As of mid-January, Denver Water’s reservoir storage is down about 4% below normal levels and about 91% of Colorado is currently considered to be in a severe- to exceptional-drought range.
The bulk of the winter still lies ahead, including Colorado’s snowiest months of March and April, but Denver Water planners are already looking to spring and summer when water usage is sure to pick back up.
“That is something we remain hopeful about (a snowy winter and spring), but we are still concerned with the state of the snowpack so far,” said Todd Hartman, a Denver Water spokesman. “We want folk to start thinking about the possibility that we may have a summer season where we ask them to be a little more conscientious.”
Most of Denver Water’s collection system is described as being in an “extreme drought” based on the U.S. Drought Monitor Map of Colorado.
After a scorching, hot summer in 2020 that saw massive wildfires across the state, including the three largest wildfires — Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Pine Gulch — in state history, current soil moisture content ranks extremely low, according to Denver Water. Meanwhile, Denver Water’s reservoir storage stands at 78% full, a few percentage points below normal for January. The crucial upcoming streamflow could be about 67% to 83% of average.
The fourth-largest wildfire in Colorado history is the 2002 Hayman fire. The hot and dry 2002 summer was a bellwether year for Denver Water and its customers. Shortly thereafter, since 2005, water use restrictions that had been considered emergency measures became the norm.
“Denver Water took its strict restrictions and institutionalized them, what we now call our summer watering rules,” Hartman said.
Those rules, which run May 1 to Oct. 1, include:
- No lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Water no more than three days per week.
- Don’t irrigate while it is raining or during high winds.
- Use a hose nozzle with a shutoff valve when washing a vehicle.
- Don’t waste water spraying concrete and asphalt.
- Don’t let water to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
- Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
Denver Water provides drinking water to 1.5 million people in the Denver area.
January, when lawns and landscapes are dormant, is typically the lowest water usage month by consumers. But spring, or spring-like weather, is right around the corner. Weather forecasters and analysts with Denver Water have been looking ahead.
“The long-term weather outlook, from our perspective, is for a slightly better chance for lower-than-average precipitation,” Hartman said. “It’s another cause of concern.”
Still, weather patterns, like forecasts, have been known to change.
“We’ve been there before, we’ve seen things turn around in March and April,” Hartman said. “So we are hoping” for some good precipitation, “but we are not banking on that.”
In the meantime, Denver Water continues to urge customers too use water wisely and sparingly.
“We want to plant a seed for folks so they are ready.”
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