New Castle eyes water rationing as drought continues
June 5, 2012
NEW CASTLE, Colo. – As an ongoing regional drought tightens its grip, the Town Council here is preparing to enact tight restrictions on water use by households, businesses and other consumers.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., the council will consider a proposed drought plan policy that, under existing town codes, can be implemented almost instantaneously by either the town administrator or the council itself.
New Castle, which had 4,500 residents according to the 2010 Census, uses diversions from Elk Creek and the Colorado River for its water supplies.
A memo to the Town Council from planning director Tim Cain notes that, due to near-record-low snowpack in the high country and a lack of rain, “Soil moisture content, which is normally 60 to 70 percent in mid-May, currently is between 5 percent and 10 percent.”
Burn bans have been issued by area county governments, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, including BLM lands surrounding New Castle to the north.
In the same memo, Cain projects, “It is very likely that we will have a ‘call’ on a portion of the town’s water rights diverted from Elk Creek. If the use of Elk Creek water is restricted, it may be necessary to supplement the raw water supply with Colorado River water.”
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Under the town code, water rationing can be initiated by acting town administrator Mike Edgar or by the Town Council, and becomes effective the day after a legal notice of the restrictions is published.
Restrictions would affect such activities as lawn and garden irrigation, with the possible imposition of a system of odd-even schedules based on street addresses of homes and businesses.
Other activities may be affected, such as the washing of vehicles, the hosing down of sidewalks and driveways, children running through a sprinkler and water-using construction activities, according to a proposed drought policy ordinance.
The restrictions cover privately owned wells and raw-water systems, though Cain instructed the council that compliance with such restrictions can be either voluntary or mandatory.
The drought policy proposed by Cain lays out three phases, with Phase 3 being the most restrictive. Under Phase 3, activities such as washing vehicles, sidewalks and driveways would be prohibited.
The different phases are tied to the severity of the drought.