The rains we claim aren’t always on the plains

How much precipitation did we get last year? The answer can be confusing — because of three simple letters.

November 5, 2015 | By: Steve Snyder

Here’s a quick quiz: What three things are critical to both precipitation monitoring and real estate? The answer is an old joke: location, location, location!

October marked the beginning of our new water year, so now is a natural time for us to look back and ask how much rain fell in the previous year. But when it comes to Denver Water’s service area, which includes more than 300 square miles, there isn’t one simple response. It all depends on your location.

“Our service area covers a large geographic region, and weather patterns can differ across that area,” said Lindsay Weber, demand planner for Denver Water. “For example, if it’s raining in Wheat Ridge, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s raining in Greenwood Village.”

And when it comes to rainfall, every drop counts. Our customers need to know how much moisture fell on their landscapes courtesy of Mother Nature so they can make good decisions about how much to supplement their irrigation with the water we provide.

Weather station
The National Weather Service uses a weather station like this one to record Denver’s official temperature, wind and precipitation measurements.

But that information sometimes comes with a caveat, thanks to three simple letters: DIA.

The National Weather Service’s official monitoring station for Denver is at Denver International Airport, or “DIA,” which is about 18 miles northeast of downtown Denver. Sitting on the wide-open plains of eastern Colorado, DIA is part of Denver and our service area, but the differences in temperature and moisture recorded there vary significantly from where most of us live and work.

“We know DIA is not necessarily representative of the weather conditions many of our customers see,” Weber said. “However, since DIA is the official monitoring station for the National Weather Service, those results are what the public hears about much more often.”

Denver Water uses an average from multiple weather stations to give us a better picture of how much precipitation falls in our service area during any given year. We use the numbers from those stations to plan for short-term and long-term supply and demand needs.

“It’s important that people take the reports from DIA’s monitoring station with a grain of salt,” Weber said. “Customers should pay close attention to the weather patterns in their particular part of the city when it comes to tailoring their landscape’s irrigation needs. One size does not fit all in this case.”

Denver Water provides a number of tools to help customers water their landscapes efficiently. But understanding precipitation for your location is ultimately the foundation for effective irrigation. (Now let’s see them make a song using that line!

This graph illustrates the variability between the rainfall at DIA and the rest of the Denver Water service area.
This graph illustrates the variability between the rainfall at DIA and the rest of the Denver Water service area.

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