Water use jumps

Conservation requests making

— Despite the city's request for residents to voluntarily conserve water, citywide usage in June jumped nearly 5 percent from last year.

Mount Werner Water also began drawing on the Fish Creek Reservoir July 2, which is 16 days earlier than last year, and about a month earlier than the average date.

Bob Stoddard, manager of Mount Werner Water, predicted the early opening of the district's reservoir more than a month ago.

And June's high water numbers did not surprise him either.

After a month of no substantial rain, Stoddard said, residents were more likely to water lawns and gardens than last June, when rains came every one or two weeks.

"It's a 4.9 percent increase in one year and obviously we haven't grown that much," he said. "I think what happened is we haven't had a good rain since early June. People are watering their lawns more because it is drier and hotter. There's no break."

Stoddard said June 2001 had a daily average of 4.7 million gallons of water being used per day, while June 2002 had a rate of 4.93 million gallons per day.

That was a 4.9 percent increase and close to 7 million gallons more water being used over the entire month.

Even with those numbers and the early opening of the reservoir, Stoddard said Steamboat is in good condition.

If the drought continues, the city could move to mandatory restrictions, which would be enforced through fines, City Manager Paul Hughes said.

In its voluntary restrictions, the city is asking residents to water lawns and vegetation every third day, after 7 p.m and before 9 a.m.

But as the city has urged residents to conserve water, some have questioned whether the city is following its own recommendations.

Chris Wilson, director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services, wrote a letter in The City Page of Monday's Steamboat Today stating the city has been restricting water use.

That letter said the city is following the voluntary water conservation program by watering every other day for sports fields, high traffic park areas, along steep slopes, berms and poor soil areas.

The city waters on every third day for lower traffic areas, flat areas and good soil.

Wilson said although the voluntary water policy asks residents to water every third day, the city's fields and parks are used more often than a residential lawn, thus they require more water.

"The level of impact is much higher. You can't have hundreds of people on the grass and water it every third day and have it survive. In the front yard, you are not out on the grass that much. You are not impacting it and impacting it," Wilson said.

Events such as Art in the Park, Triple Crown, youth soccer tournaments and the daily stream of summer tourists add stress on already dry grass, Wilson said.

He said the department has cut back on its regular summer watering schedule and only waters during night hours.

In a typical summer, the city would water fields once a night.

The city fields and parks are not the only facilities in Steamboat reducing water schedules. Sheraton Steamboat Golf Club and Haymaker Golf Course have lowered their water usage by at least 50 percent.

Sheraton Superintendent John Haller said his golf course takes water from the nearby river and the river flow determines how much can be drawn.

He estimated that 100,000 to 350,000 gallons are used everyday. Portions of the golf course are watered everyday and the greens are watered every four days.

Haymaker Golf Course waters through a pump station with unfiltered and untreated river and creek irrigation water.

Course Superintendent Bill Whelihan said Haymaker uses about 320,000 to 380,000 gallons of water each night.

Both courses are watering only during 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., the superintendents said.

Both also said very few customers have complained about the occasional dry patches.

"I think they understand when they see the brown spots and realize (how dry it is) when the streams they go by don't have water running through them," Whelihan said. "We've had no complaints.

"We have a links-style course, it's meant to be played in a dry state."

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