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June 21, 2012

Groundbreaking New "Rushing Rivers" Program Shows Water Users How Their Conservation Efforts Benefit Local River

Do you know how your water use directly impacts your local natural environments? Residents of Pagosa Springs, Colorado do. 
By receiving an update with their water bill, residents of Pagosa Springs, Colorado will be able to see the amount of water they conserve compared to the prior year, as well as the positive impacts their conservation efforts have on the San Juan River. Read below to learn more about the program.

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. (June 13, 2012) — It’s easy for most people to see if they are saving money on their monthly water bill, but residents of Pagosa Springs, Colorado will soon be aware of how their conservation habits are helping their local river. The new water bill is being mailed to customers this week in a first-of-its-kind program from Western Resource Advocates (WRA) and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD).

“This program is a great way to motivate responsible water use, because residents can literally see the impact it will have as they kayak down the San Juan, picnic at the park, or ride along the bike path,” said Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager with Western Resource Advocates. 

The new billing updates are part of the “Rushing Rivers” program developed by WRA to identify communities where conservation would improve local stream flows. Updates include a bar chart showing water use from the previous months, as well as a comparison of monthly water use from the same month one year earlier, enabling the customer to gauge how changes in their water use affect the river. Customers will see no increased costs related to the new billing. (click for a PDF of the new PAWSD billing)

“We are truly excited to be the first water provider in the country to implement a program like this,” said Mat deGraaf, Water Conservation Coordinator at PAWSD. “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.”

Because PAWSD’s water supply comes directly from the San Juan River watershed, every gallon of water not used for municipal purposes will stay in the river.

“Healthy flows in the San Juan River are vital to our economy because the river - ­ like our hot water, public lands, and ranch lands - is a big part of what makes Pagosa Springs a great place to live, work, and vacation,” said Archuleta County Commissioner Michael Whiting. “I wholeheartedly support this kind of program and am proud to see that we are setting a precedent for the entire country to follow.”

Customers of PAWSD will receive more than just a new bill this week – they will also find a bumper sticker that reads: “I [heart] the San Juan: just see my water bill.” (download PDF of bumper sticker)

In 2011, Western Resource Advocates developed screening criteria for a successful “Rushing Rivers” program, such as a strong community connection to the river, utility staff support, and evidence that water saved through conservation would improve local stream flows. After applying these criteria to more than 50 Western Slope communities, PAWSD emerged as the community best-equipped to launch the first “Rushing Rivers” effort. In July 2011, WRA and PAWSD began collaborating on the “Rushing Rivers” approach that culminates with the new billing information.

Western Resource Advocates is a regional nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the West's land, air, and water. Offices or staff are located in Boulder (CO), Phoenix and Tucson (AZ), Pocatello (ID), Santa Fe (NM), Carson City (NV) and Salt Lake City (UT). Visit www.WesternResourceAdvocates.org.

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