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Cortez council discusses plans for water conservation

Public works director plans to revise strategies
Boaters take to the McPhee Reservoir waters in 2012.

Cortez Public Works Director Phil Johnson used a Tuesday workshop to outline his plans to update the city’s water conservation strategies.

The city gets its water supply primarily from the Dolores River and the McPhee Reservoir, both of which are affected by the snowpack in the Dolores River Basin. Although the snow pack is only at 48 percent of normal, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service data on Thursday, Johnson said he doesn’t anticipate any water shortages this year. But in order to prepare for possible future drought conditions, he said the city must revise its 2010 water conservation plan.

So far, this winter has had the lowest total snow accumulation in Montezuma County since 1990, Johnson said. That’s in stark contrast to last year, when the Dolores River Basin snow pack was much higher than normal. Johnson said he believes the excess water from last year will help carry the town through this year’s drier conditions.

“We’re not in any danger here,” he said. “This drought that we’re going into now really won’t substantially impact us until the following snow season.”

But he said if the city’s water sources don’t accumulate enough excess water by the end of 2018, a dry 2019 could cause problems for Cortez residents. With that in mind, he urged council members to start thinking about the water conservation plan, which was adopted in 2010 and is scheduled for an update this year.

Eight years ago, the city set four water conservation goals: reduce per capita water demand to 200 gallons per day, implement full monitoring of water usage, maintain less than 5 percent water loss and institute an automatic meter reading system. Johnson said city staff haven’t been able to prevent quite as much water loss as they planned, but he said the other goals have largely been met.

In 2018 the city will work on setting new goals for the water plan. Johnson said it will be a lengthy process that will require multiple workshops and a 60-day public comment period. Cortez water superintendent Rich Landreth said he plans to start the revision process after the municipal elections in April.

After the regular workshop, the council held an executive session to discuss legal issues related to town water rights.

Other action

Also during Tuesday’s workshop, the council members introduced three new employees: code enforcement officer Keith Cramer, golf course superintendent Tom Kramlich and senior parks worker Don Cantrall. Library director Eric Ikenouye spoke about his plan to promote a part-time library employee to a full-time position as part of a minor staff reorganization, and City Manager Shane Hale gave a brief update on the city’s long-range advance plan. The council members also discussed lowering the price of an office building in the Industrial Park they’ve been trying to sell for some time. Most were in favor of lowering the list price to $225,000, more than $60,000 less than its original price.

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