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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)

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Colorado: Dillon Reservoir may come close to filling this year

Wet spring brightens water picture

Will Dillon Reservoir fill this summer? Bob Berwyn photo.

Will Dillon Reservoir refill this summer? Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With the Roberts Tunnel turned off and Summit County’s streams starting to surge with runoff, the water level in Dillon Reservoir has already come up about two feet since May 1, according to Denver Water’s Bob Peters, who recently issued the latest update for Denver Water’s storage and diversion system.

The Roberts Tunnel is used to shunt water from the Upper Blue Basin beneath the Continental Divide and into the South Platte Basin, where it can be stored in other reservoirs until its needed for municipal use in Denver Water’s service area.

With average precipitation the next few weeks, Denver Water anticipates that Dillon Reservoir will peak at an elevation of about 9,010 feet sometime in July. That’s about seven feet below a complete fill, equal to about 235,000 acre feet. If wet weather continues through May, the reservoir could fill completely in July, rising to 9,017 feet, equal to about 257,000 acre feet. Continue reading

Morning Photo: Celebrating Dillon Reservoir

Water level to rise quickly the next few weeks


Monsoon lightning over a dwindling Dillon Reservoir in July 2012.

FRISCO — After months of so-so snowfall, Mother Nature opened the taps in April and early May, delivering well above-average precipitation. Denver Water’s latest projections suggest that Dillon Reservoir may come close to filling this summer, a huge turnaround from earlier predictions. This body of water in the heart of Summit County is gorgeous even when levels are low. In fact, I enjoyed cruising around the shoreline last summer and fall and finding new spots that aren’t accessible when the reservoir is at an average level, but it’s still nice to know that boaters will be able to enjoy nearly the full expanse of Dillon Reservoir this summer.

This November 2012 moonrise scene was photographed from a spot that would normally be under a few feet of water.

This November 2012 moonrise scene was photographed from a spot that would normally be under a few feet of water.

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Morning photo: Mays gone by …

Two years ago

In early May 2010, Dillon Reservoir was mostly melted and almost full — a huge contrast to this year.

In early May 2010, Dillon Reservoir was mostly melted and almost full.

FRISCO — Our human memory spans are pretty much oriented to a short scale, so when it comes to things like weather, I’d rather rely on my photographic archives to make comparions. Monday afternoon, I looked back at several years worth of May photos, recalling that May 2010 was also cool and blustery, with on and off showers for much of the month. The big difference, of course, is the amount of water in various storage reservoirs, including Dillon. Continue reading

Colorado: No doubt, still a drought

Annual State of the River meetings will update residents on water planning


Receding waters of Dillon Reservoir leave big swaths of shoreline exposed.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While spring snowfall has brought some relief to small parts of Colorado, the majority of the state is still gripped by one of the worst droughts on record. The southeastern plains and the southwest mountains in particular have experienced a string of dry years, leaving soil moisture well below normal.

Statewide reservoir storage is also near historic low levels, and even with decent spring runoff in a few river basins, water managers will be scrambling to try and refill key s like Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs. Continue reading

Colorado: Denver Water says drought continues, but backs away from plan to drain Antero Reservoir


Antero Reservoir, in Park County, won’t be drained.

April snowpack boost is good news for anglers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With a rebounding snowpack, Denver Water officials said this week they won’t drain Antero Reservoir, in Park County, as previously planned.

“Managing water supplies through a drought is an ever-changing process,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “While we are still in drought and need our customers to save water, the recent snow has helped our supply situation. Keeping Antero open will be a benefit to Park County and those who love to fish there. If we drained the reservoir, it would take about three years to refill.” Continue reading

Colorado River water users juggle rights to up storage


A deal between Xcel Energy and Denver Water and other water users to relax the Shoshone hydorpower water right will enable more storage in Dillon, Williams Fork and Green Mountain reservoirs this spring. Photo courtesy Xcel.

Shoshone hydropower water right ‘relaxed’ in collaborative response to 2-year drought; agreement enables about 20,000 acre feet of additional upstream storage early in the year

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Some key players in the Colorado River Basin have worked together to “relax” a senior water right near Glenwood Springs, enabling more water — about 20,000 acre feet — to be stored in upstream reservoirs.

“We expect to gain about 8,000 acre-feet each in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs as a result of the relaxation,” said Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney.

The 1,250-cfs water right for the Xcel-owned Shoshone hydropower plant dates back to 1902, making it one of the most senior rights on the river.

When Xcel exercises that water right, it affects other water users all the way up the river because it’s administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir. Continue reading

Colorado: Denver Water to drain Antero Reservoir

Utility will work with wildlife biologists to rebuild fishery when the reservoir is refilled


Denver Water will drain Antero Reservoir to save water that’s usually lost to evaporation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Denver Water says it will save some 4,000 acre feet of water by completely draining Antero Reservoir in anticipation of drought conditions. The Park County reservoir was created in 1909 by the first dam ever built on the South Platte River.

Antero has the highest evaporation rate of any reservoir in the Denver Water system, so the utility says it makes more sense to store the water farther downstream, in Cheesman and Eleven Mile reservoirs.

“We’re exploring as many ways as possible to be efficient with our water supply,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “Antero is a drought reservoir designed to provide water to our customers during a severe drought. Moving water from Antero to Cheesman will allow us to make the water available for our customers and reduce evaporation losses to our system.” Continue reading

Colorado: Denver Water announces watering restrictions

Low reservoir storage a serious concern in Colorado


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.” Continue reading

Colorado: Corps of Engineers pushes back decision for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System expansion project

Concerns about Fraser River environmental impacts remain


Denver Water seeks to increase diversions from the Fraser River in Grand County.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Denver Water’s plan to divert more Upper Colorado River flows to the Front Range is on hold for at least another year, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week announced that it won’t finalize the environmental study for the Moffat Collection System expansion project until January 2014.

“We had projected a date of January 2013 … It was not intended to be a firm date, but it got presented as a firm date,” said Tim Carey, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office. Continue reading


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