Drought? Wildfires? Low snowpack?

TAP takes on the top questions posed by Reddit users.

January 22, 2018 | By: Kim Unger

The internet is chock full of random forms of entertainment.

One of my favorite indulgences is Reddit. Between the weird memes, cat GIFs and miscellaneous ridiculousness that occur there, you sometimes stumble upon rational people attempting to engage in real conversation, about real topics. Such as this one found in the Denver sub:

Colorado snowpack worst in more than 30 years from Denver

Water topics always catch my eye. Call it a perk or hazard of my job, I am always interested in what Coloradans know about water issues. Turns out, some are worried about our current weather situation and even threw around the “d” word: drought.

Knowing you may share some of these concerns, I turned to TAP for the answers to some of the Reddit users’ major questions.

Snowpack

employees stationed in Winter Park take measurements of snowpack
Denver Water employees stationed in Winter Park take measurements of snowpack in 2014.

Reddit user freakingeh, whose comment is above, started off by expressing concern for our dry weather and lack of snow. Sure, it has been unseasonably warm, and Denver has been quite dry, but snowpack is doing ok and our reservoir levels are a bit higher than we typically see this time of year thanks in part, to the refilling of a drought reserve reservoir: Antero.

Not sure what snowpack is, and how Denver Water keeps a close eye on it? Check out Steve’s explainer.

Once you know your snowpack 101, head over to this recent post on our current snowpack status as of Jan. 8 (and things have improved since then).

And if that prompts you to ask where snowpack was last year, check out our February and March updates in 2017.

Even February and March are still highly variable in terms of precipitation. Typically, March is the snowiest month and snowpack does not usually reach peak accumulation until late April. By then, we should have a better idea of what runoff season should look like.

Rest assured, our snow experts are watching the snowpack closely, and it’s still too soon to know for sure how this year will turn out.

But while we are talking about the weather conditions, let’s talk …

Dry weather

US Drought Monitor map of conditions across the state, where metro Denver falls just below drought conditions. As of 01/16/2018.
U.S. Drought Monitor map of conditions across the state.

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, Colorado is looking dry, with much of the state experiencing moderate to severe drought. And while you do a rain dance, you can keep an eye on your trees and shrubs with these winter watering tips.

So, how does Denver Water handle these uncertain weather conditions? 

 

 

Conservation, efficiency and recycling

Redditor lucrezia_borgia, we like how you think.

Thanks to conservation efforts, Denver Water customers met the conservation goal to reduce per capita water use by 22 percent from pre-2002 drought levels by 2016. Yet, water is still a necessity. Moving forward, Denver Water will focus on helping inefficient customers become efficient, without sacrificing the lifestyles they enjoy.

Denver Water has been recycling water since 2004. The recycled water is used around the city for irrigation, cooling and even fire suppression. Getting recycled water out in the system requires a network of pipes to keep it separate from the drinking water system, and infrastructure is expensive, so for now, recycled water is used in limited capacity.

Wildfires

Have you seen what California is dealing with? Yes, wildfires are a concern, even for Denver Water.

Why? Well, those forests are part of the watershed that provides precious water, and forest health impacts water quality.

Rick Geise, Dillon Dam hydropower operator (right), talks with U.S. Forest Service officials during the fire.
Rick Geise, Dillon Dam hydropower operator (left), talks with U.S. Forest Service officials during the Tenderfoot 2 Fire in 2017.

Not only are we concerned about forest health, but our mountain caretakers are actively involved in emergency response during wildfires, be it providing access to water from reservoirs, or resources and assistance during emergency response.

Hopefully that helped quench some concerns about Denver’s dry weather and any panic over snowpack.
Got more questions I didn’t tackle? Visit the search bar in the right corner and type in the topic you want to know about, or hit us up in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Drought? Wildfires? Low snowpack?”

    1. 2 forks dam project needs to be revisited.. A dam above anterio will be needef for good river flow trust me that would be a great start to providing plenty of water but also better cfs for actic life all the way through the city of denver aswell as provided renewable clean energy … ..expanding. Gross was a great idea another dam up above gross also would be a great idea. Just saying native coloradan.

  1. No mention of how important groundwater resources are to water management in Colorado. There are two concepts readers need to be aware of:
    1. Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR)
    2. Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)

    1. Hey there Dave.

      While the Reddit conversation focused on snowpack and potential runoff this spring, Denver Water is committed to ensuring we have an adequate water supply for the future through water efficiency efforts, recycled water and the development of new supply, which includes evaluating Aquifer Storage and Recovery. In 2016, a pilot program was launched to look ASR as another option for Denver’s water supply. Check out the full story on ASR.

      Thanks for reading!

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