Water Saving Tips
Take a drive 40 minutes west of Pitkin County and you don't have to remind yourself that you live in a desert here in Western Colorado. Colorado's climate is relatively dry and extremely variable. Annual precipitation averages only 17 inches statewide. It varies from a high of 55 inches in a few isolated high-mountain locations to a low of 6 inches in some valleys. Compared to the rest of the United States, the level of precipitation in Colorado is meager (Planning for Drought, Colorado Water Conservation Board May 2000). According to a recent study done for Pitkin County (Kolm et. al., Development of GIS-based Ground Water Resources Evaluation of the Upper and Middle Roaring Fork Valley Area, Pitkin County, 2005)
, precipitation in Pitkin County ranges from 13 inches in the valley floor to 55 inches of precipitation near Maroon Peak.
For comparison, many places in the Eastern U.S. get more than 100 inches of annual precipitation and parts of Oregon and Washington receive over 160 inches annually (USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service website, updated 2005).
There are many things that we can do on a daily basis to conserve water, leaving more in our streams and rivers for recreation, wildlife, and the overall health of our environment.
Water Use StatisticsConsumption & Conservation (Handbook of Water Use and Conservation, Amy Vickers 2001)
- Approximately 346,800 million gallons per day (mgd) of freshwater and 61,200 mgd of saltwater were withdrawn during 2000 for use by the nation's homes, farms, and industries
- In 2000, the highest consuming states withdrew: California 51,200 mgd; Texas 29,600; and Florida 20,100. In comparison, the lowest consuming states withdrew: Alaska 305 mgd; Rhode Island 429; and Vermont 447. (USGS)
- Americans drink more than 1 billion glasses of tap water per day.
- On average, 50 to 70 percent of home water is used outdoors for watering lawns and gardens.
- Daily indoor per capita water use in the typical single family home is 69.3 gallons. Here is how it breaks down.
(American Water Works Association Research Foundation, Residential End Uses of Water, 1999)
| Use || Gallons per Capita || Percentage of Total Daily Use |
| Showers || 11.6 || 16.8% |
| Clothes Washers || 15.0 || 21.7%|
| Dishwashers|| 1.0|| 1.4%|
| Toilets|| 18.5|| 26.7%|
| Baths|| 1.2 || 1.7% |
| Leaks|| 9.5|| 13.7%|
| Faucets|| 10.9|| 15.7%|
| Other Domestic Uses || 1.6|| 2.2%|
By installing more efficient water fixtures and regularly checking for leaks, households can reduce daily per capita water use by about 35% to about 45.2 gallons per day. Here's how it breaks down for households using conservation measures:
(Handbook of Water Use and Conservation, Amy Vickers 2001)
| Use || Gallons per Capita || Percentage of Total Daily Use|
| Showers || 8.8 || 19.5% |
| Clothes Washers || 10.0 || 22.1% |
| Dishwashers || 0.7 || 1.5% |
| Toilets || 8.2 || 18.0% |
| Baths || 1.2 || 2.7% |
| Leaks || 4.0 || 8.8% |
| Faucets || 10.8 || 23.9% |
| Other Domestic Uses || 1.6 || 3.4% |
Low volume appliances
Older and inefficient appliances account for most of the water use in a house. Replacing or repairing old or leaky appliances will save water and money for homeowners. New construction and remodels in Pitkin County are required to accumulate a certain number of "building efficiency points" for resource conservation. Please see the Pitkin County Building Department's web page
for details on this program. Voluntary upgrades are always welcome and questions should be directed to Jim Austin, (970) 920-5359.
Wells & septic systems
Even if you are drawing your water from a well, you can save money by conserving water. The water in the ground may not come with a monthly bill, but the more water you use, the more gas or electricity it takes to pump and heat that water. If you are treating your water, your treatment system will last longer if you are running less water through it. By withdrawing less water from the ground, you are returning less dirty water into your onsite wastewater treatment system and ultimately less into the natural environment. The more times you use an inefficient toilet, the more quickly your septic system fills and the more frequently you have to pump it clean.
Go to the American Water Works Association Water Wiser
webpage for many great tools to make your home more efficient and your water related bills (i.e., gas, electric, septic system pumping) lower.
In addition to water efficient appliances, there is a lot you can do on the exterior of your house to save water and earn "building efficiency points" towards your required total for new construction and remodels in Pitkin County.
Landscape watering represents a significant portion of consumed treated water in the summer months. Xeriscaping reduces home water use dramatically, provides a low-maintenance landscape, and reduces the grass-clipping impact on local landfills. Most landscape contractors are capable of xeriscaping and irrigation. For a list of drought-tolerant plantings refer to The Rocky Mountain Plant Guide
, available at most nurseries. This guide is not intended to be exhaustive, or necessarily specific to all areas and climates. Consultation from a landscape architect, nursery, and/or a landscape professional is recommended.
Jim Austin, in the Pitkin County Building Department, can assist you with your questions related to Xeriscape ideas and options. He can be reached at (970) 920-5359. For general information on County guidelines please see the Building Department website.
State of Colorado has produced a drought planning document with statistics on water use that can be found at the following site. Planning for Drought