Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Dry winter won't lead to water restrictions this summer

ANDREW WINEKE Updated: April 2, 2012 at 12:00 am

Colorado Springs Utilities says that, despite the dry weather through much of the winter, its water supplies are in good shape and it doesn’t anticipate requiring any watering restrictions this summer.

“We’ve looked at it and, while it’s certainly dry, we feel good about our storage this year,” said Utilities spokesman Steve Berry. “For 2012, we don’t expect any restrictions.”

Having said that, Berry added, it wouldn’t hurt everyone in Colorado Springs to keep an eye on their water usage.

“I think if the weather conditions don’t improve going into next year and if we have a bad snowpack next year like we have this year, then it could be a problem,” he said. “It’s still key that our customers conserve. Customer water usage is going to be really important this spring and summer. If our customers help us, that will certainly help us going into next year.”

Berry said Colorado Springs Utilities' storage reservoirs are at about 69 percent of capacity. That's above the 62 percent average for this time of year from 1970-2004, albeit down from the 77 percent of capacity in 2011.

Colorado Springs Utilities may be in better shape than some other water providers along the Front Range. A report issued Monday by the Front Range Water Council showed that many of those providers are concerned and want to be prepared for the possibility of a multi-year drought.

Denver Water in particular is facing a dry summer, since most of its water comes from the Colorado and the South Platte rivers and snowpack in both of those river basins is very low. Denver Water hasn’t implemented restrictions yet, but is asking its customers to conserve where possible.

“During the drought 10 years ago, water providers learned it’s difficult for reservoir storage to survive multiple-year droughts,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said in a statement. “As a result, municipalities pushed more comprehensive conservation efforts, and we’re seeing those positive results today. But conservation alone is not enough. We need strategies that also include reuse and new supplies.”

Utilities’ Berry said the potential for an extended drought or for shutting down parts of the system for repair or replacement underscores the need for back-up supplies like the Southern Delivery System.

“The Homestake (reservoir) system is pretty much down because we and Aurora are doing a pretty major resurfacing on Homestake dam,” Berry said. “We plan ahead and we make sure we have enough water in storage heading into a project like that. Conservation is critically important, but it’s why we need another supply, which is why we have SDS coming on in 2016.”

The warm March did pump up local water use: Colorado Springs residents used an average of 53.6 million gallons of water a day during the month, up 15.2 percent from March, 2011, according to Colorado Springs Utilities. On the plus side, however, Utilities customers used 358 million gallons less than they did back in March, 2001 — about a 27 percent decrease after adjusting for the city’s growth.

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