The Pagosa Areas Water & Sanitation District approves new #drought management plan, aims to curb water use with a different approach — The #PagosaSprings Sun

The springs for which Pagosa Springs was named, photographed in 1874. By Timothy H. O. Sullivan – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain,

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sani- tation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors approved its drought management plan at its regular meeting on March 11, with things mostly staying the same from last year’s plan, except for changes made to drought triggers.

In an interview on Monday, PAWSD Manager Justin Ramsey explained the reason behind the changes in drought triggers.

“Historically, it’s been a cumulative amount of water: how much water is in the lakes, how much water is in the river, altogether,” he said. “Now, we’re going to break that up. If the lake gets too low, we’re going to go into drought management regardless of what the river is doing, or vice versa.”

Drought management stages could also be triggered by snow water equivalency (SWE) data and whether or not a call is made on Fourmile Creek, he added later.

“We did it the exact same way, we just broke it up so it’s not a cumulative amount of water, it’s individual pieces of water that could put us into a drought stage,” he said.

According to the plan, there are four stages of drought, which in- cludes a voluntary period of water

The voluntary stage, according to the plan, is intended to give the community advanced notice about developing drought conditions and aims to start the process of water conservation, according to the plan.

Level-one drought management, or a low category of drought, could be triggered by a variety of methods, whether it be SWE, a call date on Fourmile, the reservoir level in Hatcher Lake, drought stages or the San Juan River flow, Ramsey noted.

Level one is categorized as being a stage that aims to build upon the voluntary efforts while also incorporating basic mandatory water-use restrictions that look to curb excessive outdoor irrigation. This stage would also include an “increase community outreach and awareness campaign,” according to the plan.

The plan further notes that there would no surcharges or modifications to rate structures, but penalties for noncompliance could be issued.

“For all of them, anything could go on depending on how early it happens,” Ramsey said of the four stages of drought triggers. “Any of these triggers could put you into a drought stage one through four. It just depends on what happens.”

Level two, or moderate level of drought, is described as an “advance notice” of severe drought conditions.

This stage of drought features amplified mandatory water-use restrictions, more aggressive com- munity outreach and a modified water-use rate structure for residential users.

Level three, or serious level of drought, is defined by the plan as drought conditions that threaten water availability.

“Mandatory water use restrictions are further amplified to curb water consumption and extend the usability of current water supplies,” the plan reads. “A drought surcharge will be implemented on both residential and commercial customers and the water use rate structure will be implemented for commercial customers and be further modified for residential customers.”

The final stage, level four, or severe drought, indicates “dangerously low” water supply levels, according to the plan.

This stage would feature drought surcharges and the water-use rate structure being further modified, according to the plan.

Ramsey explained that sur- charges will not be triggered until level three. There will be a charge for heavier water use at level two, but no surcharge will be incurred. The surcharge for drought stage three is $17.23 per equivalent unit (EU) and for drought stage four it’s $21.53 per EU, he noted.

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