Cortez officials are encouraging residents to conserve water during this summer’s predicted drought. As motivation, they plan to step up enforcement of water restrictions and levy fines to repeat offenders.
From May 15 until September 15 lawn watering in Cortez will be prohibited from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days per week. The “Use Water Wisely” ordinance was passed in 2004 and works to prevent water from being wasted.
“We’re in a drought, and we need to all get in the mindset of conservation so we are not wasting the resource,” said Cortez public works director Bruce Smart.
Watering during the heat of the day, during windy conditions and overwatering will be monitored more closely this year, Smart said.
“Our meter readers will be on the lookout, and our employees are instructed to call in violators,” he said.
First-time violators will be issued a notice, and repeat offenders will have their water turned off and be charged a $50 fee to turn it back on.
“There are really marginal results anyway when lawns are watered in hot weather, so we are promoting using water more wisely,” he said.
Municipalities do not share in predicted shortages at McPhee Reservoir, the city’s water source. But when farmers from Dove Creek to Towaoc are expected to run dry this year, cutting back on watering the lawn is the fair thing to do.
Plus it will save money, reminds Laurie Black, Cortez utility billing clerk. Water rates went up this year to $14.75 for the first 1,000 gallons, an increase of $1 over last year.
“People are getting in the mindset of conserving water, ripping up their grass and putting down rock or drought-tolerant shrubs,” Black said. “Water is expensive, and people are tired of paying for it. If you go crazy watering your lawn, water bills can go over $100 in the summer.”
The goal of the city is to reduce per capita water use from an average of 230 gallons per day to 200 gallons per day by 2020.
Grass is fairly resilient, said Gail Vanik, co-owner of Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery, and reduced water can still maintain a decent lawn. She recommends watering 20 to 40 minutes at time, every other day.
“In a drought, people can still garden, so that is good news,” Vanik said. “I suggest watering in the morning to provide nourishment to grass and plants for the day. Watering in the evening after a hot day has less benefits because plants are more stressed and in recovery mode.”
New lawns may require watering during the day to establish, and a permit is available for the variance. The permit costs $20 and will be valid for 21 days for newly-seeded lawns and 15 days for sod.
To report a watering violation or for more information, call (970) 564-4012.