DONALA WATER & SANITATION DISTRICT

  719-488-3603                   MARCH 2013

 

Drought and irrigation standards

Unless you have been hiding under a rock recently you know that we are experiencing very significant drought conditions here on the Front Range, and in fact all of Colorado.  If you were under that rock you might have noticed how dry it was under there. Every indication is that 2013 will be as bad, if not worse than 2012 by way of precipitation and heat.  The year 2012 was the driest year on record and even with our irrigation standards and tiered water rates (high volume users pay higher rates), we had to provide more water than only two other years in Donala’s history.

Even with a couple good snows over the past couple of weeks, the snowpack in the mountains is well below average.  The levels of precipitation in our area and the high temperatures are record setters.  Without going into the reasons for all of this – whether it be global warming, sunspots, Jupiter aligning with Mars, or simply natural weather cycles – the fact is, we appear to be in for another hot and dry year.  A two year extension of drought has many implications – none of them good.  As a result, we are likely faced with continued and even increased limitations on water use.

Because of our ties to Colorado Springs Utilities (transmission of our Leadville area ranch water), we are required to adopt the same irrigation limits that they do.  CSU may be proposing two-a-week watering schedules to their City Council this month – TO START ON APRIL 1.  Donala customers will be forced to the same schedule.  In preparation for this and further drought, we have adopted the following watering standards program: 

PHASE 1 – Voluntary outdoor irrigation standards to no more than three times per week using the “odd-even” program and prescribed daily watering schedule.  See the Donala website at www.donalawater.org for specific dates and times.

PHASE 2 – Mandatory outdoor irrigation standards of no more than three times per week, normally between Memorial Day and Labor Day using the same schedule as above. 

PHASE 3 – Mandatory outdoor irrigation standards of no more than two times per week starting and ending as determined.  Dates and times will follow the “odd-even” program as described on the Donala website, with the following modification:  Odd day users will water on Monday and Friday (not Wednesday);  Even day users will water Tuesday and Saturday (Not Thursday). No watering on Sunday.

PHASE 4 – No outdoor watering until further notice. 

PHASE 5 – Emergency “rolling shutoffs.”  The central water distribution will be shut down by sections to be determined hours at a time, curtailing all use in that particular zone for a number of hours. 

Obviously, PHASE 5 is just as it sounds – a dire emergency.  Examples would be if our entire water system were shut down due to extended power outage, earthquake etc.  It could also be because of a fire emergency where water is need for firefighting. 

PHASE 4 would also be a severe situation and likely involve a failure in our supply system. 

PHASE 3 is the situation we are likely to be facing as early as April.  Signs will be strategically placed and newsletters distributed to announce the watering standards.  The Donala website will be kept current to announce the policies. 

This obviously reinforces our drive to encourage as much xeriscape landscaping as possible.  Many of our customers have done just that, and we congratulate them.  Their water bills show it too.  Now is the time to make changes.  If your changes entail putting in a new lawn or needing extra water to start your project growing, we will issue waivers to the standards for short periods.  However, if you put in a new lawn or new soil enhancement, and after your waivered watering time is up (3 weeks), you have to return to two-a-week watering; your new lawn will suffer.  Do it early and take advantage of the spring temperatures and what moisture we might be able to squeeze out of the sky in April and May. 

Finally – If your lawn is well established, two-a-week watering (PHASE 3) should not kill it.  Yes, it will turn yellow.  It will not look lush and green.  There is no getting around that.  The times and conditions conducive to large Kentucky Bluegrass lawns at 7000 feet on a high plains dessert are over.  The water to support it simply is not available.  PLEASE do your part to help.

 

Credit Card Charges

As many Donala customers know, we do have a credit card process to pay water and wastewater bills. Yes – there is a 3% convenience fee for the service.  That’s what the credit card companies charge us.  We were recently successful in reducing it from 3 ½%. There were a couple of columns in the Gazette in February about the policy of charging this fee.  The columnist alluded that governmental entities should not be immune from the law that restricts others from passing on this charge.  Please understand – we are a non-profit entity and any charges like this must be covered by rates or taxes - we have no other income.  We do not believe it fair or appropriate to pass on the fees the credit card companies charge us to ALL of our customers, whether they use the service or not.  There simply are not enough credit card users to warrant that.  For that reason, we believe it IS appropriate for a governmental entity that is providing a service to a customer charges that customer for the service.  

 

EMPTY HOUSE LEAKS OR

EVEN FULL ONES

Plan on leaving town for a while?  For good?  PLEASE do not turn off the heat if you do.  During the recent cold snaps, we responded to several leaks where the homeowner was either gone on vacation or had moved out with the house left on the market, and the heat had been turned off.  Even if the heat is on, when the water system is dormant in an empty house, pipes in the north wall and cold, minimally insulated parts of the house can freeze and burst.  Consider leaving a slight drip from a faucet in that area.  You might also want to turn the water off at the meter.  That will not stop a freeze, but it will limit the damage.   We had one customer who came back from an extended trip only to find out that a toilet had run for over an undetermined time.  Result – 64,000 gallons of water through the meter!  Believe it or not, that amounts to 1.4 gallons per minute over a month’s time.  If a toilet flapper is stuck wide open, it could actually flow 3-4 times that much.  If you are in doubt about your toilets, consider turning off their supply line when you are away. 

A similar issue occurs often when the “Siberian Express” blows through town, lowering our temperatures well into the negatives.  We put out our “leave a drip” signs, but still there were several customers with frozen pipes.  Here are some very important tips: 

Know where your water shut off valve is located and make sure everyone in the house knows.

(Suggestion:  mark valve with something – e.g. piece of bright string, tape or a tag)

Pay attention to the forecast.  When we are going to be in the negative teens – leave a drip!

If you experience a freeze don’t try to thaw the pipes with a blow torch - use a hair dryer. 

As always, if you need help turning your water off, call us – we can usually respond fairly quickly.

 

SUMMER HIRES 

The District will employ one or two summer hires again this summer.  Applicants should be college students who are District residents and who are not afraid of manual labor.  Duties will include summer maintenance, landscaping, road repairs, painting, etc.  This is an excellent opportunity for a scientific minded student as well.  There will be some exposure to the chemical and biological processes of water and wastewater treatment.  Some laboratory work is available.  Salary is $13 per hour.  Application deadline is the 12th of April at the District office (15850 Holbein Drive).