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Water and Sewer Director Sean Chambers
The city of Greeley now has a new plan to manage times of drought, which will start with asking residents to restrict their outdoor water use throughout the summer during officially declared droughts and move up to financial disincentives for excessive use during more severe droughts. City and state officials are preparing for an official drought this summer, but restrictions in Greeley have yet to be determined.
Greeley City Council solidified the new Drought Emergency Plan during Tuesday’s (Feb. 16) meeting. The new plan calls for increasingly restricted watering schedules based on how deep impending droughts are. The plan comes in time for the city’s annual April projections, during which it projects if the city will have enough water throughout the year that also would sustain a hot summer watering season.
Different parts of Colorado are in varying levels of drought at present and some communities already have planned to impose drought restrictions this summer. Greeley officials, however, make projections based on the city’s diversified supplies of water, which are more plentiful than other communities. City officials will not determine how severe until April. The city hasn’t had to utilize drought restrictions for almost 20 years. Climate experts considered the 2002 drought the worst in 300 years, sparking the existing drought plan prior to Tuesday’s change.
Since 2017, single-family residents had the option to make use of a water budget to help manage water usage. If they go over their budget, their rates increase. Water budgets will not go away under this new drought plan, but the allowed water usage in that budget would incrementally decrease at higher drought level years, which means residents will have to curtail their outdoor watering. The new plan will only count for outdoor watering. Indoor water usage will not be subject to drought restrictions, but all residents and business owners are encouraged to increase water conservation efforts.
Under the new plan, based on the city’s declared water storage year, the city would operate under four levels of drought restrictions: Mild (Level I), Moderate (Level II), Severe (Level 3) and Catastrophic (Level 4).
During Level 1 and Level 2 droughts, the city will rely on voluntary reductions in water use by water customers. As the city moves into Levels 3 or 4 – such as the 2002 drought years -- rate increases would apply as a disincentive to for excessive water use. If conditions reached a level of noncompliance, the city could begin issuing tickets and/or fines.
Depending upon the severity of drought, the city will implement communication and tools to drive water savings that meet use reduction targets. Greeley customers will be asked to comply with guidance to reduce water to meet the drought response targets described as follows:
Level 1 (Mild) Drought Response
15 percent reduction in water budgets and water use
Watering a maximum of 3 days per week
Level 2 (Moderate) Drought Response
25 percent reduction in water budgets and water use
Watering a maximum of 2 days per week
Level 3 (Severe) Drought Response
50 percent reduction in water budgets and water use
Watering restricted to 1 day per week
Level 4 (Severe Emergency)
70 percent reduction in water budgets and water use
The restrictions not fall on single-family residences alone. This plan has built-in equity, in which other types of water customers also will be asked to conserve and face equal price increases in higher-level droughts.
The new Drought Emergency Plan also comes with the plan to create a drought reserve fund, as imposing such water restrictions could reduce water revenue from $1.6 million to $3 million.