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Denver Water eases watering restrictions

Spring snow and rain helped boost reservoir storage

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Dillon Reservoir is about as close to full as it’s going to get this year.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Just a day after the Colorado Water Conservation Board described lingering drought conditions across much of Colorado, Denver Water eased watering restrictions, saying that the city’s water supply situation has “greatly improved” since Stage 2 drought restrictions were enacted in early April.

“Our customers have responded very well to the call to use even less water, and we can finally be confident that enough water from the late-season snows has reached our reservoirs to bring them to reasonable levels,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners.

“While the drought is not over, conditions have improved enough that customers may water a third day, if their lawns need it. We all still need to do our part to protect against the possibility of another dry winter, and we ask everyone to continue to use even less,” Austin said. Continue reading

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Dillon Reservoir — what a difference four weeks makes

Water levels in Dillon Reservoir rise dramatically over the past month

Photos by Jenney Coberly

FRISCO — The water level in Dillon Reservoir has been climbing rapidly since late April at the average rate of about six inches per day. Denver Water now expects the reservoir to come very close to filling. More details in this Summit Voice story. Jenney Coberly documented the surging water level from the saddle of her bicycle, compiling this set of “before and and after” images in late May and mid-June.

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Frisco Bay, June 17

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Frisco Bay, May 22

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Frisco Bay Marina, June 17

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Frisco Bay Marina, May 22

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Buoy along Dillon Dam Rd, June 17

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Buoy along Dillon Dam Rd, May 22

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End of reservoir in Dillon, June 17

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End of reservoir in Dillon, May 22

Summit County: Dillon Reservoir Ice-off!

The last bits of remnant ice on Dillon Reservoir near the Dillon Amphitheater on May 21.

The last bits of remnant ice on Dillon Reservoir near the Dillon Amphitheater on May 21. Bob Berwyn photo.

Late winter delays melt-off a bit past the average date

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — It took a little longer than normal, but Denver Water’s water managers said Dillon Reservoir finally became fully ice-free on Friday, May 24, exactly the same date as two years ago, in 2011, after one of the snowiest winters on record. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1995 to find a later date (May 30).

Dillon-based reservoir-keepers have been tracking the dates the reservoir freezes over and thaws out completely since 1965 as part of their regular duties. The so-called ice-off date generally falls in the middle of May. In fact, the ice has only lasted into June once — after the monster winter of 1983, when it didn’t thaw until June 7.

The earliest ever full-thaw date was last year, when all the ice was gone by April 18 following all-time record March warmth. 2012 was one of only two years on record when the ice melted in April. The other April melt-off was in 2002, following another severe drought winter.

The earliest Dillon Reservoir has frozen over completely was Dec. 1, 1990, nearly three weeks ahead of the average date, which generally falls right around Christmas. This winter’s freeze-over date was Dec. 26, following two years 2010 and 2011) with unusually late ice-on dates. In both those years, the reservoir froze solid on Jan. 1.

The latest the reservoir has ever frozen over was Jan. 30, 1980, during another infamous warm and dry winter.

Currently, the water level in Dillon Reservoir is rising at the rate of several inches per day, with the Blue and Snake rivers, Tenmile Creek and the smaller tributaries all hovering around peak seasonal flows. As of May 21, the reservoir elevation was 8,989.11 feet, holding about 180,000 acre feet (capacity is 257,304 acre feet). That’s still about 27 feet below full (9,017 feet).

Full list of ice-on & ice-off dates (courtesy Denver Water)

Colorado Legislature may take sides in Forest Service-ski industry water rights showdown

Interim committee of Colorado lawmakers to grapple with several water-related bills this week.

Interim review committee to discuss several water measures this week

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado lawmakers may weigh in on a dispute between the ski industry and the U.S. Forest Service with a resolution opposing the federal agency’s efforts to protect publicly owned water rights originating on national forest lands.

The proposed resolution, under review by an interim legislative committee, would oppose a new Forest Service water rights clause in ski area special use permits that would bar resorts from transferring certain water rights to third  parties.

The Forest Service clause also requires ski areas to transfer certain water rights to the United States or to subsequent special permit use holders if a permit is terminated.

The measure is one of several water bills on the agenda during a session of the interim Water Resources Review Committee. The bills will be discussed by lawmakers Thursday (Sept. 27) morning, with public testimony in the afternoon. The session will be streamed on the web. Go to this Colorado Legislature website and click on the House Committee 0112 link. Continue reading

Water: Regional runoff picture not so bright

Lake Powell inflow projected to be less than half of average

Colorado's snowpack is in the red zone.

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By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal water managers have significantly lowered their expectations of runoff into Lake Powell this year in the past couple of months, as a lack of spring snowfall and an early snow-melt season combined to shrink the snowpack in the Upper Colorado Basin to just a third of average.

March inflow into the key reservoir was about 10,000 acre feet higher than forecast, mainly due to the early snow-melt season, but still only 84 percent of average. Through July, the inflow is only expected to be 49 percent of average. For the water year, the inflow is now projected to be about 63 percent of average. Continue reading

Summit County: Old Dillon Reservoir project back on track

Enlargement project should be done by July 31

The Old Dillon Reservoir construction site. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a temporary hiccup, the $7 million Old Dillon Reservoir enlargement project is set to get back on track with an estimated completion date of July 31, according to county manager Gary Martinez and Dillon water department supervisor Trevor Giles.

If there’s water available in Salt Lick Gulch, officials hope to start filling the reservoir late this summer.

The project, which aims to create more local water storage by expanding the existing reservoir from 62 acre feet to 288 acre feet, was to have been completed by the end of October, 2011, but contractors working on the site got off to a bad start last summer, Martinez said. Continue reading

Colorado: Water providers eye drought measures

Snowpack levels critically low across Colorado

The snowpack water equivalent has dropped below 50 percent in the Colorado River Basin and stands at 50 percent of average for this date statewide.

SUMMIT COUNTY — After the driest March on record in Colorado, Denver Water and other Front Range water providers may have to consider water-use restrictions during the coming months if the weather stays dry.

Statewide, the snowpack is only 50 percent of the historic average; the Colorado River Basin snowpack is the lowest in the state, at 47 percent. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is showing above average chances for dry weather to continue the next three months, with above average temperatures, which could further debilitate the spring snowpack.

Even those water providers whose storage appears to be in good shape for this year are carefully watching the numbers because if warm dry weather continues through this summer, they may need to stock up for what could be a dry year in 2013, according to the Front Range Water Council.

“During the drought 10 years ago, water providers learned it’s difficult for reservoir storage to survive multiple-year droughts,” said Jim Lochhead, Front Range Water Council chair and CEO/manager of Denver Water. “As a result, municipalities pushed more comprehensive conservation efforts, and we’re seeing those positive results today. But conservation alone is not enough. We need strategies that also include reuse and new supplies,” Lochhead said. Continue reading

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