Town Holds Off on Fire Ban ... For Now
TELLURIDE – This summer, Telluriders are once again being asked to water their gardens less frequently, refrain from replacing water in their hot tubs, and conserve water in other ways, in response to water restrictions imposed by the town government earlier this week.
Town Manager Greg Clifton declared the water restrictions via an administrative order on Tuesday afternoon, June 11, citing low remaining snowpack and dry weather conditions, coupled with seasonally high municipal water demand that is close to maxing out the town’s water treatment capacity.
On Tuesday this week, with just a week and a half to go before the town is invaded by 12,000 Bluegrass festivarians, the town’s water system is already functioning at 80 percent capacity – the level at which voluntary restrictions are typically implemented, but the situation is serious enough, Clifton said, that he felt compelled to introduce mandatory restrictions immediately to protect the town’s municipal water supply.
Pursuant to section 13-5-40 of the town code, the town manager can implement water restrictions without council action. The administrative order outlines the following restrictions:
• Washing of public or private sidewalks, driveways, parking areas, tennis courts, patios or other hard surfaces with municipal treated water shall be prohibited (the Town’s use of non-treated well water for such purposes is exempted);
• Power washing of structures with municipal treated water shall be prohibited (commercial power washing of structures will be allowed when necessary for exterior painting and related repairs);
• Filling, refilling or replacement of water in swimming pools, hot tubs or landscape water features with municipal treated water shall be prohibited (Town Park pool shall be exempted; addition of water to public or private pools, hot tubs or water features to make up for evaporative losses is exempted);
• Noncommercial washing of privately owned cars or other motor vehicles, trailers or boats with municipal treated water shall be prohibited, unless by bucket;
• Use of municipal treated water for commercial car washes shall be prohibited, although commercial car washing which is programmed or operated to minimize water consumption (approximately 23 gallons per wash) will be allowed;
• Use of municipal treated water for irrigation of any public or private lawns, gardens, trees, shrubs, plants, municipal or school fields, golf courses or similar grass areas shall be prohibited except for a singular period not to exceed thirty (30) minutes upon the following days, either before 9 a.m or after 9 p.m.:
–Monday, Wednesday, Friday for residents and businesses with odd numbered addresses;
–Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for residents and businesses with even numbered addresses;
–Sundays for all residents and businesses.
Restrictions went into effect as soon as Clifton issued the administrative order on Tuesday. However, locals have a one-week grace period before the restrictions will be strictly enforced, starting on June 18.
Several types of water use are exempted from the restrictions. Among these are drip irrigation systems and hand watering by bucket or watering can; the use of municipal water for dust suppression in Town Park during festivals; and irrigation by non-treated well water in Town Park. The Town Manager’s Office will also consider exempting newly planted landscaping that requires additional watering on a case by case basis.
The Town of Telluride is currently constructing a new water treatment plant at the base of Black Bear Pass – the Pandora Water Treatment Project – which will significantly boost the total amount of water the town is able to treat for municipal use. But until this new plant is up and running next year, the town will continue to rely on its existing tributary water sources from Mill Creek and Cornet Creek to meet its summer municipal demands.
“While these flows are currently sufficient, the very low remaining snowpack and dry weather conditions can rapidly change our overall water availability,” Clifton stated. “More importantly, our current municipal water demand is nearing our water treatment capacity, which means that the town is only marginally keeping up with overall demand. This is cause for needed conservation measures.”
It’s the third summer in a row that Telluriders have been subjected to water restrictions. Two different water shortage scenarios can affect the town – one based on creek flows and the other on numbers of people in town. Last summer, restrictions were imposed due to overall water scarcity. This year, situation does not look quite so dire, with restrictions driven more by demand.
“Things went from serious to very serious in terms of climate conditions a year ago,” Clifton recounted to the Telluride Town Council at its meeting last week. “We were on water restrictions for three months. While monsoon rains really helped us out a year ago, they did not bring us out of the crisis; we were dealing with low water flows and were just a couple of dry days away from having a serious issue or water emergency in town.”
Council also discussed the merits of imposing a fire ban again this summer. Clifton reported that several parts of the state have already implemented some fire restrictions, and asked councilors if they would like to follow suit.
“We are on the cusp of Bluegrass and the Fourth of July; things could easily progress to dangerous conditions,” he warned.
Currently, such a ban must be enacted by council action, but council discussed the merits of delegating that authority to the town manager in the future, as well.
Last year’s fire ban ordinance, issued on June 26, was far reaching; in Telluride there was a ban on open fires which even applied to smoking in Town Park during festivals – which created a virtually impossible policing situation.
Councilors agreed they do not have enough information about local conditions yet to enact another fire ban this year, and tasked staff with contacting local U.S. Forest Service officials to learn more.
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