Pictures speak louder than words

Snowstorm after snowstorm make it difficult to believe how we can still be in drought conditions. We’ve been providing a lot of numbers —percentages, averages and snowpack and reservoir levels — to paint a picture of the current water supply situation. But pictures speak louder than words, so we thought we’d let the pictures do the talking.

Here are some recent photos taken at three of Denver Water’s reservoirs, to show just how low the water levels are after two years of hot and dry conditions. The ground you see in the photos typically would be covered with water.

Cheesman Reservoir

Current level: 63 percent full

April 19,2013

April 19,2013

April 19, 2013

April 19, 2013

Dillon Reservoir

Current level: 63 percent full

April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013

Gross Reservoir

Current level: 47 percent full

April 28, 2013

April 28, 2013

April 25, 2013

April 25, 2013

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on May 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    UHHH!! The reservoirs are low because the snow MELT hasn’t started YET and it’s STILL SNOWING! Loveland ski resort had 27″ on 5/1!

    The water equivalent in the snow that has not MELTED yet is VERY close to average. Here’s graphs for the Denver Water’s major river basins.

    Colorado River

    South Platte

    You can’t trust Denver Water. Remember the last drought? They ask and we conserved. THEN they JACKED up the price. This time they’re jacking up the price BEFORE our heavy water usage period.


    • Posted by Denver Water on May 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      While the snowpack numbers are much closer to average after the recent snowstorms, the pictures depict how much lower the reservoir levels are heading into our runoff season than usual. Our reservoirs have not been full since July 2011. This chart will also give you an idea of where our reservoir levels are this year compared to where they typically would be.

      We understand your sentiments about the snow and its impact on water supply. We wrote a blog post two weeks ago to address some of these questions: More snow, more numbers. It explains why we look at the snowpack above our diversion points within our watersheds, not just the snowpack reports for the entire watershed, as your graphs depict. This post also explains other factors that play into how much of the snow actually ends up as water in our reservoirs.


      • Posted by Jack on May 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

        Snowpack levels are at or above average historic levels. The reservoirs are lower than ‘normal’ because the snowpack hasn’t melted yet. Once it does, Denver Water will looks silly as they are screaming drought, as the media will be plastering Flood Warnings nightly.

      • Posted by Denver Water on May 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

        We hear ya. Runoff has just started – later than normal – so the snowpack is not yet accounted for in our reservoirs. But while we will run models based on streamflow forecasts from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to predict what reservoir storage will be like after the snow melts, we cannot guarantee what will end up in our reservoirs until runoff is over. As we explained in More snow, more numbers, not all of the water will make its way into our reservoirs because some will soak into the ground, depending on what the plants need; some will sublimate; some may be passed downstream to senior water rights; and the May and June temperatures, precipitation and customer water use play a role, as well.

      • Posted by Rick on May 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

        How can those pictures possibly show that if you are not comparing to pictures of where it “usually” is? This is just a scare tactic and misleading. Please stop trying to SELL your water restrictions.

      • Posted by Denver Water on May 10, 2013 at 4:26 pm

        Thanks for the feedback, we will work to get some comparable pictures posted in the next couple of weeks to give you an idea on where our reservoir levels are right now compared to what they normally are this time of year. The pictures were intended to help provide a visual on what our weekly reservoir level charts are showing. The weather is expected to be nice this weekend, and if you are looking for a fun trip to the mountains, we recommend visiting Dillon Reservoir and talking to the local community. You will get a first-hand account of just how low the reservoir is right now compared to normal years.

  2. Posted by Mike on May 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Hmmmm. A picture does tell a thousand words, but only in context. Yes, Dillon and Gross are obviously low, but as near as I can tell Eleven Mile is full and Chatfield is within 2 feet. Probably warrants a slight disclaimer on your headline. But just for curiosity, I added up the May 8th reservoir storage numbers you publish on this site, and checked it twice, and I get 462,607 acre-feet which seems to be slightly above the median historical number in your chart. That same chart appears to suggest that the current storage is (by eyeball) maybe 370,000 acre-feet on May 1st. So either it has been a wonderful week of water, or there is a discrepancy somewhere, which I’m sure you can clarify. My guess is that you are including only negotiated/available capacity at Chatfield, still, even subtracting all 25K acre-feet at Chatfield doesn’t account for this large variance.

    Thanks for listening. Certainly I understand and am sympathetic that water management here, in what is effectively a desert, is more challenging then the Oregon I grew up in. However, given all of April’s precipitation, people are just a tad more suspicious that we probably ought to be.


    • Posted by Denver Water on May 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Yes, each reservoir is different. The pictures were intended to give a visual on what all of the numbers have been saying. Our major reservoirs are well below where we need them to be, and our total system is currently 14 percent lower right now than it typically would be this time of year.

      You’re guess is correct about the 462,607 acre-feet shown on our website includes all of the water in our reservoirs, while the plot only shows usable water. In addition to Chatfield, there are other reservoirs where not all of the water is usable for various reasons, from water rights to water quality. Additionally, the figure you are using from our website includes Williams Fork Reservoir, which is not a supply reservoir because the water cannot be delivered directly to our customers. It can only be used for water trades.


  3. Posted by Jack on May 10, 2013 at 9:15 am

    c’mon moderator! approve those comments.


  4. Posted by jack on May 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    According to fox31, 9news and Channel 4, recent precipitation will put all front range and mountain reservoirs at capacity. You guys must feel silly….and stubborn.


  5. Posted by Jerry on May 13, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    How do you explain the BARE trees SOME of which are just starting to bud out and no Spring. ? Seeing is believing.


    • Posted by Jerry on May 14, 2013 at 6:52 am

      Or perhaps the bare trees are telling us that Denver Water’s watering restrictions and continued increase in rates these past few years are beginning to kill them off.


  6. Posted by Jack on May 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    It’s funny, after observing Denver Water stick to it’s guns on unnecessary watering restrictions (for an inevitable price hike), I went back and looked at your reservoir graphs/capacity numbers published on your website.

    One interesting thing to note about the picture above is they represent the 3 WORST reservoirs in a system of 10 reservoirs. Any plans to go back up anytime soon (less than a month later) to take more pictures of the same reservoirs, or better yet, 11-mile, Antero or Marston.

    The capacity numbers are nowhere near as bad as the hype. Even Dillion Reservoir is at 67% of CAPACITY, with lots of inflow and the runoff season just beginning.

    Spare us the canned response of “we will re-evaluate conditions in a month, blah, blah, blah. You have a monopoly on Denver users and there’s nothing we can do about it.


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