CITY OF OURAY: Water Efficiency Plan to give insight to city's water usage

By Sheridan Block

Taking the first step to fully understanding our water system, the City of Ouray has drafted a Water Efficiency Plan which will help the community maximize water usage.

According to community development coordinator Ann Morgenthaler, the city will spend time gathering data in order to gain a better understanding of how water is used throughout the community. By first understanding current patterns, the city can develop goals to improve overall water efficiency.
Last year, the city received a grant of $35,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to help fund the development of a water efficiency plan. The city worked with Wright Water Engineers, Inc., to create the plan, which profiles the existing water system and demands and outlines water efficiency activities the city will implement.
The draft states the goals of the plan are to provide data on system operations, reduce system losses, develop estimates of the avoided costs as a result of increased efficiencies and increase public awareness and support for the efficiency activities. Implementation of the plan will help the city improve water demand forecasts, plan for infrastructure needs and manage its water demands within its water supply. Through the plan, Ouray will "lead by example" and demonstrate leadership to other small communities, stated the report.
The key goal of the plan focuses on accurate data collection of system operations and losses. The city's approach to this goal is to add meters to the system infrastructure in locations that will allow for tracking overall water delivery and identifying data discrepancies caused by leaks or other "non-revenue" uses — in other words, water losses. The city hopes to improve monitoring of the main components of the infrastructure in order to document water uses.
To understand how water is used, the system must show how water is used, said Morgenthaler.
Currently, city water usage is monitored using the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, which operates with coded signals over communication channels to provide control of remote equipment. The system, explained Morgenthaler, shows how much water is "coming in and going out"; however, the city can't monitor non-revenue uses such as leaks in the system.
By installing meters, the city will be able to use the data collected to help reach its other goals toward water efficiency.
Over a 10 year period, total estimated cost of all measures outlined in the plan is $2.6 million. The majority of the cost — approximately $2.4 million — is directed toward water line replacement. Overall, the city estimates water savings over a 10 year period to equal 208.3 million gallons.
"It's not binding," said Morgenthaler of the plan.
The city has the option to implement goals as funding becomes available. Likewise, by having a state-approved plan, the city is able to pursue further financial assistance from the CWCB or the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to implement water efficiency activities.
Another focus of the plan is to educate the public on water efficiency. The report stated that through educational measures, the city can expect water savings of more than 23 million gallons over a 10 year period. To inform the public, the city lists workshops, presentations, social media and publications as measures to utilize.
Education to the public and providing information on how to make the most use of water is an important step for the city to be more effective in its water usage, said city administrator Patrick Rondinelli.
While there is no specific timeline of when action must be taken, Rondinelli noted that the city will move fairly quickly toward implementation of the plan.
Currently, the water efficiency plan is in the middle of a required 60-day public comment period. The plan is available for citizen review on the city's website and comments are due to Morgenthaler by Friday, Aug. 1.
Following public comment, city council will review comments, make necessary changes to the draft and adopt the plan. Council is scheduled to review the plan during its Aug. 4 meeting.
"It's a good plan that starts to outline what the city is looking at long-term to do in regard to water resources," said Rondinelli. "We need to be smart with our resources."