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Publish Date: 8/9/2005

Feliciano Chavez, an irrigation tech for Land Tech Contractors, fixes a broken sprinkler Monday at Main Street Marketplace in Longmont. Times-Call/Rebecca M. Stumpf

City sets water-use record
Council to discuss tighter regulations at meeting tonight

LONGMONT — Record high temperatures pushed the city’s water usage to its highest-ever monthly total in July, with residents and businesses consuming 884.5 million gallons as the mercury soared.

The city’s drinking water-treatment plant churned out a record-setting 2,714 acre-feet of water, up 670 acre-feet from July 2004. The six-year average for July consumption is 2,522 acre-feet, according to city records.

But despite that record level, overall city consumption remains below the average consumption for the first seven months of the year. July also saw the city set several one-day records for power consumption.

So far in 2005, residents and businesses consumed an average 1,391 acre-feet per month, lower than the same periods in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and below the six-year average of 1,408 acre-feet for the first seven months of the year.

“We’re remaining at or below the average even though we’ve added thousands of new homes,” said city water/wastewater director Dale Rademacher. “July bumped our numbers up a bit.”

City residents and businesses have been asked to voluntarily conserve water, and that effort is clearly keeping consumption down.

Still, to ensure the city has the ability to fight water-wasters, the Longmont City Council tonight will discuss a plan to tighten watering regulations. Among other things, the regulations make violating water-wasting rules a municipal violation, so code enforcers can write tickets instead of calling for a police officer.

The new rules would also require anyone caught bypassing their indoor water meter to pay for the city to install an outdoor, tamper-proof meter on their line. While no one has ever been ticketed for bypassing a meter, the city and all other ratepayers have paid to move several meters, Rademacher said.

The rules also will clarify that if a homeowners’ association is responsible for maintaining medians and parks, the HOA can be cited for wasting water. Previously, no one was legally responsible for that water use, even if the HOA paid for the water.

The proposed rules originally also included language specifying that anyone who lets water “pool” on their property could be ticketed for wasting water. At the council’s request, Rademacher removed that item from the proposal.

The proposals were suggested by a regional consortium of cities and water users, but some Longmont City Council members said this city’s residents have been responsible consumers and that cracking down too hard was unnecessary.

Water-wasting regulations are enforced separately from the city’s watering restrictions. Longmont is operating under voluntary restrictions because the city has so much water stored up. As of April 1, before snow began melting from the mountains, Longmont’s reservoirs were already 93 percent full. The city projected having 28,512 acre-feet available but needing only 16,112 acre-feet this year. So far this year, the city has consumed 9,738 acre-feet of water.

An acre-foot contains 325,851 gallons of water, roughly enough to supply a family of five for a year.

Next year may not be as rosy in terms of supply, however. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service, July’s high temperatures left snowpack melting faster than normal. That means fewer or smaller snowfields heading into 2006.

“In some ways, we probably had a little bit of a setback because of that runoff. You start getting some high temperatures and the snow in the deep crevices starts to melt out,” said NRCS soil scientist Don Graffis. “We’re again drying up our forest with those high, dry temperatures.”

Graffis said fall rains could help replenish soils, which would reduce the amount of water absorbed during runoff next spring and summer.

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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