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Drought watch: Breckenridge eyes water restrictions

Last year, an excess, as the Blue River ran at flood stage July 8 near the town rec center. This year, not enough, as the town council considers water restrictions. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Town council to consider emergency water ordinance at June 26 work session

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Keeping a close watch on ever-dwindling flows in the Blue River, Breckenridge officials may adopt Stage 1 water restrictions limiting outdoor irrigation to three days per week between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Details are on page 89 of the Town Council work session agenda, online at the town website.

The restrictions also apply to school fields, and the Stage 1 restrictions would also control how and where residents can wash their cars, while letting people water flowers as long as they use a hose with a shutoff valve or a hand watering can. Drip irrigation is also OK.

The restrictions are set to take effect when the Blue River’s inflow to Goose Pasture Tarn drops to 20 cubic feet per second. Town officials would give two weeks notice before the effective date.

In a June 20 memo to the town council, public works director Tom Daugherty said the stream is already at that level, but since then, downstream water users have called for their senior water rights, requiring Colorado Springs to release water down the Blue. That could sustain flows above or near the 20 cfs level for a while, but in the memo, Daugherty said  he’ll have an ordinance for council members to consider at the July 10 meeting.

The water restrictions, of course, also apply to out-of-town water users. Restrictions would be implemented geographically to ease enforcement efforts. Violators could face fines between $250 and $750.

The ordinance also encourages restaurants to serve water only when asked, and could increase excess usage fees up to $10 for every 1,000 extra gallons used.

Car-washing in driveways would be banned, but residents can still wash their cars if they pull the vehicle on to a lawn and use a hose with a shut-off valve.

Stage 2 water restrictions could be implemented if Blue River flows at the Tarn drop to 10 cfs. That would limit outdoor watering to two days per week at a maximum of three hours per day.

Stage 3 restrictions are envisioned if flows drop below 5 cfs and include a complete outdoor watering ban with some exceptions for new landscaping and town-operated fields, and in the extreme worst-case scenario, water rationing.

Any water restrictions would be enforced by Breckenridge field employees as the eyes and ears of the town, while police and community service officers would include the restrictions in their area of enforcement. Citizens would be encouraged to self-police each other.

 

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