Commodities

Water-wise, Longmont is in better shape than many communities

Although the number fluctuates by season, Longmont water resources analyst Wes Lowrie estimates that the city uses approximately 15 million gallons of water each day.

That includes water flowing out of taps in residences, businesses, schools, parks and everywhere else in Longmont.

“In the wintertime, it’s probably more like … eight million gallons a day,” Lowrie said of Longmont’s average daily water use. “In the summer, it’s probably more like 25 million gallons per day.”

Dan Shippee, instrumental control supervisor at the Nelson Flanders Water Treatment Plant, is busy troubleshooting the operation in Longmont on May 13, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Dan Shippee, instrumental control supervisor at the Nelson Flanders Water Treatment Plant, is busy troubleshooting the operation in Longmont on May 13, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Lowrie makes clear that water users throughout the city have continued to demonstrate their ability to conserve the liquid commodity, especially over the course of the last two-plus decades.

The population of Longmont in 2000 was 71,303, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, and in 2020 was 98,885 residents.

However, despite its increase in residents, Longmont’s water demand has decreased by 5% compared to 20 years ago, which Lowrie credited to local water conservation practices.

On its website, the city lists several indoor and outdoor water conservation techniques, including watering lawns and gardens no more than twice a week, xeriscaping when possible and installing low-flow showerheads that use two gallons per minute or less.

“You’re always looking at your current year, but you’re also trying to plan for beyond just the year in front of you,” Lowrie said. “Longmont, we plan for a one-in-a-100-year drought over a seven-year duration. So, we take a fairly aggressive approach to make sure that we have enough water to cover that hypothetical event.”

According to Lowrie, water providers often plan for a one-in-50-year drought over a five-year period, which is less severe.

During its regular session Tuesday, the Longmont City Council approved the city’s 2022-23 water supply and drought management plan. The decision was unanimous.

Longmont gets its water primarily from snowmelt in the Rocky Mountain National Park area and has “multiple sources” it can pull from, Lowrie explained.

The Nelson Flanders Water Treatment Plant in Longmont on May 13, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
The Nelson Flanders Water Treatment Plant in Longmont on May 13, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

As part of the plan, personnel from Longmont’s Water Resources Division and Public Works and Natural Resources Department will monitor storage levels in Ralph Price Reservoir and the St. Vrain Creek Basin.

If the combination of supply and available storage exceeds projected water demand by more than 135%, the city will not be considered in a drought scenario, the plan stated.

Should raw water supplies drop to between 105 and 120% of projected water demand, the city would require its customers to reduce their water use by a “minimum 10%,” according to the plan.

Currently, this city’s water supply is at a “sustainable conservation level.”

“It explains that Longmont has been prudent in the way it has provisioned itself with water, and that we have been prudent in the way we have used water in the past,” Councilmember Marcia Martin said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We have plenty is the bottom line there.”

“Not every community has multiple sources to get water,” Lowrie said. “Some have one source, and if something happens to that source, they’re struggling.”

In addition to residents being more conscientious about their own water usage, Lowrie credited the city itself for establishing several ways to receive water over the course of its 150-year history.

As of May 14, snowpack totals across Colorado were 61% of median with drier conditions in the southern portion of the state.

While the South Platte Basin that includes Longmont was 74% of average, the Arkansas basin over Colorado Springs and Pueblo was just 28% of normal.

“It’s kind of like putting money into the bank,” Lowrie said. “The more money you have in the bank, the more you’re able to withstand a longer period of tough times.”

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