Spigots still open
Town has ample water, but drought is evident
The amount of water used every day to irrigate residential lawns in Mancos is enough to supply the entire town's basic water needs for more than a month.
Mancos water department director Robin Schmittel told town officials last week that the town consumes an estimated 450,000 gallons of water daily. An average of 8,500 gallons each day returns to the town's sewer treatment facility, meaning a majority of the water is being utilized for irrigation, he said.
"We use more than 300,000 gallons of water every day on our lawns," Schmittel said.
Water department estimates indicate that each of the town's 1,300 residents consume an average of 6.5 gallons per day for basic needs, meaning the irrigation water used in a single day alone could supply the entire population's water necessities for 35 days.
"It sounds wasteful," Schmittel admitted considering current drought conditions. "We only supply water to in-town residences, so I don't have any other explanation than that the 300,000 is mostly all just people watering their lawns and gardens."
But Schmittel was firm in reassuring town leaders about the absence of any immediate water woes, citing the old adage: "Water, use it or lose it."
"As of now, there's no trouble keeping up with demand," he told town trustees.
Mancos has yet to place any water limits on residents, but Schmittel said it is possible to enact future controls if drought conditions don't improve.
"We could restrict irrigation to odd or even numbered days," he said.
The town's water right to the West Mancos River allows officials to divert nearly 12 gallons of water per second, or one million gallons per day. In reality, due to friction loss, elevation changes and probable air entrapment, Schmittel said the actual figure is closer to 700,000 gallons per day.
Schmittel said a contract with Bureau of Reclamation also allows the town to divert water from Jackson Gulch Reservoir.
The town's water treatment plant, in a perfect world, is able to filter one million gallons in a 24-hour period. The rating doesn't take into account sediment levels in the water when entering the facility, Schmittel said.
He explained to town leaders that as Jackson Gulch Reservoir subsides, the amount of sediment increases, which ultimately requires additional time to filter the water for residential use.
"When we reach that point," Schmittel said, "I think we will all understand why some water restrictions will by necessary."
Mancos Water Conservancy District superintendent Gary Kennedy said water levels at the Jackson Gulch Reservoir are the worst he's seen in his 23-year career.
"We had pretty bad years in 2002 and back in 1996, but this year is worse."
Friday, water commissioner Wally Patcheck cut level four priority rights to the Mancos River. Those junior water rights impacted two local ranchers, he said.
With number three priority water rights, direct lines serving the Town of Mancos, Mancos Rural Water District and Mesa Verde National Park remained open right now, and Patchek said he will hold off cutting those rights for as long as possible.
"We had to cut off level three rights for approximately 10 days late last fall," Patcheck said. "If conditions don't improve, we may have to cut those water rights soon."
Patcheck said he will hold off cutting level three rights to the town for as long as possible.
"Let's hope we get some rain," he said.
Mancos officials recently released bids to construct a second water tank this summer. The town's current water tank has a capacity of 330,000 gallons, so the new 440,000-gallon capacity tank will help ensure residents are supplied with fresh water.