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Water monitoring needed for all

Sterling’s city council focused on water conservation issues during Tuesday’s meeting.
City Manager Joe Kiolbasa announced that the city will be holding programs on curbing water usage and give away low-output shower heads and other products.
We all know that water is scarce in northeast Colorado — and the rest of the state — and so, educating the public about ways to reduce wasted water is a step in the right direction.
However, the other information Kiolbasa shared about the city’s water supply is disconcerting at best. He told the council that as much as 30 percent of city water used is going unaccounted for. Much of that, he said, might be from unmetered consumption at places like municipal buildings.
What? The city, which wants paying customers to cut back on water usage while at the same time paying higher rates to fund upgrades to the system, doesn’t even keep track of how much water it uses?
It should go without saying that the city needs to hold itself accountable for any service or product that costs the taxpayers money. But since that apparently isn’t happening, we’ll say it. It is unbelievable that all city-owned properties would not have water meters to track consumption, not because the city would then have to pay for its water use, but because it should be keeping track of all of the resources it uses. The pools at the Rec Center, if it is indeed unmetered, could account for much of that missing 30 percent. We imagine the fire department is another big user. Both of these services are valuable, justifiable uses of city water, but it would be nice to know how much water is being used. Without that information, how can the public be aware of the true cost of the services, such as parks or the Recreation Center, the city provides?
Not to mention, if the city is concerned about conserving water, it should be setting an example for citizens to follow. We’ve had an unusually wet past few weeks, and yet, even in the middle of a rain storm, the sprinklers at city parks go off like clockwork. In the past, the city has said it would cost more to send someone to turn them off, and that a moisture sensor system to shut down the sprinklers automatically during rain would be too expensive. We wonder, though, if they take into account the cost of extra maintenance on grass that grows more quickly from the surplus watering, or the rising cost of water itself.
If the city of Sterling is truly interested in conserving water, it should be leading the way. A first step would be installing meters at any site where the city uses water so that it has some way of tracking actual usage in the system — and identifying where and how much water is wasted or spilled. The next step would be for the city to then look at ways it could curb its own water usage, such as reduced watering schedules or recycling water where appropriate.
We support the city’s desire to conserve water, and hope it will take the necessary steps to ensure it is doing everything it can to keep such a valuable resource.
In this column alone is the Journal-Advocate’s opinion expressed.
The members of the Journal-Advocate’s editorial board are: David McClain, publisher; Forrest Hershberger, editor; Sara Waite, news editor; and Judy Debus, regional editor.

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