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Colorado: Denver Water declares Stage 1 drought

Low runoff expected in key watersheds

Dillon Reservoir storage is in good shape for now, but Denver Water sees risks from continued dry weather.

A Denver Water resolution declaring a Stage 1 drought. Twitpic courtesy Drew Beckwith, Western Resource Advocates.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Denver Board of Water Commissioners is declaring a Stage 1 drought in recognition of low streamflows and projected low runoff. Anticipating the possibility of continued dry water, customers will be asked to voluntarily cut back on water use by 10 percent.

“Our intents is to maintain our system reserves in as good a shape as possible in case we are entering the first in a series of dry years,” the board wrote in its April 25 resolution. More details on Denver Water’s operating rules on irrigation and other uses are online here.

The document acknowledges that a record-low spring snowpack will result in well-below normal runoff, and the long-term weather outlook isn’t offering much relief at this point.

There won’t be any mandatory reductions in water to customers outside the service area yet.

“We’re seeing conditions very similar to the drought that began in 2002, where we learned that reservoir storage is only one indicator of drought, and those reservoir levels can drop quickly when we don’t get much rain and snow,” said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning for Denver Water. “If the dry weather continues, our reservoirs may not fill and we will be vulnerable if there is low snowpack in 2013. We need to maintain our reserves in case we are entering the first in a series of dry years. We must consider the long-term potential supply outlook.”

“Our customers have done a good job of using water wisely, but this year saving water matters even more,” Fisher said. “We need customers to cut back water use and be mindful of the impact of the dry conditions on supply availability.”

“We’d like to recognize Denver Water for their leadership during this drought year,” said Drew Beckwith, with Western Resource Advocates.

In response to the Stage 1 drought declaration, Denver Water is asking its customers to reduce outdoor watering. Customers can do that by:

·         Watering only two days a week, and using a day of rain to skip watering.

·         Only watering the areas of your yard that are dry. For example, if shady areas look fine, only water the dry areas that get the most sun exposure.

·         Watering early in the morning or in the evening to avoid evaporation.

·         Adjusting sprinkler systems throughout the summer, starting with using less water this spring. Don’t just set your sprinkler system once and forget about it.

·         Watering two minutes less.

Denver Water’s mandatory summer watering rules, which are always in effect during the summer, will begin May 1. Depending on conditions, the watering rules could change later this summer. Denver Water’s summer watering rules are:

·         No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

·         Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).

·         Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.

·         Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.

·         Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.

·         Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.

During the last drought, Denver Water nearly ran out of water in the north end of its system, which is more susceptible to water supply problems during a dry year.

Earlier this winter, the utility changed its operations and reduced the amount of water leaving the Moffat Treatment Plant — fed by Gross Reservoir — to reserve more water in the north end of its system. The utility currently is in a Federal permitting process to enlarge Gross Reservoir to help avoid running out of water any given year and help balance its water system.

“We will monitor conditions closely and keep customers informed of any changes in our watering rules,” said Fisher.

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2 Responses

  1. “dry water”-that’s the worst. asking front range users to cut back 10% is like asking the pope if he wouldn’t mind trying a ballcap instead…plus, 10%? why not start with 25%?!

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