If the Durango City Council adopts the recommendations of a new water plan, residential users would be subject to the same landscaping and watering ordinances that currently apply only to new commercial and multifamily construction.
With 20 percent of Durangos treated water unaccounted for each year, the city is looking for ways to more efficiently use the water resources in the area, reduce water system operating costs, postpone the need for investments in city infrastructure, and reduce the need for water rate increases to its customers, according to a city news release.
The 58-page draft Water Efficiency Management Plan was written by the citys consultant, the Great Western Institute, and funded by a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
The citys current system could serve as many as 49,279 residents more than double the current population. But extreme drought years and occasional wildfires could prevent the city from meeting even current needs. As a result, the city is evaluating alternative supplies, additional storage and ways to promote water efficiency to balance out dry seasons and dry years.
Enforcing and expanding the landscape and watering ordinance is just one suggestion among many in the plan.
The citys current ordinance, which applies to limited new construction, sets restrictions on high water-use trees and plants that are not grown for human consumption, requires low-water-use plants on certain slopes and requires a water-efficient irrigation system, among other things.
The consultant suggests adopting a green building ordinance for all new developments. The plan does not elaborate on what that building ordinance would look like.
Commercial customers currently account for 43 percent of the citys water use, while residential customers use about 34 percent, according to the plan. The rest mostly is unaccounted for and unbilled it could be meter inaccuracies, unmetered or unbilled accounts, leaky pipes or fire flows, the plan said.
Infrastructure improvement projects like waterline replacements, meter replacements and new storage tanks aim to eliminate some of that loss. At least seven such projects that are planned over the next 10 years at a total cost of $14 million could be delayed or downsized by reduced water demand, the plan said. Just a one-year delay of all the projects could save the city $780,000.