Voluntary water restrictions are successful


ALAMOSA — Voluntary watering restrictions are working in Alamosa, city staff told Alamosa city councilors Wednesday night.

Although not imposing mandatory restrictions, the council in May had asked city residents to voluntarily restrict their water usage to certain days and times. Deacon Aspinwall presented a report from city staff to the council Wednesday night showing that residential water usage from May through July was almost a third less than it had been during the same time period last year.

Commercial and institutional (like Adams State) usages were up during that same time period, however, by 2.3 and 14.6 percent, respectively. From the data the city was able to compile, the usage did not appear to be affected by precipitation but was more affected by the citizenry’s determination to conserve water in a drought year, Aspinwall reported.

“Voluntary watering restrictions appear to be working,” he said.

He added that it is difficult from the data available to tell which factors played the biggest part in residents’ water reductions, whether it might have been their desire to conserve water and/or educational efforts or even rate increases.

He shared data regarding overall usage between 2013 and 2017. “Since 2013 we have seen a general decline in our total metered gallons,” he said. The total metered gallons used by all customers, commercial and residential included, in Alamosa in 2013 were 646,403,000, while in 2017 the total was 592,557,000. The average gallons used per person per day declined from 115 in 2013 to 105 in 2017.

Aspinwall said rate increases during that time obviously played some part in that. Other factors could include precipitation and conservation efforts, he added, but from the data it appeared the rate increases seemed to have the greatest correlation to water usage.

He said institutions like Adams State and the other schools in town tend to be the city’s biggest water users because of the amount of grass they have to maintain.

When asked why commercial and institutional usages might be up, in spite of rate increases, Aspinwall said commercial users probably just pass on rate increases to their customers, and institutions like Adams State have an image to keep up of green lawns. City Manager Heather Brooks added that it might take institutions longer to change things through their budget and landscaping planning.

Councilman Charles Griego questioned how the city would be able to pay for its water systems if usage (and associated revenues) decreased. He asked if rates would have to be increased to offset the reduced income.

Brooks agreed that the city wanted to promote conservation but had a bottom line to meet.

Public Works Director Mark Wright said the positive side of reduced usage meant that the city would not have to increase capacity in its water treatment plan, “so there’s a savings there.”