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Colorado: Denver Water announces watering restrictions

Low reservoir storage a serious concern in Colorado

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Reservoir storage across Colorado is 30 percent below average.

SUMMIT COUNTY — With reservoir levels even lower than during the 2002 drought, Denver Water will enact Stage 2 water restrictions effective April 1, limiting outdoor irrigation to two days per week for most customers.

“We’ve never seen conditions like this, and we are concerned about our water supply,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water. “Our reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011. We need our customers’ help to reduce water use and keep as much water as possible in storage as we move through this year and into the next.”

Denver Water hopes to save 50,000 acre-feet of water, or 16 billion gallons, by April 2014.

Watering restrictions will cut into Denver Water revenues, so the utility plans to cut operating expenses, defer projects and tap cash reserves to help balance finances through the drought.

A temporary drought pricing structure could also encourage conservation and reduce revenue loss. Under the tiered pricing system the  first 6,000 gallons of use (essential water use for health and safety) will be exempt from the drought pricing, and then there will be an incremental charge on each block after the first 6,000 gallons of use.

Statewide reservoir storage is at 71 percent of average for this time of year and 67 percent of last year’s levels. Denver Water’s key reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin and the South Platte Basin are at 66 and 82 percent.

If there’s a bright spot, it’s that inflows this spring are expected to be higher than in 2002 and last year, according to Denver Water. For example, based on the current snowpack, Denver Water is expecting that Dillon Reservoir will pick up about 100,000 acre feet during the April to July runoff season, compared to 61,000 acre feet last year and just 54,000 acre feet in 2002. The average inflow for the April to July span is 163,000 acre feet.

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Barring a major cycle of wet springs storms, the current drought is expected to be worse in terms of reservoir storage than in 2002. Graph courtesy Denver Water.

“Our goal this summer is to ensure water is available for public health and safety, while balancing the quality of life and economic vitality of our community,” Lochhead said. “Last year was dry, and this year has been, too. Ultimately, we need to be prepared for a potentially worsening situation in 2014.”

The utility is asking customers to be cautious with water use this spring, for example by hand-watering during the early part of the irrigation season.

Mandatory watering restrictions mean Denver Water customers may only water two days a week and must follow this schedule:

·         Single-family residential properties with even-numbered addresses: Sunday, Thursday

·         Single-family residential properties with odd-numbered addresses: Saturday, Wednesday

·         All other properties (multi-family, HOA, commercial, industrial, government): Tuesday, Friday

In addition, customers must follow these annual watering rules:

·         Do not water lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

·         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.

“This year, we all must do our part to save water indoors and outdoors,” said Lochhead. “Together, we need to save 50,000 acre-feet of water, or 16 billion gallons, by April 2014.”

The Denver Water Board expects to declare a Stage 2 drought at its March 27 meeting, which will make official the mandatory watering restrictions and drought pricing.

Find watering tips and more information at www.denverwater.org.

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