Drought Restrictions Depend on Water Storage and Portfolios

This year we’ve seen watering restrictions come to stay or go in different parts of the state, but Coloradans don’t always realize that those restrictions mean very different things for utilities based on their water portfolios.  An interesting article published this week in the Coloradan explains the messages and portfolios of some of the northern Colorado water utilities.

Fort Collins, which lifted its mandatory water restrictions Saturday, and Loveland are trusting residents with voluntary water conservation because mandatory water restrictions don’t accomplish the same thing here that they do in other Front Range cities.Fort Collins simply lacks the storage space for mandatory water restrictions to benefit the city, said Fort Collins water resources manager Donnie Dustin.

Denver Water has space to store about 550,000 acre-feet of water in its reservoirs, but Fort Collins owns only a small fraction of the water in Horsetooth Reservoir, which is controlled by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, he said.

When Denver Water imposes water restrictions, they have a large “bank” in which to store water, he said.

“The city of Fort Collins just doesn’t have that,” Dustin said.

Of all the major cities along the Front Range, Fort Collins and Loveland own the least amount of reservoir storage, relying mostly on Colorado-Big Thompson Project reservoirs, including Horsetooth, he said.

Northern Water limits the amount of water cities can save for use in future years, and the city can’t store more there even if it wants to… read more

Of course, utilities and water providers across the state draw water from different sources and store in different ways, making each system unique. The latest issue of Headwaters magazine explores various aspects of utilities across the state, from rate structure to infrastructure, these differences are apparent. As Chris Woodka wrote for Headwaters,

Every system is unique, and every utility has some sort of rate structure that takes into account the cost to buy water, treat it, pump it and maintain the infrastructure that delivers potable water to consumers’ taps.

Although most of us (91 percent of Coloradans get their domestic water from surface supplies, while the other 9 percent rely on groundwater tapped by wells, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources) turn on the tap to draw water provided by a water utility, that water reaches us in different ways. Flip through Headwaters to learn more about utilities, take a look at COH2O to learn about restrictions in your area and let us know what your local utility is up to this summer.

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