Snowpack news: All eyes at Denver Water are on the mountains #codrought

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From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krivonen):

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…

Right now the 25 reservoirs the utility draws from are collectively 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.

He says the utility’s reservoir levels are 67 percent full. Normally they’re above 80 percent. 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…

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. [Eric Kuhn] says there’s a chance the state could see water shortages, and a bad fire season.

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