Water officials have full reservoirs, high hopes for wetter 2013

The Grand Valley can weather a second consecutive drought year, water suppliers said Monday, but they warned that a dry winter could hit lawns — and pocketbooks — hard.

Ute Water Conservancy District, which serves about 80,000 customers and is the valley’s largest water purveyor, ended September with its two main reservoirs full, General Manager Larry Clever told about 40 people attending a Colorado Mesa University Water Center seminar.

“We did everything in the world to keep those reservoirs full” at the end of September, Clever said.

Grand Junction, which serves about 27,000 customers, is likewise in good position, Rick Brinkman, water-services manager, said, noting that the city has some 13,000 acre feet of water stored in reservoirs on Grand Mesa. The city uses about 6,000 acre feet a year, Brinkman noted.

The relatively stable position of the water suppliers is improved by ties that make the systems interconnected, so one supplier can cover for another in event of a problem with the water supply.

Just such an instance arose last summer, when soot and debris from a fire near De Beque forced Clifton Water District off line.

A low water year in 2013 could have significant effects in the Grand Valley despite the storage, Clever said.

Water officials will monitor the amount of water that winter snows leave on the mesa and will take action to preserve supplies if the drought persists.

“Rates work better than anything else” to discourage high water use during dry periods, Clever said, noting that the cost per 1,000 gallons of water will rise incrementally under rates devised to reduce usage.

Should dry conditions persist, water purveyors will meet weekly to discuss how best to allocate supplies, Clever said.

“You plan, you plan some more” for drought. Clever said, “and you pray for snow.”

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