The fight for water’s future

Darin Moriki
Posted 8/9/12

This year’s drought has taken a toll on many Coloradans. According to a July 31 statewide drought-monitor report by the National Drought Mitigation …

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The fight for water’s future


This year’s drought has taken a toll on many


According to a July 31 statewide drought-monitor report by the National Drought Mitigation Center, nearly 65.35 percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions, characterized by “major crop and pasture losses, and widespread water

restrictions or shortages.”

Consequently, municipalities, water providers and organizations statewide are teaming up to reduce drought impacts and promote sustainable water-use practices to combat expected increased water demand and predicted population growth (see related story on Page 17).

“When it comes to climate change, there’s no question that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Steve Fleischli, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Water and Climate Program, an environmental watchdog organization. “The sensible, practical solution is to plan ahead, before

it’s too late.”

At Littleton’s city limits, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with 14 water providers around the state, are embarking on an $184.6 million project to increase water conservation space at Chatfield Reservoir.

The effort, which began in 1999 at the behest of former Gov. Bill Owens, would redesignate 20,600 acre-feet of storage water space in Chatfield Reservoir, currently reserved specifically for flood-control purposes, to include conservation purposes.

Gwyn Jarrett, Army Corps of Engineers project manager, said access to the newly allocated storage space should be available to water providers for consumer use in the next three to five years.

The project’s feasibility and assessment study, one of the final steps before the reallocation process begins, is expected to be completed by late December 2013.

“This project is going to meet a portion of the water demand that is needed for the Denver-metro area,” she said. “Even with this project, there will be a void to meet the expected need of the area. If it is approved, it is an important part of the solution to the rapid population growth and increased water needs that Colorado and the Denver area are facing.”

State, federal and local governments, along with water providers, are not alone in the fight to decrease water consumption.

At the Colorado State University Extension’s Adams County campus, employees and volunteers are on a mission to spread the word about xeriscaping, or landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce water use and eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation, including choosing plants that require little water.

Behind the Waymire Building at the Adams County Fairgrounds, the CSU Extension’s Adams County campus maintains a small xeric garden featuring about 200 types of plants. Master gardeners, part of a CSU-run program, created the garden to highlight the beauty and potential financial benefits of switching from water-intensive to xeric gardening methods.

“You can have a good-looking garden without having to give it a ton of water,” said Eric Hammond, a CSU Extension horticulture and agriculture agent. “Any plant, regardless of how xeric it is or how much water it needs, is going to need a little water until you can get it going, but once you have the plant established, it’s pretty much no maintenance.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 30 percent of the water used by the average American household is devoted to outdoor water use. What’s more, the EPA says, up to 50 percent of landscape-water use is wasted through evaporation, wind or runoff caused by overwatering.

“Saving $20 a month on your water bill doesn’t seem like much, but if you live here for 20 years, it adds up to thousands of dollars,” Hammond said. “This drought really does remind everybody about how really dry a climate we have here and how precious of a resource

water is here.”


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