The city of Durango will start accepting new customers at its water dock on Sept. 4, reversing a controversial decision that left many La Plata County residents in a pinch for water.
“The purpose of the moratorium was to get us through peak demand season with irrigation,” City Manager Ron LeBlanc said Thursday. “We managed through that through an extreme drought and no residential had any restrictions.”
In May, the city of Durango cut off the water dock on the south end of town to new customers. LeBlanc said at the time if the city took on more customers, it might have to enact water restrictions for its residents.
But many La Plata County residents in drier parts of the county were upset with the decision.
They argued the city of Durango uses about 3.2 million to 3.9 million gallons of water a day, whereas the current 1,220 water dock customers use only about 3.8 million gallons of water a year.
“When I go into town, I have to cringe when I see people washing their driveways down and doing things that aren’t really a logical use of the water in this area,” Barb McCall, who lives near Kline, said in a previous interview.
LeBlanc said Thursday the city’s obligation is to serve residents in its “water service area.”
With 24,242 customers, the city’s water service area is the largest in the county. The second largest is Lake Durango with 2,800 customers and third largest is Animas Water Co. with 2,720 customers.
But LeBlanc said taking into account customers the city serves outside its service area, that number dwarfs both Lake Durango and Animas Water Co.
The city has 1,200 customers at the water dock, and an additional 200 customers outside the service area. At a rate of 2.3 people per household, LeBlanc said that’s about 3,200 people.
“That would make us the second largest water provider in addition to the first,” LeBlanc said. “We’re providing more water outside the city limits than any of these water providers within their service area.”
LeBlanc said four customers of the water dock are professional water haulers that can provide water to people outside the city, though many county residents say this is an expensive route.
Instead of residential water restrictions, the city worked with the top 20 water users to cut back consumption 10 percent.
But LeBlanc said there needs to be a better plan going forward for future drought years. He encouraged other water providers in the county to build their own water docks.
“Don’t come in here and throw a hand grenade. Put in a water dock,” he said. ”A hand grenade is not productive, a water dock is. Why should someone in Marvel come to the city for water when they’re passing 40 other water providers?”
Bayfield, Ignacio and Oxford all have water docks. And there are plans to put in some water docks on the west side of the county, which has historically been plagued by water shortages.
Ed Zink, a rancher in the Animas Valley, was highly critical of the city’s decision to cut off new customers from its water dock. He said the Animas Valley Water Co. was going to provide a million gallons a month to help.
But that wasn’t necessary with the city announcing the water dock will take on new customers Sept. 4.
“We probably dodged a bullet this year,” Zink said. “But we need to start a conversation together to try and be better prepared for next year.”