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Orchard City declares 'critical' water shortage

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At last week's regular meeting the Orchard City Board of Trustees passed a resolution declaring a "critical water supply shortage by reason of drought and setting mandatory water conservation measures." The drought resolution and other water issues dominated the meeting.

The resolution calls for mandatory measures to enforce water use restrictions by establishing billing tiers that increase rates as customer water use increases. It also establishes watering times and notifies the public that no new water taps will be authorized until the current crisis ends. Violations may lead to water service disconnection.

The resolution was prompted by the continuation of dry weather, the limitations of the town's filtration system, and an inability to convince citizens to voluntarily reduce water usage.

Trustees indicated that the ultimate goal of the restrictions is to reduce town water usage by 50 percent and keep from tapping town water reserves. Additional restrictions may be enacted if the drought continues. The trustees will continue to monitor water usage closely and they are asking for community cooperation during this challenging time.

In other water related matters, the trustees approved a proposal to expend funds for treatment plant expansion. The present plant is already operating at capacity and the expansion will add more filtration capability.

A request for a water allotment was presented by Mike Vrabel, speaking on behalf of the Authentic Hemp Company. Vrabel asked the trustees for a guaranteed allocation of water in order to operate a commercial hemp production facility in Orchard City. His company, which is headquartered in Carbondale, already operates in Paonia and Hotchkiss. Mayor Ken Volgamore responded that the town was unable to provide such a guarantee particularly during the current time of prolonged drought. Other trustees agreed and the request for allotment was denied.

Prior to passing the drought resolution, the trustees approved a water tap application for an out-of-town vacant lot. This property will not likely be a water user in the near future and this was the last water tap that will be granted until the drought has abated sufficiently to rescind the resolution.

In their final action related to water, the trustees authorized town administrator, Melissa Oelke, to lease additional water offered by the Kehmeier family who own senior water rights to their private reservoir. The leased water can be traded for water in the Ward Creek drainage which serves Orchard City. In hopes that others might make similar lease offers, the trustees also granted Oelke authority to lease additional water as needed at her discretion. The town has funds in a water acquisition account for this purpose.

The trustees discussed a special committee which will involve citizens and town officials in rewriting the town's current drought mitigation policy. The drought force committee will meet to revise town policy for future use. Citizen members will be sought by including an invitation for citizen participation in the next round of water bills. Since trustee Doug Keller raised an issue earlier under unfinished business regarding whether the trustees as a group or the mayor can or should appoint committee members, the appointment of trustees to the drought force committee and other committee appointments was tabled for further discussion.

In other action, the trustees approved a road overlay and chip-seal bid and rescheduled their July work session to account for the Fourth of July holiday. For July only, the dates of upcoming meetings are a work session on Tuesday, July 3, and a regular meeting Wednesday, July 11.

Barring special meetings or holidays, the Orchard City Board of Trustees meet for a work session on the first Wednesday of each month and for a regular meeting on the second Wednesday. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. at 9661 2100 Road in Austin. The public is encouraged to attend.

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drought, Orchard City, water
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