Water is precious, so use only what you need. Here is some information to help you understand where your water comes from, where it goes, and how much you actually use. The reality may surprise you.
A gift from Mother Nature
In Summit County, Colorado, we are blessed with living close to many watersheds, including the Blue River Watershed. A watershed is simply a basin that carries water from the land in higher elevations to lower elevations after rain falls and snow melts. Water is a universalsolvent (able to dissolve other substances), affected by everything it comes into contact with: the land and soil through which ittravels. This is why it is crucial to be aware of what we are doing on land and how it affects water quality for all species of life (including humans) living downstream.
The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water
Blue River WatershedDriving through Summit County on Highway 9, you will the beautiful Blue River glisten with ice and snow in the winter and flow with great force in the spring and summer. While this river can seem small at times while driving through the mountainous landscape, it is actually about 680 square miles in three counties:
- The source, (or headwaters) of the Blue River, from the very head of the Ten Mile Basin in Lake County
- the entire 619 square miles of Summit County,
- 61 square miles in Grand County
Yielding about 325,851 gallons of water at the upper and lower regions of the watershed, the Blue River converges with the Snake River and TenMile Creek to form its converged watershed at Dillon Reservoir. While about 326,000 gallons of water may seem like a lot, consider the number of people flowing in and out of Summit County year-round. The year-round population of Summit County is approximately 29,000 people. During peak holiday seasons, visitor numbers can reach 131,000 bringing the county’s short term population up to 160,000 people!
Dillon ReservoirCompleted in 1963 and located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at 9,017 feet, the Dillon Reservoir holds 254,036 acre feet of water, (or, if you like looking at numbers, 82,777,884,636 gallons!) You may be thinking, “That is a lot of water for Summit County!”, and while this may be true, many are not aware that the Dillon Reservoir is also Denver, Colorado’s main source of water supply.
To the ocean and beyond.
As mentioned earlier, water is affected by everything it comes into contact with; pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, liter, oil and oil spills etc. It is essential for the health and longevity of the environment that these items (and more) stay out the water cycle. Eventually, all of the contamination that has entered our seemingly majestic nearby streams, rivers, lakes and ponds, ends up in the ocean creating dead zones and causing harm to uncountable amounts of species.
Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world’s oceans and large lakes, caused by “excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water”. -NOAA
The not-so obvious
We are all aware that we use water when we shower, brush our teeth, flush the toilet and run the dishwasher and laundry, but there are sources of water use that may come as a surprise. The day to day things we don’t typically see actually compile some of the largest uses of water in the Untied States.
How much water do you use?
The video below provides a life cycle assessment on one of the most wasteful uses of water: Plastic Bottled Water.
A partnership program created by the Environmental Protection Agency, WaterSense “seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services.”
This program enables consumers to make smart environmental and economical desicions while still maintaining the quality and performance of products such as, toilets, shower heads and faucets.
In our day to day lives, many of us typically don’t think about the amount of water we use and how we can use less of it. It is important to remind ourselves that water is not an unlimited resource and we must do our best to conserve this life-giving resource where we can. Making reminders around yourhome can help you get used to a water conservation routine. The links below provide tips, guides and charts to help you and your family become aware of your major water uses and how you can help reduce the amount you use.
- Flush toilets only when necessary, and never use a toilet as a wastebasket.
- Spend five minutes or less in the shower. Showers use less water than baths.
- Install a high-efficiency showerhead.
- Replace an old toilet with a high-efficiency toilet, which can pay for itself over time in water savings. Denver Water offers rebates for customers who buy high-efficiency toilets.
- Insulate your water heater and water pipes. Doing so will save energy and also will cut down on the amount of water that goes down the drain while waiting for hot water to flow.
- Catch water in a bucket or watering can while waiting for hot or cold water to run. Use the water on plants.
- Turn off the water while shaving, brushing your teeth and lathering in the shower.
- Shave with a small amount of water in the sink instead of running water.
- Replace or install a low-flow aerator on your bathroom faucet.
Information provided by Denver Water.
Kitchen and Laundry
- Do not let water run while hand-washing dishes.
- Wash only full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher. Try to wash two fewer loads per week.
- Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or basin using a vegetable brush instead of letting water run. Use the extra water on plants.
- Soak dishes that need to be pre-rinsed instead of running them under water.
- Scrape dishes instead of rinsing them off before putting them in the dishwasher.
- Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold.
- Defrost food in the refrigerator, not in a pan of water on the counter or in the sink.
- Run garbage disposals only when necessary. Compost food waste instead.
- Replace or install a low-flow aerator on your kitchen faucet.
Information provided from Denver Water.
Designing a water efficient yard and/or landscape can be a difficult process if you don’t know what your looking for. By utilizing the links and videos below, you can create a beautiful landscape that benefits the environment all while saving money.
Videos courtesy of GreenCO:
Cold Weather Water Tips
During the cold, winter months, many people begin to worry if their water pipes, valves and faucets will freeze due to the low temperatures that are experienced up in high altitude and mountain weather environments. Below are some helpful tips that you can use to avoid costly damage and remain water efficient even in cold months.
Before Cold Weather Hits
Be sure everyone in your household knows how to shut your water off.
- Know the location of your water shut-off valve and test it on a regular basis. (In most single-family homes, the shut-off valve is in the basement or the crawl space, on a wall facing the street.)
- Keep your meter pit and curb stop valve accessible (Be sure your property has a curb valve, you know where it is, and the valve box is clear of debris, vertical and centered over the valve.)
- Turn off and drain automatic and manual sprinkler systems before the first freeze. (Doing this in advance, will help ensure the longevity of your system because freezing and thawing of your water system is avoided.)
- Turn off outdoor faucets and disconnect any hoses attached to them
- Winterize unheated or vacant buildings.
- Insulate water pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold weather or that have had issues previously.
Deep Freeze: What to do?
A deep freeze, (considered to be -5 degrees F and below), can be very worrisome for any home owner, business owner and/or renter. Follow the tips below to help avoid water-freezing issues.
- If you have a garage attached to your home, try to always keep your garage doors shut to help keep warm air inside and potential plumbing safe from a freeze.
- Keep cabinet doors leading to exposed pipes (like underneath sinks) open to let household air warm them.
- Keep your thermostat set at or above 65 degrees when traveling or away at work.
Frozen Pipe! What to do if you think a pipe has already frozen.
- Thaw the pipe ASAP or call a local plumber for help. (If you do this yourself, be sure to shut off the water or test the shut-off valve: You don’t want water spilling out from the pipe when it thaws!)
- Remember: When thawing anything, SLOWER IS BETTER
- Pipes that are warmed too fast have a greater potential to break. For example, a hairdryer is an appropriate tool to use to thaw a pipe where as a blow torch is NOT!
For more information on winter weather water tips and additional water resources please visit Denver Water.