Water worries have arrived

Joe Burtard,Public Relations Officer for Ute Water walking along the banks of the Colorado River at Blue Heron boat launch Friday morning.Water restrictions are going into place.

Take shorter showers and use a low-flow showerhead. Be ready to ask for water at restaurants. Use more efficient dishwashers rather than clean utensils by hand. Consider xeriscaping to replace the vast expanses of thirsty lawns.

That was the message to Grand Valley residents as the drought of 2018 takes hold.

So far, that drought looks to be worse than recent drought years, Grand Valley water officials gathered on the banks of the Colorado River said Friday morning in announcing the implementation of voluntary water restrictions.

The river, still tinged green instead of the muddy red it normally is as the runoff begins, was about half its normal size as well on a cloudless morning that heralded 70-degree temperatures.

"It's running about 3,900" cubic feet per second, said Steve Ryken, office manager of Ute Water Conservancy District, gesturing to the river from the Blue Heron boat ramp. "It should be 7,500 in a normal flow."

"And we've seen it 40,000," said Larry Clever, Ute general manager.

That's the tale that the water managers hope gets across to their customers: The water that almost always is here at the beginning of the runoff simply isn't, and it's not stored in high country snow, either.

Dealing with that shortage is a matter of good stewardship of a natural resource, said Dave Reinertsen, assistant manager of the Clifton Water District.

It also can stave off the day that water purveyors have to try controlling water use by imposing higher rates, said Joe Burtard, external affairs manager for Ute.

Grand Junction has plenty of storage and is benefiting from recent dam improvements, but its most recent snow survey showed the water equivalent of 37 percent of normal for the last 30 years, Utilities Director Randi Kim said.

Since the drought year of 2012, Clifton Water District has taken several steps to improve water quality, Reinertsen said, pointing to the construction of a new treatment plant, so customers are unlikely to notice a deterioration in taste.

Water quality is likely to be the first indicator of a drought and Ute customers might notice some taste difference, Clever said.

Residents should keep in mind that they live in the high desert and not bring in plants that are unsuited to arid climes, said Susan Carter, horticulture agent for Colorado State University's Tri-River Area Extension.

Certain evergreens and blueberry bushes are plants that some residents have wanted to plant without realizing the amount of water they require, Carter said.

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