Archive for September, 2013

Ebbs and flows

Reservoi levels were well below the historic median for the first half of 2013. And now, Denver Water will reach its peak storage for 2013 sometime within the next week. That typically happens in July — and it’s never happened in September.

Reservoir levels were well below the historic median for the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013. And now, Denver Water will reach its peak storage for 2013 sometime within the next week. That typically happens in July — and it’s never happened in September.

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.

Let’s recap.

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.

Precipitation at Denver Water facilities

Precipitation at Denver Water facilities in September

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.

 

Gross Reservoir closed to recreation

News release:

Gross Reservoir closed to recreation

Roads leading to reservoir damaged by recent flooding; safety concerns in the area

Boulder, Colo. — Sept. 18, 2013 — In the interest of public safety, Gross Reservoir is closed to the public while Denver Water works to repair the access roads, which were damaged by the recent flooding.

“Safety is our number one priority. We are closing the reservoir because it currently is not safe for recreation and the area roads are too dangerous,” said Tom Roode, director of operations and maintenance for Denver Water. “We also know how important Gross Dam Road is to the local community, and closing the reservoir to recreation will allow us to expedite the repairs and help alleviate some of their transportation issues.”

Many roads are damaged in the area, including Gross Dam Road (pictured below). Once Gross Dam Road is repaired, it will reopen for local community access to facilitate transportation needs as the community rebuilds.

There is no estimate on when Gross Reservoir will reopen for recreational use, which includes fishing and hiking. Boating season typically ends Sept. 30, but the reservoir will be closed to boating for the remainder of the year.

To read more about how Denver Water has been impacted by the rain and flooding, click here.

Gross Dam Road Gross Dam Road Gross Dam Road

Impacts of rain and flooding

Our hearts are with those who have suffered major losses during the past week of torrential rain and flooding across the state. We know the impact has been devastating for many communities in Colorado.

Many people are wondering how Denver Water has been impacted by the flooding, so we wanted to address some of the common questions we are hearing.

Gross Dam Road experienced significant damage as a result of the storms.

Gross Dam Road experienced significant damage as a result of the storms.

How has the flooding affected Denver Water?

Denver Water has facilities in 13 counties in the state. Since Wednesday night, our caretakers who live and work at our facilities in the most hard-hit areas have been working around-the-clock to protect our dams, reservoirs, pipes and treatment plants from the impacts of the recent rain and flooding. Fortunately, we were able to make operational changes to maintain water quality, and customers have not experienced any water service or quality issues as a result of the weather. Ultimately, we will have repair work to do on some of our facilities, including roads and water channels that were washed out in the flooding.

Read about the impacts to recreation at Gross Reservoir here.

Are you running water down the High Line Canal?

On Sept. 11, we started running water down the High Line Canal because the water right was in priority. The rain also started around this time, so the next morning we stopped running water down the High Line and diverted the water we delivered out of the canal to protect against flooding. Unfortunately, the high levels of storm water caused flooding in some areas along the canal.

What has the rain meant for your water supply?

When we get heavy rain, we see higher stream flows, lower water use by customers, and sometimes changes in water rights that allow us to store the excess water. The amount of rain we received over the past week allowed us to capture storm water in reservoirs that typically don’t fill this time of year. As a result of the rain, our overall reservoir storage went up three percentage points and is currently 94 percent full. Typically, this time of year our overall reservoir storage is 90 percent full.

What about the drought?

This graph shows the wide range of impacts seen from drought and precipitation this year.

This graph shows the wide range of impacts seen from drought and precipitation this year.

Clearly, the flooding has changed the drought outlook. The rain and our customers’ reduced water use mean we’re heading into the fall and winter with higher reservoir levels than normal, putting us in a better position for filling our reservoirs next year.

Rain or drought, we ask customers to always use water efficiently. The watering rules under Stage 1 drought are the same as our annual watering rules, which are geared toward reinforcing efficient watering habits. (The difference between the two is that we ask for a voluntary water use reduction of 10 percent under Stage 1.) Because irrigation season is coming to an end, we’ll evaluate whether or not it’s necessary to modify the drought restrictions at this point in the year.

What should I do?

Most communities in Denver Water’s service area experienced 3 inches of rain or more. That much water means most vegetation won’t need to be irrigated for a week or so. As irrigation season wraps up, now is the time to plan for winterizing your sprinkler systems in October.

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