March 27, 2013 - March snows have not done enough to improve the current drought conditions. Most of Colorado is in the second year of a severe drought and above-average temperatures, which has led to low snowpack and low reservoir levels across the state. As a result, at its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a Stage 2 drought, which means customers will have two assigned watering days a week beginning April 1.
“The last time we declared a Stage 2 drought was in 2002,” said Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners. “We are facing a more serious drought now than we faced then. Our goal this summer is to insure the availability of high-quality water to our citizens, given current conditions and an unknowable end to the drought cycle, protecting not only the quality of life of our community but also the long-term security of our city’s system.”
Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water said: “Because of the dry conditions, our reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011. We would need about 7 feet of additional snow in the mountains by late April to get us close to where we should be. Therefore, we need everyone’s help to save water indoors and outdoors this year. Together, we need to save 50,000 acre-feet of water, or 16 billion gallons, by next spring. We’re asking every person to think before turning on the tap.”
Mandatory watering restrictions begin April 1, meaning Denver Water customers may only water two days a week and must follow this schedule:
- Single-family residential properties with addresses ending in even numbers: Sunday, Thursday
- Single-family residential properties with addresses ending in odd numbers: Saturday, Wednesday
- All other properties (multi-family, HOAs, commercial, industrial, government): Tuesday, Friday
In addition, customers must follow the standard annual watering rules:
- Do not water lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
- Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
- Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
- Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.
The utility asks customers to be conscientious about water use this spring. While April is a good time to set up and examine irrigation systems, they don’t need to be used yet. Instead, postpone turning on sprinklers and automatic systems and hand-water sloped areas of the lawn or sections that are receiving full sunlight if they are dry. April is typically a cool month with some precipitation, so it may not be necessary to water lawns two days a week, which will help save water.
Snowpack in the South Platte and Colorado River basins from which Denver Water receives water are 59 percent of average and 73 percent of average, respectively. That snow is what serves as Denver’s water supply.
As part of the Stage 2 drought declaration, the board also adopted a temporary drought pricing structure to encourage customers to use even less water and help reduce revenue loss to ensure Denver Water’s vast water collection, treatment and distribution system stays operable and well-maintained. Customers will see the pricing on bills on or after June 1 of this year. The drought pricing will remain in effect until the mandatory restrictions are lifted. The utility plans to cut operating expenses, defer projects and tap cash reserves to help balance finances through the drought.
As always, customers’ bills will vary depending on how much water they use. An average summer bill for a single family residential customer who doesn’t use less water would increase about $6 a month. Most residential customers who significantly reduce their water use will see a reduction in their bill — even with drought pricing — in comparison to normal usage at 2013 rates.
“Because our primary goal is to ensure water is available for health and safety needs, the first 6,000 gallons of monthly water use will not be subject to drought pricing,” said Lochhead.
Average monthly indoor use of water is 6,000 gallons. Approximately 70 percent of single family residential customers use 18,000 gallons per month or less during the peak summer months.
As it does every year, the utility will enforce its rules with a team of employees — this year named the “drought patrol.”
“The purpose of our drought patrol is as much about educating customers as it is about enforcing Denver Water’s rules,” said Lochhead. “As we have in previous years, our monitors will have face-to-face interactions with customers to discuss our restrictions.”
Customers who receive repeated watering notices will be subject to Stage 2 drought fines, which start at $250 for a single-family residential customer who has previously received a written warning.
Citizens who see water leaks or broken sprinklers in Denver’s parks should call 3-1-1. To report water waste elsewhere, call Denver Water at 303-893-2444.
Find watering tips and more drought information.