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Year in review: Dry winter and hot summer have planners hoping for wet spring

With 100 years of history under its belt, Denver Water has seen plenty of good years and bad in terms of snowpack and water supplies.

Overall, the 2018 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was the 10th driest in terms of stream flows across Denver Water’s 4,000-square-mile collection system. The driest year in Denver Water’s history books was 2002, when stream flows were only 31 percent of normal.

Four main factors played big roles in the 2018 water year:

  • La Niña conditions meant a relatively dry winter for many portions of the state.
  • This led to less runoff than expected. While snowpack levels in our watersheds were near normal at the end of spring, this didn’t translate into actual water in our reservoirs.
  • We also saw temperatures well above normal in our watersheds during May, leading to an early snowmelt. The early runoff led to our reservoirs reaching their peak storage levels a month earlier than normal and subsequent high demands led to us drawing down storage earlier than normal.
  • This year turned out to be one of the hottest on record, which led to increased customer demand on water during the peak of irrigation season. But despite this summer’s historically hot temperatures, Denver Water’s customers still used at least 20 percent less water compared to similarly hot, dry stretches in past years.

Denver Water didn’t implement drought restrictions in 2018, but next year could be different. If the situation worsens this winter, we’re prepared to implement drought restrictions next year.