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Water Wisdom: Every drop counts

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Water conservation critical tool for stretching supply

By Stephanie Lynn EBS CONTRIBUTOR

Big Sky is a headwaters community with limited water supply.

Every day, residents and visitors tap into finite groundwater aquifers constrained by the semi-arid climate. Due to its location near the source of the Gallatin River, Big Sky has few options to purchase the right to use additional water. If current use and growth continues, the public water supply may be unable to quench the thirst of the growing community within the next few years.

Municipalities utilize cost-effective water conservation strategies, including incentives to change behavior, improvements in utility management, and rebates for water-efficient products to maximize water supply. After estimating that purchasing water is six times more expensive than reducing use, the city of Bozeman outlined a goal to secure more than half of their new water supply through conservation in a 2013 integrated water resources plan.

Every drop of water saved creates ripples of indirect positive effects. Water stored underground, and not utilized, recharges rivers and streams when they’re at their lowest, benefiting fish and wildlife. In addition, water-efficient households connected to a public utility with tiered pricing, such as Big Sky Water and Sewer District, save money on their water bill. Finally, water-conscious homes generate less wastewater, which reduces treatment-plant inflows.

Big Sky is ripe for improved water-use practices. Water consumption per capita is about 125 gallons on the average day, which is more than three times what water experts consider to be efficient use. The Gallatin River Task Force aims to reduce water use in Big Sky to align with the national average through a fledgling water conservation program.

According to Brandy Straub, conservation project manager for the Task Force, community members can save water, money and energy while safeguarding Big Sky’s limited water supply with three small steps:

  1. Picking up a leak-detection kit at the Task Force office to find and stop leaks.
  2. Applying for a rebate to replace old shower heads, toilets and washing machines.
  3. Managing water use by taking shorter showers or turning the faucet off while washing dishes.

Water-efficient fixtures and appliances are perhaps the easiest way to save water. To date, nearly 100 individuals have saved about 1.8 million gallons of water by purchasing water-saving products through the Task Force rebate program.

“Our experience with the Gallatin River Task Force Water Conservation Program was excellent with a simple process to claim the rebate,” said rebate participant Greg Hagge. “Wanting to install equipment that promoted water conservation was an easy decision, and receiving the rebate made it even more so.”

To learn more or apply for a rebate to purchase water-efficient products, visit gallatinrivertaskforce.org/waterconservation/rebate-programs.

Stephanie Lynn is the education and communications coordinator for the Gallatin River Task Force.

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