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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

Colorado: Dillon Reservoir close to filling

Peak runoff helps boost water storage across the state

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Snowpack across most of Colorado dropped to below average as temperatures warmed to above average in June.

FRISCO — After a big weather turnaround in April and May, Dillon Reservoir is well on its way to filling, with the water level reaching an elevation of just about 9,008 on June 13, just nine feet below capacity. The last time the water level was this high was July 26, 2012.

“We think it’s likely we’ll fill or at least get within a few feet of full elevation,” Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney said.

Peak inflow into the reservoir was June 10, with the mainstem of the Blue River and the rest of the basin tributaries combining to deliver 1,754 cubic feet of water per second. The inflow hovered around that level early in the week, and started to drop a little bit by Thursday and Friday as the snowpack at higher elevations dwindled. Continue reading

Environment: All eyes on the Colorado River

The paradox of water in the desert, illustrated by a NASA satellite image of the Colorado River.

The paradox of water in the desert, illustrated by a NASA satellite image of the Colorado River.

Projected water shortages spur more conservation and  collaboration

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal agencies say they will try to offer leadership, technical expertise and — perhaps most importantly — money, as southwestern states grapple with what could be significant water shortages in the Colorado River Basin during the coming decades.

At a major water powwow in California this week, all the major stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin said they’re ready to work together to find a long-term, systematic solution to the potential long-term imbalance between the Colorado River’s future supply and projected demands.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation‘s latest effort outlined three major areas — agricultural conservation and transfers, municipal/industrial conservation and reuse, and environmental flows — that will be the subjects of immediate focus in a series of ongoing work group sessions. Continue reading

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: 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

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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.

Continue reading

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