Water conservation in Basalt draws praise | AspenTimes.com

Water conservation in Basalt draws praise

Midvalley residents have taken water conservation a step further than required during this summer’s drought.

Customers of both the town of Basalt and Midvalley Metropolitan District have faced mandatory restrictions that limit the days they can water but not the amount they can use. Nevertheless, residents have also cut their consumption.

“We’ve got a new color of Crayon for the box – yellow bluegrass,” quipped Gerry Pace, public works director for the town of Basalt.

Basalt residents have cut their water consumption by 3 percent for the months of April, May and June compared to last year, Pace said.

That’s significant because water use last year was down from the prior year. The Basalt Town Council approved mandatory lawn watering restrictions during the third week of May. The goal was to conserve water and prohibit all watering on Mondays so the town’s water storage tank could refill.

“It’s evident to the plant operator every Monday that people are in compliance, and that’s very important to us,” Pace said.

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The town’s 811 water customers used 34.6 million gallons of water for the second quarter of the year compared to 802 users consuming 35.29 million gallons for the same period in 2001.

The town government itself has curtailed use. Parks that receive treated water aren’t getting as much this year, as evident in the yellowish grass at Lion’s Park.

“We feel that we shouldn’t have any greener grass than anyone else who is trying to conserve,” said Pace.

Economics are likely to keep people conservation-minded. The town adopted a new pricing system this year that requires customers to pay more for higher water consumption.

Customers pay $1.15 per thousand gallons up to 27,000 gallons. It jumps to $2 per thousand between 27,000 and 54,900 gallons. The charge leaps to $4.60 per thousand above 54,900 gallons. Customers started getting hit in the pocketbooks with the new rates in July.

The public works department identified 240 customers who had exceeded the 54,900 gallon-mark last year. About 80 percent avoided topping that amount in the second quarter, according to Pace.

Conservation helps all the town’s taxpayers. Pace said the water system has to be built for peak demand, so it’s cost-effective to lower the peak.

“If we can keep that peak day down, we don’t have to dig the next well,” he said. Wells cost about $500,000 to dig and prepare for production.

Basalt town employees have checked to make sure customers aren’t watering on Mondays. Periodic checks are also made during the week, and neighbors have occasionally snitched on offenders.

“We’ve had repeat offenders but the second time they come around,” Pace said. “They’re embarrassed when we’re knocking on their door a second time.”

The conservation habits of customers of the Midvalley Metro District are a little harder to explain. First, direct comparisons are impossible because the special district switched for billing from midmonth to midmonth to calendar month this year.

Second, there are different ways to measure conservation. Water use soared this July by Midvalley’s 880 customers when compared to the mid-June to mid-July period last year, according to Kelly Mullane-Johnson, district administrator. Use was up nearly 90 percent, she estimated.

About 39 million gallons were consumed in July. Midvalley serves some parts of Basalt, such as Willits, as well as high-density areas such as Blue Lake.

While use soared this summer, Midvalley customers responded to the restrictions. Water consumption dropped by about 20 percent or 265,000 gallons per day this July compared to this June, Mullane-Johnson said.

That’s probably no coincidence. Midvalley put mandatory restrictions in place in July. Like Basalt, the Midvalley district prohibited lawn watering on Mondays to give the storage tanks time to refill.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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