In a workshop on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council discussed plans to improve the town’s water efficiency during drought.
Public Works Director Phil Johnson and Water Plant Supervisor Rich Landreth presented a preliminary update to the Cortez water conservation plan, last updated in 2010. One of the plan’s main short-term goals will be to reduce the city’s water usage to less than 200 gallons per person per day. Johnson said such conservation efforts will become more and more necessary for Cortez as drought conditions become “the new normal.”
According to Johnson and Landreth’s preliminary update, water usage in Cortez has decreased in the past few decades. The daily water demand in 1990 was 325 gallons per capita, but it has since dropped to just over 200 gallons per capita. The new plan aims to drop that number to 180 gallons per day within the next seven years.
Although that goal would require some major water-saving measures, Landreth said he doesn’t believe it’s unreasonable.
“I think (these goals) will be easily attainable without a lot of heartache,” he said.
Part of the process of updating the conservation plan will be adding more short- and long-term goals, he said.
The draft plan outlines several possible water-saving measures to help the city reach those goals. One is a rebate program designed to give Cortez residents an incentive to trade in their toilets, washing machines and other appliances for more water-efficient ones. Other recommendations include a water-efficient landscaping program for city property, a commercial water audit program, more aggressive leak prevention for the city water systems, a public education campaign and more.
The council members voiced approval of several items in the plan, particularly the rebate program and the water-efficient landscaping, which has already been implemented on a few city properties such as the Service Center.
Landreth urged council members to send him questions or suggestions for the new water plan. He and Johnson plan to bring their next draft to a later workshop, and eventually host public information meetings on it before bringing the final version before the council for a vote. Johnson estimated the final update will be ready in October.
Johnson said water conservation and drought contingencies need to be a high priority for the city.
“We’re facing the new normal now,” he said. “The word ‘drought’ is being touted as a thing that shouldn’t be used anymore, because people will see it as a temporary condition. We’re now in the 19th year of this latest drought, and we’re just getting drier and hotter.”
He said the final version of the plan needs to take years of continued drought, as well as possible population increases, into account.
Other actionDuring the workshop, the council members also:
Heard a presentation from the Common Ground Cortez Community Gardens group on the progress of the Recreation Center garden.Discussed setting a time limit on public comment during regular meetings. The City Council members tentatively agreed on limiting public comments to four minutes per person.
Discussed the next steps in the fiber to the home project. Mayor Karen Sheek recommended spending about $25,000 on additional engineering and public surveys to determine the cost-benefit ratio of installing fiber throughout Cortez. The rest of the council tentatively agreed.
Scheduled a special executive session for 7:15 a.m. June 18 to discuss contract negotiations for the new city manager. The council plans to make a hiring decision at its next public meeting, on June 26.