U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- A Rocky Mountain News analysis on water use in
the five largest communities on the Front Range and the five largest
on the Western Slope shows residents have slashed water use an
average of 20 percent since 2001 amid a deep drought.
According to the 10-city survey by the newspaper, the fast-growing
Denver suburb of Aurora led in water-saving efforts with a 35 percent
drop in residential use since 2001. Fort Collins had a 34 percent
drop, and Denver cut home water use 29 percent.
Since the summer of 2002, many towns and utilities have imposed
restricted lawn watering schedules, steeper water rates and sometimes
surcharges for high-volume water use.
That prompted Aurora resident Darrel Welch to get rid of a
sprawling, water-intensive vegetable garden and to take shorter
showers. "Now, I can take a nice shower in five minutes," Welch said.
A recent study by Denver Water, which serves 1.2 million
customers, showed people were most likely to save by watering their
lawns less and by taking shorter showers.
"When they see they can water efficiently and still have a healthy
landscape, there's no incentive to water inefficiently," said Stu
Feinglas, a water resource analyst for the city of Westminster. "Now
when it rains, people are turning off their (sprinkler system)
controllers. Five years ago they weren't paying attention."
Despite a wet year in 2004 that contributed to less outdoor water
use, homeowners cut indoor water use too. In Denver indoor use fell
as much as 20 percent.
The Rocky Mountain News survey found Aspen homeowners had the
highest water use, at 161 gallons per person per day. That was still
a 21 percent drop from 2004.
While Aurora saw the biggest decline in use, residential
per-person water use was 77 gallons. In Steamboat Springs and Vail,
it was 68 gallons per day. Water officials there credit a strong
environmental ethic, and, in Vail, watering restrictions and new rate
Water utilities say systemwide water use among residential,
commercial and industrial customers is down an average of 17 percent
Long-term water conservation will give water managers breathing
room for securing water supplies amid population growth and
Aurora city officials have 10 years or so to find more water
supplies, not four as previously planned, due in part to
conservation, said Aurora Utility Director Peter Binney.
"If we didn't have this current set of restrictions in place, we
would need to bring 10,000 acre-feet of new supply online by 2009,"
By 2030, Colorado is expected to need an extra 630,000 acre feet
of water to serve 2 million more people, according to a state water
study completed late last year. Keeping statewide demand down 21
percent -- albeit an optimistic scenario -- would shave 132,000
acre-feet off the state's water-supply forecast. That's more than 43
billion gallons of water that won't have to be transferred from the
West Slope or from farms, where much of the state's water is now
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