The good, and the bad of record high water storage in Colorado

Some of N. Colorado's reservoirs just hit a record-high water storage levels, but they need to be that high because of Colorado's growing population. Meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen explains.

Some of Northern Colorado’s reservoirs hit record high storage this July. There is no space for a big rain, if we get a big surge from the monsoon, but we need to keep the storage high to support our booming population.

It is a delicate balance, until the reservoir levels start to lower, which usually happens towards the end of the summer.

As of July 31, Lake Granby was more than 99 percent full, Horsetooth Reservoir was 95 percent full, Carter Lake was 94 percent full. That is just down slightly from mid July, when the Colorado Big Thompson Project hit a record high storage level of 724,865 acre feet..

Northern Water, the operator of this water district, told 9NEWS that they have to keep the levels high because our booming population is a concern, and there is not even enough water storage available to handle our current population, in the event of even a short duration drought.

The Governors office says the state is growing by an average of 50,000 people per year since 2010. This is beyond the projections made, when these reservoirs were built. That's why we need to keep water in the bank.

“We’re just around the corner from that next drought, and we know it could happen next year. You like to be full going into that next dry time,” Brian Werner, Public Information Officer for Northern Water.

Going through July, with such high reservoir levels, was risky, because of the threat of a spill, but fortunately, there was not a big rain event from the monsoon, in the northern part of the Colorado mountains. The demand for water on the eastern plains, is now higher than the runoff supplying the reservoirs, so the levels are starting to go down.

One obvious solution to both problems, is to increase the storage space. Northern Water says that is a very expensive venture, and takes years of permitting, but they do have two projects on the board. 

One project just received approval in May, and is set to begin construction next year. It will be called Chimney Hollow Reservoir, and will be located in Larimer County, just west of Carter Lake Reservoir. It will add 90 thousand acre feet of storage, to alleviate flood concerns, and help meet the demand of our booming population. 

Northern Water is also seeking approval for another project. Glade Reservoir, if built, would be the largest reservoir in northern Colorado. 

Denver Water, who services 1.4 million people in the metro area, says their reservoir storage is higher than its been since July 2010. They are facing the same population issue that Northern Water is facing, and just received approval on July 6, to increase the capacity of Gross Reservoir, is Boulder County. The project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir to increase by 77,000 acre feet. That is estimated to take four to five years to complete.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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