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Colorado: Dillon Reservoir likely to drop another 10-15 feet

Water managers hoping for the best ( a wet winter) and planning for the worst (more drought)

How low will it go? Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — As low as Dillon Reservoir looks right now, the water level was a bit lower in the spring of 2011 as Denver Water prepared for a massive surge of inflow after a record winter.

Currently, the reservoir is about 74 percent full, holding about 190,000 acre feet of water. Historically, it’s about 94 percent of capacity this time of year, according to Denver Water’s Bob Peters. In May 2011, the reservoir dropped to 72 percent of capacity just ahead that year’s runoff season.

Before that, the last time it dropped to anywhere around this level for any sustained period of time was between May 2002 to April 2003, when it bottomed out at 48 percent, Peters said.

Denver Water will continue to draw water throughout the winter, so the reservoir is likely to drop at least another 10 to 12 feet during the next few months.

“We need to balance refill capability between Dillon and Cheesman,” Peters said.

That means another summer of challenging operations for the Frisco Marina, which is already sitting high and dry, unless this winter delivers a monster snowpack leading to well above-average runoff.

Peters said that current inflow into the reservoir from its various tributaries is about 90 percent of average. The power plant at the dam will be generating about half of its  capacity during the coming months, he said.

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