For Denver Water, 2013 was the year of climate uncertainty layered with weather extremes.
Beginning with severe drought and culminating with floods of a “biblical proportion,” there was extensive coverage of the roller coaster ride we endured as a water resource manager in 2013. So, we looked back to find the quotes from news outlets that best highlight our water year.
January & February: A slow start
Reservoirs that store Denver Water’s supply are less than two-thirds full — well below the 80 percent historic median and even below the levels in 2002, when the state was in the midst of a historic, multi-year drought. –Denver Post, Feb. 13
March: First move
… area water providers are positioning themselves to restrict lawn watering to twice a week and call upon residents to be stingy about how they use the precious resource.
We hope everyone is listening. –Denver Post editorial board, March 20
April & May: Minor relief
A wet spring has caused Denver Water to delay its proposed drought pricing for water use that had been scheduled to start in June. –7News, May 23
June & July: On the path to normal
Thanks to an unexpectedly wet spring and good conservation efforts, Denver Water — which provides water to Littleton — says people can increase their watering days from two to three times per week … –Littleton Independent, July 2
August: Changes for the future
The state’s biggest municipal water provider is pushing legislation to require more water-efficient appliances to be sold in Colorado.
… Denver Water wants the state to mandate Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for water use in household appliances. –The Pueblo Chieftain, Aug. 24
September & October: Keeping our heads above water
Although (Jim) Lochhead (Denver Water CEO) said the system worked “perfectly” in the sense that service to customers was not interrupted and no dams were breached during the flood, Denver Water sustained $15 million to $20 million in damage to roads, exposed conduits and one of its gravel pits located near the South Platte River.
… According to the most recent reports, Denver Water’s reserves, which consist of 15 fully or partially owned reservoirs across more than 4,000 square miles of watershed in eight counties, is at 96 percent capacity. –Summit Daily, Oct. 23
November & December: Collaboration paying off
After just two years in operation, a Berthoud Pass sediment pond helped the Fraser River’s clarity by 680 tons.
… “We are happy that it is a successful project and believe it demonstrates the benefit of collaboration, ingenuity and the value of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water, in a press release. –Sky-Hi News, Nov. 1
This year of uncertainty has set the tone for the future of Denver Water. Water utilities used to look at past hydrology and weather patterns to plan for the future. Now, we also must factor in climate change, which creates uncertainty in many areas, including changes in supply availability and customer water use; extreme weather events like droughts and floods; the timing of snowmelt; the life span of summer and fall snowpack; watershed impacts from fires, beetle kill and changes in vegetation; fluctuations in soil moisture; evaporation; water quality impacts; and more.
But we are up to the challenge. Denver Water is actively taking steps to ensure reliable delivery of clean, safe, great-tasting water supplies for the next 50 years and beyond. Since 1918, we have created and operated an intricate water system to ensure we are meeting our customers’ needs. And we are committed to continuing that service, by pursuing a multi-faceted approach that includes water efficiency measures, reuse and supply augmentation.