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PAWSD Rushing Rivers program aims to help San Juan River flow

Pagosa Springs was a town built around water. The downtown area has the San Juan River as its central point. The river is one of Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s source for drinking water. The San Juan River is also a prime destination for recreation for residents and tourists alike. On the warmer days of spring and the sunny days of winter, people can be found on the river walk. And, in summer, kayakers and rafters and kids in bathing suits are all jumping in the water.

Pagosa Springs loves its river, and PAWSD is introducing the “Rushing Rivers” initiative which will help PAWSD customers to show their love for their water and rivers via conservation efforts. The Rushing Rivers program is done in conjunction with Western Resource Advocates (WRA), headquartered in Boulder, Colo. WRA is a non-profit environmental law and policy organization whose mission is to protect the West’s land, air and water by advancing clean energy, promoting urban water conservation and river restoration, and defending special public lands from energy development. The idea for the Rushing Rivers program originated as a way of helping communities save in-stream flow by means of conservation.

In 2011, WRA developed the screening criteria necessary for Rushing Rivers to be successful: strong community connection to the river, utility staff support and evidence that water saved via conservation would improve local stream flows. Out of the 50 western slope communities who applied for the program, Pagosa Springs was singled out as the one best equipped.

“We are truly excited to be the first water provider in the country to implement a program like this,” stated PAWSD Water Conservation Coordinator Mat deGraaf in a written statement. “The San Juan River is the heart of Pagosa Springs, and we think local residents will appreciate being able to visualize water conservation in a way that directly benefits the river.”

The program will initiate with the PAWSD June billing cycle. The billing will now include a bar chart showing water use from previous months and a comparison of water use from the same month the previous year. Since the PAWSD water supply comes from the San Juan water shed, every gallon of water conserved will stay in the river, attributing to a healthier stream flow.

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