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As drought worsens, Cedaredge officials urge water conservation

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Abnormal dryness, or drought, is currently affecting approximately 2.2 million people in Colorado, which is about 44 percent of the state's population. Utility customers within the Town of Cedaredge are part of that 44 percent. Conditions are at the point locally that the National Integrated Drought Information System lists Delta County as being in an "extreme drought" situation.

"These conditions mean the community has to acknowledge its water usage, and be very cognizant of how one person's high usage can, and will, impact the entire community," said Greg Brinck, administrator for the Town of Cedaredge. "We are asking for everyone to help mitigate this issue by conserving water when and where they can."

The Cedaredge Board of Trustees has already implemented Stage 1 Drought restrictions, which calls for voluntary conservation practices from water users. For its part, the Town of Cedaredge has reduced daily golf cart washings to washing as needed. Both at the golf course and at town parks, the sprinkler run times have been reduced by 15 percent, and overall water usage at the golf course has been reduced by 25 percent. Additionally, the number of flowerpots along Main Street and the garden at the public works building have been reduced by 20 percent, and the perennial garden at the new teardrop at the intersection of Hwy. 65 and Main Street will not be planted this year.

One of the bigger projects the town is doing to help with conservation is the waterline replacement project along Hwy. 65, said Jerry Young, public works co-director. The project is replacing several thousand feet of old pipe, much of which was the most leak-prone lines within the water system in town. Leaks are only detected when water reaches the surface, and that doesn't always happen. "The new lines will drastically reduce the amount of treated water that is lost due to leaks," Young said.

There are many simple steps residents and businesses can implement right now to help conserve water. If you are watering a lawn, garden or flower patch, try to water in the early morning or evening hours when the temperature isn't so hot and more water actually makes it to the plants. Sprinkler heads can be adjusted to narrow the spray, so that only lawns are being watered, not sidewalks, driveways and roads. Make sure to run full loads in the washing machine or dishwasher, reduce shower times, and turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving.

For lawns especially, it is possible to have a beautiful, well-maintained lawn while also conserving water, said Adam Conway, who manages golf course and parks maintenance for the town. Maintenance crews are leaving turf a little longer and raising the mowing height of the grass at the Cedaredge Town Park, as longer grass retains water more effectively. And, at the end of the day, it's important to put things in perspective. "Learn to live with some brown spots," Conway said. "Having perfect turf comes at a price. A few brown spots during a drought year isn't the end of the world."

If all of this seems a little drastic, it's because the town is already discussing implementing Stage II Drought Restrictions. "Stage II is aggressive, and we don't want to have to implement it," Brinck said. In Stage II, by Town resolution, water rates can be adjusted to financially incentivize utility customers to use less water -- meaning if water usage continues to increase, so will your water bill. Restrictions can also be placed on private landscaping, swimming pools/hot tubs, and even things like washing your vehicle using domestic water at home. "These are not things we want to impose on our residents, and we definitely do not want to temporarily raise rates in an effort to conserve water," said Mayor Gene Welch. However, he added, town trustees and staff are responsible for ensuring the entire community has access to safe, clean water not only now, but in the future as well. "We have to protect our water resource," Mayor Welch said. "We are not out of water. But we do need the community's help so we don't have to implement harsher restrictions."

The entire Drought Response Plan is on the town's website at www.CedaredgeColorado.com under the Document Center tab. A copy can also be read at Town Hall. You may also call Town Hall with questions or concerns at 856-3123.

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