Snowpack/drought/runoff news: Denver Water implements Stage 1 watering restrictions




Click on the thumbnail graphics to the right for the statewide snowpack map, the statewide High/Low graph and the Basin High/Low graph for the South Platte Basin from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney):

A dry winter has created drought conditions across Colorado. Now, more than ever, Denver Water needs its customers to use only what they need.

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a Stage 1 drought in recognition of the extremely dry conditions.

“Our customers have done a good job of using water wisely, but this year saving water matters even more,” said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning for Denver Water. “We need customers to cut back water use and be mindful of the impact of the dry conditions on supply availability.”

In response to the Stage 1 drought declaration, Denver Water is asking its customers to reduce outdoor watering. Customers can do that by:

– Watering only two days a week, and using a day of rain to skip watering.
– Only watering the areas of your yard that are dry. For example, if shady areas look fine, only water the dry areas that get the most sun exposure.
– Watering early in the morning or in the evening to avoid evaporation.
– Adjusting sprinkler systems throughout the summer, starting with using less water this spring. Don’t just set your sprinkler system once and forget about it.
– Watering two minutes less.

“We’re seeing conditions very similar to the drought that began in 2002, where we learned that reservoir storage is only one indicator of drought, and those reservoir levels can drop quickly when we don’t get much rain and snow,” said Fisher. “If the dry weather continues, our reservoirs may not fill and we will be vulnerable if there is low snowpack in 2013. We need to maintain our reserves in case we are entering the first in a series of dry years. We must consider the long-term potential supply outlook.”

Denver Water’s mandatory summer watering rules, which are always in effect during the summer, will begin May 1. Depending on conditions, the watering rules could change later this summer. Denver Water’s summer watering rules are:

– No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
– Do not water more than three days per week (there are no assigned days for watering).
– 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.

During the last drought, Denver Water nearly ran out of water in the north end of its system, which is more susceptible to water supply problems during a dry year. Earlier this winter, the utility changed its operations and reduced the amount of water leaving the Moffat Treatment Plant — fed by Gross Reservoir — to reserve more water in the north end of its system. The utility currently is in a Federal permitting process to enlarge Gross Reservoir to help avoid running out of water any given year and help balance its water system.

“We will monitor conditions closely and keep customers informed of any changes in our watering rules,” said Fisher.

From (David Nancarrow):

In Colorado Springs, the experts say resources are in good enough shape to use the water to green up the lawn. “As a result of our community dedication to conservation and using water wisely, we are not at this time projecting water restrictions for 2012,” said Patrice Lehermeir, spokesperson for Colorado Springs Utilities.

From (Christina Dickinson):

Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department says it’s going to cut its water use by 10 percent effective immediately. The department says it’s going to cut back from 30 inches per acre to 27 inches per acre. By doing so, the department says taxpayers will save $450,000. “For us reducing one inch of water for our entire park system that basically means we save $150,000,” Jill Wuertz with the Department of Parks & Recreation said. Wuertz is hoping May and June will be rainy months to help moisten the dry season.

From National Geographic (Paul McRandle):

On April 10th, 61 percent of the lower 48 states were listed by the U.S. Drought Monitor to be in abnormally dry or drought conditions. And the Southwest, which largely relies on ice melt into the Colorado River Basin from the Rocky Mountains and previous years’ melt stored in the Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs for its water supply, is poised for a dry, hot summer, because those areas received less than 70 percent of the average snowfall according to the USDA National Water & Climate Center.

These reservoirs are already at only 64 percent capacity following a decade-long drought from 2000 to 2010. And the possibility of more drought years to come is raising concerns over how to manage a river of which every drop (and then some) is now allocated to some use.

Drought, however, may be only one factor in the drying up of the Colorado River Basin. To assess the vulnerabilities of the watershed and consider how water supply and demand might change in the coming years, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation has embarked on a study of the Colorado River Basin to be released this July. An interim report shows that current water use outstrips the supply and projected demand for water could be greater than the projected supply by more than 3.5 million acre-feet within 50 years, particularly when the effects of climate change are included.

From the North Forty News (Kate Hawthorne):

Local rafting companies anticipate a good start to the river season on May 15. They say the abnormally high snowpack, timely precipitation, and long slow runoff last spring left reservoirs with plenty of water that will soon be moving downstream. “I say thanks to all the farmers who need the water,” said Bob Klein, manager of A Wanderlust Adventures based at Vern’s Restaurant on Highway 287 at the entrance to Rist Canyon. “We just ride on it.”[…]

The dry conditions this year prompted the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District to set the highest April quota since 1977 for Colorado-Big Thompson water shareholders. Stephen Smith, operations manager of North Poudre Irrigation Co., based in Wellington, said his company’s first water release was set for April 23. “The farmers need the early water to get crops in the ground,” he said. “We will be releasing more during the season as needed, but we have to save enough for the harvest. The reservoirs are pretty full but we have to balance what we have with what’s needed. It looks like this will be a pretty tight water year.”

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