Ouray Aims to Assuage Water Authorities With Conservation Measures
by Samantha Wright
Aug 16, 2012 | 1271 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY – Summer monsoons brought record rainfall to Ouray in July 2012, and August is off to a sodden start. Thus, it made for some head-scratching last week, when the Ouray City Council voted to enact water conservation measures within the City of Ouray.

The newly adopted resolution, which went into effect last week, asks citizens to restrict yard watering to specific hours and to specific days, depending upon which side of Main Street they live on. The conservation measures are strictly voluntary, as the city does not possess the resources to allow for active enforcement of mandatory restrictions.

The resolution was basically mandated by the Colorado Division of Water Resources as a condition of that entity’s pending approval of the city’s Emergency Substitute Water Supply Plan, to show CDWR that the city is doing something to curb its water usage in light of a recent call on the city’s water by downstream users with senior rights.

Ouray is considered a renegade by CDWR, due to the fact that it is one of the only municipalities in the state that does not use water meters to measure its municipal water use.

As Ouray Mayor Bob Risch put it at last Monday’s City Council meeting, “We have a reputation for being miscreants.”

Responding to the recent water call, the city submitted an Emergency Substitute Water Supply Plan to CDWR in June. The plan outlines the means by which Ouray can offset its out-of-priority depletions to the Uncompahgre River this summer, including leased water in the Montrose and Delta Canal and water accredited to the city by the United States Forest Service with the draining of Crystal Reservoir in Ironton Park for dam repair work.

City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli noted in a memo to council that Ouray’s municipal water at Weehawken Spring continues to produce more water than the city consumes on a daily basis, but drought conditions are still occurring in the region and all water calls remain in effect.

“The Division has stated that it will not accept any Emergency Substitute Water Supply Plan without the city also adopting water conservation measures,” he stated. “There is concern that the citizens of Ouray are still utilizing unlimited amounts of water despite the water call and the existing drought.”

Rondinelli presented to council a resolution asking citizens to voluntarily restrict yard watering to specific days, depending upon which side of Main Street they live on, as well as to specific hours. The resolution preserves the city’s right to conduct dust control operations, but limits street watering to three days per week as needed, and further limits the city’s irrigation operations in city parks to one day per week.

Councilor John Ferguson took exception to the resolution as proposed. “It seems like the state is strong-arming us,” he said. “Someone on the Front Range is making decisions for us when they don’t know what is going on.”

Ferguson suggested the resolution should at the very least be amended to allow residents to continue using handheld hoses on a daily basis. Furthermore, he said, “I don’t think we are in a position to restrict residential watering when we’re out watering our streets.”

Rondinelli took a different tack. “We can recommend whatever we want (to satisfy the conditions of the CDWR), but we don’t have to enforce it.”

Councilor Gary Hansen made a motion to approve the resolution with an amendment to allow for hand watering. When no other councilor would second it, Ouray Mayor stepped in to do the job.

“I don’t like the whole thing, period,” Ferguson reiterated.

Hansen, however, defended his motion. “This is a freebie,” he said. “We need to get our reputation straightened out.”

“Somehow I doubt it,” Ferguson countered.

In the end, the motion passed by a vote of 4-1 with Ferguson opposed.

Risch, meanwhile, reported to council that the City of Ouray, through its participation on the region-wide Community Energy Board, will be requesting grant funding “to make optimum use of our water” and that water meters “may be imminent” in the city’s near future. 

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