HG: DRIP Column September 13, 2008

Conservation programs produce savings, water

The ongoing downturn of the housing market may decrease predicted water supply demands made just a few short years ago.

However, development of new water supplies needs to continue since it can take decades to obtain water rights and permits, design and construct new facilities and actually move water.

Without meaningful water conservation programs, new water projects do not have the same resonance. This is true for a number of reasons.

First, water “saved” through water conservation practices is cost effective. Many water conservation programs can produce water savings at a fraction of the cost of new water projects.

Second, conserving water helps water districts and utilities save money on energy — less water sold means less water pumped and less water treated.

Also, water conservation can free up immediately available water in a very short period of time, sometimes in as little as a matter of days. That’s better than waiting 30 years for a new dam.

If these reasons are not justification enough, then consider that water conservation is becoming one of the key battlegrounds for water “negotiations” in the West.

A prime example of this is along the Colorado River, which serves more than 25 million people.

Fast-growing economies downstream of Lake Powell — cities in Nevada, Arizona and Southern California — are thirsty and wealthy, and all boast strong water conservation programs.

Although Colorado’s major cities have aggressive water conservation programs, only a handful of the state’s utilities and water districts, which serve 8,000 people or more, have water conservation plans that adhere to the state guidelines.

Domestic water providers in the Grand Valley are currently pursuing a grant to develop a common water conservation program between the four entities (the city of Grand Junction, Ute Water, Clifton Water and the town of Palisade).

Gov. Bill Ritter has been explicit in his statement that water conservation is the first instrument in the state’s efforts to meet growing water-supply needs.

And as energy costs soar, improved water efficiency will become increasingly important to the general public, which will likely create additional pressure on more water providers to conserve.

We live in a semiarid climate where droughts will always be a part of our environment. Water for our future means conserving now. The Drought Response Information Project (DRIP) is a collaboration among the valley’s domestic water utilities and CSU Cooperative Extension to provide information and educate the public about drought and the importance of water conservation.


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