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Landscaping requirements not the county’s problem

El Paso County has adopted a water master plan to identify and address water supply issues and promote a balance between efficient use of water supplies and current and future water needs.The water plan only makes recommendations; it has no enforcement authority. However, some parts of the water plan have been adopted as amendments to the county’s land development code by the county commission.The county water plan contains this paragraph: ìAlthough most water providers have sufficient ìpaperî water rights, aquifer characteristics dictate the amount of groundwater that can be economically withdrawn. A water provider may not be able to economically pump to the limits that their ìpaperî water rights would indicate. In some cases, there may not be enough ìwetî water to serve the build-out of development in specific service areas over the long-term.îWhen asked about ìpaperî versus ìwetî water, Mark Gebhart of the county’s planning and community development department, replied, ìThe county is not a water supplier. The developer has to prove to the district (the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Ground Water Management District) that they have enough ìwet water.î He said the emphasis should be on a renewable water supply as opposed to aquifers, which take a long time to replenish.As to the discrepancy between ìpaperî water and ìwetî water,î Tracy Doran, office manager for the district, said, ìWe try to manage the water supply for future water users.î She said the district works with the county and the state to regulate water usage.An increase in the number of wells in an area can have an adverse effect on the cost of pumping water, Gebhart said. ìIt will be more expensive if you have more straws to bring water to the surface.îGebhart said the county has no requirements for residential landscaping and cannot regulate residential landscape irrigation because it is not a supplier of water. However, he said the county can exert pressure on the developer and press for additional assurances of ìwetî water. He said the amount of water available is determined based on historical records and engineering calculations.Terry Stokka of Friends of the Black Forest Preservation Plan has plenty to say on water use and conservation. ìI think xeriscaping doesn’t make for a warm, comfortable front lawn.î He said he prefers a middle-of-the-road approach with hardy plants that do not require much water. ìIt is easy for people to think there is a lot of water,î Stokka said. ìIt is a finite source. I wish the water plan had been more specific.î He said he would like to see the county limit the square footage of grass in residential areas. However, he said this would interfere with water rights and the county commission shies away from such restrictions.ìWe just feel like there ought to be some limitsî he said. There should be a known water quantity before water rights are granted, Stokka said.

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