PAWSD directors approve water conservation plan

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors approved a new Water Conservation Plan Tuesday night, which will guide responsible community water use for the next 10 years.

At present, 27 full-time PAWSD personnel manage and operate approximately 290 miles of water line, 80 miles of sewer line, three raw water treatment facilities, two wastewater treatment plants, and numerous water booster stations, pressure-reducing stations, and sewer pumping stations and nearly a dozen treated water storage tanks.

The PAWSD service area encompasses approximately 76 square miles, where the district currently has 2,900 acre-feet of usable raw water storage. Another 1,150 acre-feet will be available once a continuing Stevens Reservoir enlargement is complete — perhaps late this year. An acre-foot is one acre of land inundated by one foot of water.

Meanwhile, PAWSD now serves around 7,000 single-family “equivalent units” (EUs). Though the state demographer estimates the number of full-time Archuleta County residents at 12,600, PAWSD serves only about 9,450 full-timers, or roughly 75 percent of the county population.

That number, however, does not include a significant transient population, including tourists and part-time residents who also enjoy PAWSD services. Therefore, PAWSD considers EUs rather than population figures, when estimating existing and future water demands. One EU equals approximately 1.5 persons.

PAWSD predominately serves residential and resort-related commercial properties, including single- and multi-family residences, hotels, restaurants, shops and other commercial enterprises. While its water service includes all treated potable water delivered through the central treatment and distribution system, some of it goes to lawns and other outdoor uses.

For a fee, some properties located near PAWSD reservoirs are permitted to use raw water for irrigation purposes. All told, the district is obligated to provide up to 900 acre-feet a year for such use. Naturally, the actual delivery varies from season to season, depending on weather and customer requirements.

In 2007, PAWSD delivered nearly 2,200 acre-feet of water — or about 717 million gallons — to consumers in two separate districts. District One is described as the original PAWSD service area west of downtown Pagosa Springs (dating back to 1977), while District Two includes the town and areas north, south and east. District Two was added to the PAWSD service area in 1992.

In District One, primary raw water sources include Four Mile Creek (through Dutton Ditch) and the San Juan River Pipeline. Most of the water in District Two comes from the West Fork of the San Juan, through the Snowball Pipeline. Once the Stevens Reservoir enlargement is done, PAWSD’s total annual supply will approximate 4,300 acre-feet of water.

To guard against drought and related water shortages like those of 2002, PAWSD requires a one-year safety supply margin equal to a year of demand. With annual demand at 2,200 acre-feet, its minimum supply should equal 4,400 acre-feet.

For now, PAWSD apparently has just about enough water to meet current demands, including its safety supply margin. However, as the community grows and demand outpaces supply, additional sources and storage will be necessary, which explains the need for Dry Gulch Reservoir, whatever its ultimate size.

In the meantime, increased conservation and sensible drought management are more important than ever.

PAWSD developed a water conservation plan in 2000 and updated it in 2004. A vital part of the plan involves educating the public in matters of conservation and wise water use. Since 2004, the district has consistently worked to enhance public awareness and education related to local water conservation efforts.

May conservation measures are now in practice at PAWSD, including offering rebates to those who utilize water-efficient toilets, sinks, clothes washers and other fixtures; designing programs to expand recycling and reduce consumption by commercial users; helping residents create water-friendly landscaping patterns while detecting water system leaks; and instituting a graduated water use rate structure as incentive to eliminate wasteful consumption.

While detailed and incredibly comprehensive, the new PAWSD Water Conservation Plan contains myriad facts on current water supplies, likely future demands, necessary capital improvements and what an important role conservation plays in assuring district consumers that water will flow, as they turn on the tap.

The document, which also contains sound advice on reducing personal water consumption and related costs, is viewable at pawsd.org, or by hard copy at the PAWSD main office located at 100 Lyn Ave., Pagosa Springs.

chuck@pagosasun.com