Use it for fear of losing it?
Restrictions only increase consumption, Redlands water official says
Redlands residents who can use irrigation water only half the week are using more water during their allowed watering days than they might in a full week, according to the company that administers the water, creating shortages for users on the far ends of each watering zone.
As an example, Redlands Water and Power Co. Superintendent Kevin Jones said he drove past a home that had sprinklers on for three consecutive days.
“It’s astounding. The ends of two of our ditches are running dry,” Jones said. “It reminds me of when there’s about to be a hurricane and people go out and buy everything. (The water is) disappearing. People are just overusing it.”
Jones said restrictions for the water district’s thousands of customers likely will continue through the summer. However, he’s hopeful that the backlash from the restrictions, which were instated last week, will subside as residents become accustomed to using less water.
Low levels of the Gunnison River have cut the water available for water company customers. The low flow also has left Redlands Water and Power unable to create enough hydroelectric power to pump water uphill to all users at once. As a result, irrigation users at the east end of the Redlands may irrigate from Monday morning to Thursday night. Users on the west end can irrigate from Thursday night to Monday morning.
Elsewhere across the Grand Valley, voluntary water restrictions are slated to go into effect starting today. Although there appears to be enough water in storage to meet the needs of the remainder of the Grand Valley, the voluntary restrictions that ask residents to conserve water when possible also will be in effect all summer.
“The four main water providers have spoken up,” said Greg Trainor, utility and street systems director for the city Grand Junction, referring to Ute Water, Grand Junction, the Clifton Water District and the town of Palisade. “We’re asking people to watch what they’re doing to keep as much water in storage as possible.”
Voluntary water restrictions are considered a Stage 1 drought response. Stage 2 drought status, such as what is occurring with Redlands Water and Power customers, involves mandatory water restrictions.
Trainor said it doesn’t appear that any other segment of the valley will be under a Stage 2 drought this summer.
Water officials are concerned that residents who irrigate with water from Redlands Water and Power will supplement their outdoor irrigation with water from Ute Water Conservancy District. Ute Water serves most Redlands residents for indoor, domestic uses. Water rates are tiered to discourage residents from using the treated water in abundance. Still, some water users already pay steep bills to use the water, Ute Water spokesman Joe Burtard said.
For example, after residents use more than 30,000 gallons of water, the rate increases to $10 per additional 1,000 gallons of water.
“We have customers with $3,000 bills,” he said.
Ute Water has a plan in place to further boost rates should the district enter a Stage 2 drought status, Burtard said.
Water users on the Redlands are coping with the water restrictions as best they can.
Roger Phillips and his wife, Audrey, grow an extensive vegetable garden and maintain fruit trees. The produce they don’t use is donated to Grand Valley Catholic Outreach to feed the homeless who visit the soup kitchen.
Roger Phillips said he’s willing to use the “house water” or Ute Water to keep trees and some vegetable plants alive if it comes to that. That’s what he uses in the winter months to keep trees alive when irrigation water is shut off.
“We have one of those yards that old ladies stop at to take pictures of,” he said of the abundance of flowers there. “We’ll just have to pay for it.”
The city of Grand Junction’s Tiara Rado Golf Course also obtains its water from Redlands Power and Water. Golf Superintendent Doug Jones said new ponds installed at the golf course will allow workers to pull water from there during off water days.
“We have enough shares that we can water what we need to water,” Jones said.
Still, to conserve water the golf course is increasing fairway grass height by a quarter-inch and grass height in the rough by 1 inch. Watering will occur on the course five days a week instead of seven.
During the hottest days of summer, the course is watered with 700,000 gallons of water. Water usage is reduced to 100,000 gallons a day during the cooler spring and fall months, Jones said.
Golfers shouldn’t notice a difference in water cutbacks on the most well-played areas. However, there may be dry spots in areas that aren’t as well-frequented by golfers, Jones said.