Council discusses water use, scarcity plans for Fountain

 

Last updated 2/28/2022 at 9:15am | View PDF

Karin Hill

Chris Glommen, above, and Tyrone Johnson, below, receive special City Council recognition Feb. 12 for their contributions to Fountain transit operations.

The Fountain City Council recently held an initial discussion on proposed rules intended to save water while maintaining attractive and user-friendly landscapes.

The proposed Landscape Conservation Standards, which would apply to new residential and commercial construction, promote ideas such as limited grass areas, use of drought-tolerant plants, and specific irrigation criteria.

According to presenters Kristy Martinez, city planning supervisor, and Katie Helm, conservation and sustainability program manager, about 40 percent of the water used in Fountain is for outdoor irrigation. This plan attempts to make a dent in that.

"You can still install xeric landscaping and make it beautiful," Martinez said.

The draft plan suggests that backyard landscaping would be required, but irrigated turf is limited – possibly to the backyard only. Rock mulch would be limited to smaller areas, as it generates heat.

For commercial builds, developers would need to adhere to specific plant lists and submit irrigation plans for approval. Certain seed mixtures for lawns would be prohibited to eliminate grasses that are difficult to maintain without excessive water use.


The requirements are still in the draft stage, with further research and discussion anticipated in the coming months. Widefield resident Jean Smith urged the council to hold a public hearing on the matter before voting on this.

"This is a major decision that you are proposing to make for a property owner," she said.

Mayor Sharon Thompson acknowledged that some people who want to cut down on water costs are caught "between a rock and a hard place" due to the high up-front installation costs of some xeriscapes.

Current home owners or commercial property owners will continue to be encouraged to adopt water-wise landscaping, but they and owners of projects already in the development review process would not be subject to the new standards.

Fountain Utilities customers also may apply to the Lawn Replacement Program, which removes lawns in exchange for up to $1,000 in low-water plants and services. To inquire, call 303-999-3820 x 221, or visit ResourceCentral.org/Lawn (see ad this page).


Previously, the council approved a Water Scarcity Response Plan on Jan. 25. That plan, recommended in the 2021 Water Master Plan, outlines steps the city could take at various stages of water shortage.

"Potential scenarios that would trigger implementation of the WSRP may include a significant loss of pressure due to breaks in infrastructure, groundwater contamination, drought or catastrophic failure of any element of the water system," the plan reads.

Stage 1, the least restrictive, encourages outdoor watering to no more than two days per week in May, June and September, and three days a week July-August (new lawns exempt). Other guidelines include watering before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. These and other suggestions are voluntary and already commonplace in this area.

Stage 2 would kick in when treated water storage persistently reaches 75 percent or less. In addition to Stage 1 actions, all construction water should be taken from non-potable wells. If Stage 2 becomes long term, new lawns would require permits.

Stage 3 means treated water storage falls to 60 percent or below. City irrigation would be curtailed, as would non-essential high water use activities such as car washes, pool filling, water fountains, etc. A sustained Stage 3 would further limit irrigation and prohibit new turf landscapes.

Stage 4 would begin when treated water storage falls below 55 percent, prohibiting all non-essential water uses; a sustained level of this stage might trigger special council-approved water rates to deter water use, and new water connections would be suspended.

Although the latter stages sound drastic, Utilities Director Dan Blankenship said he hopes they will not be needed.

"We want to do everything we can to avoid going past Stage 1," he said.

In other business, the council voted to approve the 2022-24 Strategic Plan following a year-long process of identifying the city's goals and priorities for the next two years.

Consisting of an overall Vision Statement, four Strategic Priorities, and several specific Objectives, the plan is a "living document" that the council can amend and expand at any time, Fountain Communications Manager John Trylch said.

The current Strategic Priorities are:

Set conditions and facilitate responsible development and carefully managed city growth, focused on efforts that maintain or improve existing city-wide infrastructure and services, while building reasonable capacity to meet future community needs.

Develop, coordinate, and implement initiatives and programs, in collaboration with the community, that diversify city financial resources and invest in the Enduring Interests of the City Vision Statement.

Ensure highly professional, responsive and community focused public safety resources, that provide reliable access to public safety services throughout the city's jurisdiction.

Improve the quality and availability of parks and recreation opportunities, including athletics, outdoor recreation areas, youth programs and community gathering places.

Specific objectives range from completion of certain road projects, to creating a plan to recruit commercial development, to public safety improvements, to development of new recreational facilities.

The Strategic Plan is posted online at fountaincolorado.org under "City Council."

In other business, the council also:

Officially appointed Deborah Eiland as the presiding municipal judge;

Approved a $1 fee per vehicle for drop off of recyclables at the Fountain Recycling Center, effective March 1;

Recognized transit employees Chris Glommen and Tyrone Johnson for their contributions to the department;

Proclaimed February as Black History Month, and March as Women's History Month.

 

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