Parched on the South Platte

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Drought conditions ready to force municipalities to act on watering restrictions

By Gene Sears

Despite the recent snowfall, Colorado faces severe drought conditions again this year.
    With last year’s hotter than normal temperatures expected again this summer and a snowpack hovering at around 77 percent of average, the outlook is dire. The South Platte basin has it the worst in the state so far, with snow totals more than 30 percent under averages for the year.

    In response, several municipalities are already setting restrictions in place for the spring/summer watering season.
    Ranging from outright bans on watering until a specified date, restrictions limiting turf water usage to as little as two days per week and strictly enforced time-of-day watering cycles, the conservation practices are expected to be tighter than last season, with fire danger potentially higher.
    According to Fort Lupton’s Finance Director Leann Perino, aside from the normal yearly restrictions in place on an annual basis, the city has no current plans to cut back water usage on the part of residents — at least not at this point.
    “Not yet, not above what we normally do,” Perino said. “We have people restricted to certain watering days, starting in May. But we have not discussed plans beyond that yet.”
    That is subject to change, as conditions deteriorate and the city council sees the need to limit usage. It’s a possibility that Perino acknowledges as perhaps inevitable, given the dry projections.
     “I think we may have to, yes,” Perino said. “But we have not discussed anything further with council yet.”
    If you would like to start your own conservation effort, a good place to begin is with the experts from the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District. The following is a list of guidelines for smart water usage in the face of the drought.
    Do not water during the heat of the day when evaporation can rob your landscape of water.  These hours are typically 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but use your best judgment.
    Do not water on windy days when again your landscape is robbed by evaporation and re-direction of the water.
    Water deeply and less frequently to ensure that roots grow deep and strong. Watering every third day or so is recommended for lawns and landscaping.  Try several new tools (deep root fork or a deep root needle) that deliver water directly and efficiently to the roots of trees and other larger shrubs.
    Make amendments to the soil to allow it to better retain moisture and provide plants with the fertilizer they need.  Mulch is amazing for water retention, temperature equilibrium, weed control, and making beds look neat and clean.  Mulch also naturally will decompose over time and allow beneficial organisms to help your soil become healthier. Natural mulch may need to be added to every couple of years or just a simple rake or “fluff” with a pitchfork can revive that neat and fresh look.
    For more information, visit the NCWCD at www.northernwater.org.

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at