere to voluntary conservation measures, especially with regard to landscaping. The water rights were acquired in a 2002 deal with Vidler Water and the city of Golden.On paper, there’s plenty of water. But, said Polich, “Our concern has always been the wet water.” Wet water is a term meaning how much water can be delivered to homes.The district has long encouraged native landscaping to reduce the enormous demand for irrigation water in the growing season. A single-family home on a half-acre lot in Summit Cove might use about 11,000 gallons in a winter-spring quarter, but three or four times that much in the summer.For comparison, Polich said his family of four, residing in Frisco, uses about 12,000 gallons per quarter.The target for the district is to keep use to 23,000 gallons per quarter, for a water bill that comes out to about $75 per month. That’s about average for the district, but Polich said he doesn’t consider it restrictive, although some might. Beyond that, rates increase incrementally. Even higher rates for usage above that level could cut use, he said.”We feel with that amount (23,000 gallons per quarter), we can have some lawns and some landscaping,” Polich said, explaining that the focus is on educating customers about xeriscaping and efficient irrigation. The district maintains a Web site with information resources at http://www.eastdillon.com.
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