Dangerously Low Water Levels Cause Historic Cancellation
KREX News Room
MONTROSE, Colo. - Western Colorado is a sight reminiscent of a decade past.
"2002 and 2003 were bad years. We're tracking right along with those right now ... we're actually probably a little worse than 2002," explained Steve Fletcher, a manager for Uncompaghre Valley Water Users Association.
The lands are dry; water levels are low.
"We're actually sitting down in the 60s still in a percentage," said Fletcher.
Water experts say even though Western Colorado received more snow this year than last, reservoirs don't reflect it.
"The big difference is that last year we started off with 100 percent storage plus some credits ... this year, we're sitting at 80 percent storage and that's it," explained Fletcher.
Last year the area built up reserves from 2010/11's heavy snowfall. This year, coming off the very dry 2011/12 winter, those backups are depleted.
Farmers are already set to take a huge hit.
"They're looking at [getting] about 50 percent [of their normal water] this year," said Fletcher.
Private water renters, who are allowed a share of water for yards, gardens, etc. during times of excess, are being left out entirely.
For the first time in the association's 104 years, it has canceled 2013 service for these users.
"It was a shock," said Janet Banicki, a Montrose resident.
Banicki is on a fixed income and has half an acre of greenery to maintain.
"I don't know that I can afford to run city water to keep my yard. If I can't, I'm going to have to let it go," said Banicki.
She says, letting her lawn decay would send her property's value down the drain.
"I just feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard spot," Banicki said.
"It was a tough call. But it's one we felt like we needed to make. Right now we just kind of have to prepare for the worst and hope for better," explained Fletcher. "Together, we can get through it."
Fletcher says there's no telling what next year will be like, and rationing now will help the community get through an extended drought.
A customer of the water user's association for ten years, Banicki thinks there are several efficiency measures the company can take to ration water without renters being cut off.