Water managers in Colorado are bracing for another bad year. The largest water utilities on the Front Range are already taking steps to prepare for another dry summer, a summer some predict could be worse than last year. As Aspen Public Radio‘s Marci Krivonen reports, utilities in Colorado Springs and Denver are preparing in advance.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Snowpack in the Roaring Fork Watershed is just 55% percent of average. It’s a number water utilities on the populated Front Range don’t like to see. They take much of their water from these Western Slope rivers and streams. And with this year’s lackluster snowfall, they’re already making plans for a dry summer.

Water for residents of Colorado Springs comes from 200 miles away…That’s because there’s no river to tap within the city itself. The water utility there depends heavily on spring runoff…And, they’re anticipating less this year.

“We’ve seen demand increase and unfortunately with the weather being the way it is, we’ve seen our yields decrease,” Patrice Leheremeier says. “Increase and decrease is never where we want to be at the same time, it’s a bit like writing a check from a checking account where there’s no money. So it’s really important for us to rebuild our water supply.”

Right now the 25 reservoirs the utility draws from are less than half full. Typically they’re about twenty percentage points higher. Over the years, the utility has increasingly encouraged its customers to use less, but this summer, it may no longer be an option. The Utility will likely limit outdoor watering and raise rates for people who use lots of water.

North of Colorado Springs, in Denver, it’s a similar story.

“We’re heading into 2013 with much lower reservoir levels than usual,” says Travis Thompson with Denver Water. Thompson says the utility’s reservoir levels are 67% full. Normally they’re above 80%. Even in 2002, one of the driest years in recent memory, reservoir levels were higher than they are today.

Thompson says the utility is considering implementing drought restrictions this summer that would require its one million-plus customers to cut back on outdoor watering.

“You know, we are getting prepared and we are very concerned, multi-year droughts, which we see that’s how they normally come in, are a big concern for us and our system.”

There’s still time to boost reservoir levels around the state. But what’s needed is above average precipitation. And, Eric Kuhn, Manager of the Colorado River Distict says that’s not likely.

“I would hope, and I expect we’re going to get more storms, I expect we’re going to get some precipitation in February and hopefully in March, but the real question is can we catch up, and I don’t think it looks good for that right now.

The outlook isn’t rosy. Below average snowfall is predicted through the end of January and long-term forecasts call for warmer than normal conditions. Kuhn says there’s a chance the state could see water shortages, and a bad fire season.

“Unless the Front Range gets some major storms, the dry conditions they had last year will be even worse this year.”

The water utilities are crossing their fingers too – hoping the next four months bring plentiful moisture.

 

Comments are closed.

News

January 30, 2015 | NPR · There are new suspicions that one of the men released from a U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last year might be trying to contact Taliban fighters.
 

Lars Andersen
January 30, 2015 | NPR · Citing archery’s historic methods, a Danish archer has released a video in which he fires three arrows in 0.6 seconds. Lars Andersen argues for speed and agility, in addition to accuracy.
 

AP
January 30, 2015 | NPR · In an exclusive interview with NPR, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman says he met Iranian officials as part of the effort to find out who was behind the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center.
 

Arts & Life

January 30, 2015 | NPR · Melissa Block talks to Rob Dunn about his new book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, a history of science and medicine’s efforts to understand the working of the human heart.
 

Courtesy of O&M Co.
January 30, 2015 | NPR · The off-Broadway play Every Brilliant Thing tackles its dark subject through audience participation and comedy. Both critics and audience members have described it as incredibly moving.
 

Courtesy of Cohen Media Group
January 30, 2015 | NPR · The movie, one of five Academy Award nominees for best foreign language film this year, is about radical Islamists occupying the city in Mali. Remarkably, it’s often on the verge of being a comedy.
 

Music

January 30, 2015 | NPR · Named after the mosquito-borne disease, LA’s band Dengue Fever combines psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop. For over a decade, the six member band have managed to stay relevant by sticking to this offbeat idea and introducing new sounds.
 

Mountain Stage
January 30, 2015 | NPR · One of Canada’s most respected roots-music singer-songwriters performs live in West Virginia.
 

January 30, 2015 | NPR · This week, our recurring puzzler for careful listeners features a selection of fills handpicked by All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton. Hear the fill and match it to the song.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab