Conservation urged, just in case, water officials say

During a day of desperately needed rain, officials with the Grand Valley’s four domestic water providers said they would ask customers to conserve water now so that restrictions won’t have be imposed during the height of summer.

“If everybody will do that we can make it through the summer OK,” Larry Clever, general manager of Ute Water Conservancy District, said Monday.

The annual meeting was a chance for water officials with Palisade, Grand Junction, Clifton Water and Ute Water to offer updates and to continue cooperating in with what they describe as a good working relationship.

Although the Western Slope still is considered to be in severe to extreme drought, water providers said they don’t expect to impose Stage 2 drought restrictions, which include cutbacks such as only allowing customers to water yards certain days per week.

The entire Grand Valley is under a Stage 1 drought restriction, which encourages people to water conservatively. That might mean watering a yard two times a week, instead of every day.

Rainfall recorded by Monday afternoon should help the Grand Valley’s drought outlook. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction logged 0.35 inch.

Grand Junction still was about a half-inch shy of its normal precipitation through April 15.

The rate at which temperatures warm in the Grand Valley may have the greatest effect on whether the area will be under watering restrictions when summer rolls in, water officials said.

Last year, temperatures warmed quickly, causing spring runoff to swiftly shed the high country snowpack.

A couple more weeks of cooler temperatures would create a better situation for water users, Clever said.

“I’d rather give people the water they’re used to than have to restrict it,” he said. “The key for us is if it warms up, it’s going to run. Another two weeks (of cool weather) would be good for us.”

As of April 3, snow pack on Grand Mesa was just below average at 85 percent of normal for depth and 89 percent of average for water content, reported Rick Brinkman, water services manager for Grand Junction.

“We’re better than last year when we were 60 percent of average,” he said. “We’re asking all of our customers to voluntarily restrict water use to two or three times per week.”

The city’s largest reservoir, Juniata, a 7,300-acre-foot basin on the flanks of Grand Mesa with enough water to provide Grand Junction customers for just over a year, is expected to fill later this week, Brinkman said.

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