PAWSD--A Water Conservation Trend Setter in Southwest Colorado (by Mat deGraaf)

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD or the District) is proud of its water conservation program. As a headwaters locale, the Town of Pagosa Springs and surrounding areas are blessed with pristine and pure water resources that originate in the 2nd largest wilderness area in the lower 48. However, having direct access to the best water in the country doesn’t mean there will always be enough to go around.
Pagosa Springs, like much of the country, saw explosive growth from 1995 to 2008. PAWSD recognized that should this trend continue, more water would be needed. Those additional water resources could come from two places, increased storage, water conservation, or both. Then drought came. Across the west, 2002 was a dry year. As the summer wore on and water supplies dwindled to critical levels it became apparent that the community needed to permanently modify their water use habits. In 2001, prior to the drought, the average daily water use per Equivalent Unit (EU) was 380 gallons. By 2009 the average daily water use per EU has remained low at approximately 134 gallons. The drought taught the community how much water was really necessary and thanks to the diligent efforts of the District’s Water Conservation Coordinator, community consumption has remained low.
Demand side conservation efforts are rooted in education and involvement. PAWSD seeks to disseminate helpful and encouraging information to the public at every possible chance. Various vehicles are used to accomplish this, but none is more powerful than sight visits. The ability to talk face to face with people about issues of concern does more than answer questions; it builds relationships. When enough of the community sees a genuine honest effort being displayed they tend to react in kind. In this case it has led to a significant reduction in daily per EU use as well am increased sense of awareness.
PAWSD also serves its customers by actively and aggressively identifying demand side leaks. In 2008 Automated Meter Reading (AMR) technologies were installed that allow the District to read every meter every day. Should the AMR system detect abnormal water use at a particular meter it will alert the person in charge to begin collecting hourly information. This feature has enabled PAWSD to contact homeowners sometimes just hours after a pipe has broken and get the water shut off. This had led to a drastic reduction in metered water loss and has increased public perception of the District. It has also virtually eliminated the need to send field technicians out to manually collect meter reads which frees up a tremendous amount of time that is put to other beneficial uses.