Heading into 2013, Denver Water was already responding to two years of dry and hot weather, leaving reservoir levels well below normal.
And then we embarked upon the ebbs and flows of a crazy water year. Two separate times in 2013, after reservoir and moisture levels were decreasing, we saw a drastic increase in precipitation that helped regain water supply.
Ebbs: For the first few months of 2013, drought conditions grew more and more extreme. By March, with no improvement in sight, we needed to take the next steps in our drought response. First, we announced that Antero Reservoir would need to be drained for drought management; then, we declared a Stage 2 drought on March 27.
Flows: In April, snowstorm after snowstorm boosted the snowpack levels in both of Denver Water’s watersheds to above 90 percent of the average peak. We halted the draining of Antero Reservoir, and after seeing much improved – but still not full – reservoir levels, Denver Water was able to downgrade the drought declaration back to Stage 1 on June 26.
Ebbs: As part of our water cycle, reservoir levels decrease throughout the summer as customer demand rises during irrigation season. This summer, our customers rose to the call to use even less, and reduced water use 23 percent while under Stage 2 drought restrictions between April 1 and June 26. Then, after moving to Stage 1 drought restrictions, we continued to see a 15 percent reduction in water use through July and August – exceeding the goal of using 10 percent less.
Flows: Our next round of “flows” came by way of the floods of September 2013. As a result of the rain, our overall reservoir storage went up five percentage points and is currently 96 percent full. The amount of rain and increase in reservoir storage was unprecedented. Typically, this time of year our overall reservoir storage is continuing to drop as irrigation season comes to an end.
Between the rain and our customers’ reduced water use under drought restrictions this summer, reservoir levels are now higher than normal heading into the fall and winter, putting us in a better position for filling our reservoirs next year. Because of this, we are no longer in drought conditions, though our conservation message remains the same, and we continue to ask our customers to use water efficiently.
These ebbs and flows are part of our climate, but they were even more extreme and unpredictable this year. As we’ve learned during this last drought, we never know how long the ebbs will last or when the flows may come. It’s important to keep up the momentum established this year using even less water, because drought or no drought, using water efficiently must be a way of life in our arid region.