401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

OC task force recommends drought indicators, actions

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This summer a group of 14 community members and three trustees convened to tackle a drought task force for Orchard City. The goal of the group was to review, analyze and discuss the domestic water system to "enhance the measures used in foretelling a future potential 'drought.' "

Additionally, the task force looked for methods to mitigate future impact of a drought. In the end, an eight-page report summarized its findings and recommendations. This report will be discussed at the December work session.

First, the task force recommends the trustees look at winter springs flow, SNOTEL water equivalent and current springs flow relative to current demand as predictors of potential low water supply.

If winter springs flow (gathered from November - February) does not exceed demand by 230 percent, then the task force determined a greater chance of inadequate water supply for the future. Based on SNOTEL data, the task force determined that the water equivalent level must reach a minimum of 15.5 inches by April to indicate adequate water supply for the following spring and summer. A formula based on population is also used.

The final factor for determining a drought is current springs flow compared to demand. Usually the town's 16 springs produce enough flow to meet demand.

However, the task force determined that if in April and May the treatment plant is processing 90 percent of the incoming springs flow, the future supply may be in danger.

The basis for this comes from March being the snowiest month, with April being third snowiest. Thus, unless May brings snow, the springs flow would start tapering off in late summer. Ultimately the springs flow multiplied by 90 percent must be greater than the demand to ensure adequate water supply.

One factor failing to meet minimum standards does not necessarily indicate drought, according to the task force report.

Two formulas not meeting minimums are a cause for alarm and should be monitored on a weekly basis. Additionally, this would trigger the "Phase I Drought Actions" such as reducing water use to specific times and informing the public.

The task force concluded that if all three factors don't meet the predicted minimums then a drought will need to be declared, along with triggering "Phase II or Phase III Drought Actions." These actions include ceasing new water taps, implementing drought rates or, in an extreme case, restricting treated water usage to indoor use only.

"There is no sure methodology that can be used to predict a drought. There are only ways to assess that a drought is more likely than not to occur," the report clarifies. The task force recommends that if the springs flow is 165 percent of demand on Nov. 1 or after that, a drought could be called off.

Additional recommendations to the board include establishing commercial water rates, identifying irrigation or well water users, identifying and educating heavy users, seeking water lessees during years of excess and repairing the town's aging water infrastructure.

The task force recommends the board make a public announcement on the viability of the town's water supply at the April board meeting with monthly updates thereafter. The report also clarifies that when other data is available, it might be necessary to add or eliminate factors in future reports based on data.

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Surface Creek
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drought, Orchard City
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