Karen Guglielmone, the Town of Telluride’s environment and engineering division manager, presented the yearly water audit to Town Council in a Tuesday work session, which emphasized the importance of conservation, despite the town’s abundant water supply.
“We are a steward to our water resources,” she told council. “We are stewards for what we need now and into the future.”
The annual report has been produced since 2014, when the town adopted a Water Efficiency Plan, which was subsequently approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) late that year. The annual report reveals figures such as overall municipal water use — and losses — and indicates trends that can help officials modify the plan.
Water losses are attributed to a number of factors including leaks, unauthorized consumption, faulty metering and data errors.
Leaks, Guglielmone explained, are common in municipal water systems as they age. One such leak occurred under East Columbia Avenue in 2018, which officials then said had likely been a progressive event due to pressure from a rock. Directly on the waterline. There are more of those, Guglielmone said.
“We can expect a slow increase of leaks over time,” she said. “We have others we can’t locate precisely.”
Despite the challenges of controlling losses, in 2018 the loss rate dipped by 13.5 percent when compared to the last five years of collecting data. Last year’s losses were calculated to be 26 million gallons, down from 2017’s 37 million gallons. Telluride’s losses are still high compared to other municipalities.
“We’re high on our water loss,” she said. “Fifteen percent is the goal, though 25-30 percent is more the reality,”
Residential water use is holding steady, according to the report. The fact that it stayed about the same (118 million gallons) is “pretty cool,” Guglielmone said.
Council member DeLanie Young hypothesized that Telluride’s numerous unoccupied homes might be a factor.
“That could indicate these homes aren’t being used,” she said.
However, water use in Lawson Hill has increased.
“That’s the success of the brewery (Telluride Brewing Company),” observed Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown. Guglielmone added that The Laundromat was also a factor in the uptick is usage in the residential and commercial development at Society Turn.
Town Attorney Kevin Geiger noted that overall the town is in good shape as far as its supply is concerned.
“Our water portfolio is robust,” he said. “(Blue Lake) is a very large reservoir for our town. It is the envy of municipalities in Colorado.”
Telluride’s water rights are also strong.
“We are very fortunate to have the water rights we have,” Geiger said. “We have great historic and very senior water rights.”
Still, he reminded council, “It doesn’t mean we get to go carte blanche. It’s about conserving and being a good steward.”
Incorporating the Blue Lake reservoir and the Pandora water treatment plant became necessary when the town’s growth overtook what Mill Creek could provide, Geiger explained. Past water usage reports, which reflected peak days such as those that occur during the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, necessitated the work to bring Blue Lake into the fold.
“Those reports lit the flame under the needs for the future,” he said.
The focus of Gulgielmone’s presentation — and council’s priority — was one of conservation.
“The community needs to be on board as far as wise use and conservation,” she said.
Council member Geneva Shaunette said she liked the idea of the stricter irrigation practices that the town imposed during last year’s parched summer.
“I’m a fan of every other day irrigation,” she said. “Maybe grass isn’t the best thing.”
Unfortunately, even though low maintenance buffalo grass uses half the water, many landscapers’ clients prefer water-hungry Kentucky bluegrass, Guglielmone said. “We can’t police everything.”
Unlike many municipalities, Geiger said, the town does have timing restrictions in its code. Currently, irrigation is allowed from 5 p.m.- 9 a.m. During last year’s administrative order limiting irrigation, the times were reduced to 9 p.m.-9 a.m. and then for just 30 minutes. Residents were put on an every other day schedule depending on street addresses.
Brown wondered how the average resident could detect a leak — and therefore increased water usage.
“Your meter bill will spike,” Guglielmone said. “That will let you know you have a leak.”
She also said that repairing faucet leaks and taking shorter showers were additional methods to conserve.
“Faucet leaks are wasteful and easy to fix,” she said.