DENVER, Colorado — After consecutive dry years, officials think Colorado's wet winter will pay off as warm temperatures creep closer. Denver Water's reservoirs are already in good shape with some, like Eleven Mile, over capacity.
9NEWS spoke with Denver Water spokesman Todd Hartman about what that means for Denver residents and their water usage through the summer.
(Editor's note: Responses have been edited for context and clarity.)
How would you describe Colorado's snowpack right now?
Hartman: Our snow-pack this year has been tremendous as you know, and your viewers know. It’s something we haven’t seen in a long time. In fact, our snowpack in our collection system at Denver Water is...at levels we haven’t seen in more than 20 years. It’s been tremendous.
Last year was a little bit of a drier year and our reservoirs right now are, collectively, at about 76 percent full across our whole system. With this snowpack and this runoff that we’re going to get...we’re going to see our reservoirs fill.
What does that mean for Denver Water customers?
Hartman: It means we have a healthy water supply. It means, going into the summer, we’re going to be in our standard watering rules. We’ve seen, over the years, our customers become so good with their water use and we expect to see the same from them this summer.
What are "standard watering rules?"
Hartman: Our standard watering rules for this season are no more than three days a week. We need to keep that during the cool hours of the day between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. All of that’s going to apply as it often does in the summer for us. The good news is we do have this healthy snowpack and healthy reservoirs so we’re confident we’ll see that sustained throughout the summer.
Is there any change from the rules customers were asked to follow last year?
Hartman: We were on the same watering rules last summer that we will be on this summer. It got drier as the summer went on, but we left those standard watering rules in place.
How do the standard watering rules for Denver Water compare to other utilities around the state?
Hartman: For many other water utilities and many other communities, our rules are what they go into when they go on some sort of limitation. Our standard rules were put in place in the years following the drought of 2002, which was a very significant event that many of your viewers will recall.
Since then, we’ve taken what used to be, for us, considered more limits on your water use and we’ve made those standard because it’s important for us, as one of the largest water utilities in the west, to be responsible and be responsible in the way we use this resource. Water connects all of us so we want to be thoughtful about the way that water is used...Our watering rules are geared toward that outcome.
There is still a lot of snow that has to melt. How will that impact reservoir capacity?
Hartman: We will be able to fill our reservoirs and we’ll be able to use that water throughout the summer. We’re in late March right now, it’s obviously always difficult to predict how things will unfold. We could, say for example, have a warm April. A warm April would melt that snow off more quickly.
Because of a number of dry years in the last 10 and 20 years, we have low soil moisture and Mother Nature gets dibs on that water. So, even with that great snowpack, some of that’s going to get eaten up by that very thirsty soil.
You can always get evaporation if the weather gets very hot, or we could have a cooler April, which we hope for. That slows the melt off and sort of sustains the reservoir that is the snow. We consider the snowpack one giant reservoir. We are optimistic that we will continue to see these weather patterns that keep the snowmelt happening in a slower, more predictable, and more manageable way.
How else do the last few dry years affect what we're seeing now?
Hartman: This is a good year to have such a significant snowpack because our reservoirs did drop some last summer so we have a lot of capacity across our system. Sure, there are some reservoirs that have higher levels than others, but across our system, we have a lot of capacity to accept and welcome the snowmelt so we don’t anticipate any significant problems from that.
What should people know as the weather turns and people start to get outside?
Hartman: It’s been a cold winter. Colder than usual. It’s been very overcast and I know people are excited to get out, work outside, and irrigate. We just ask people, as we always do, to be thoughtful about how they’re using their water. Let’s keep sprinklers off of driveways and sidewalks. Let's pay attention to the fixtures we have so our water, irrigation water, is being used efficiently...We have a tiered water structure and that means the more you use, the more you pay. That’s something we hope sends a signal to our customers. That being said, we encourage a healthy outdoor landscape and we certainly want people to enjoy this time of year and begin thinking about all the things they’re going to do in their yard.
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