Lopsided dry weather pattern prompts operational changes

Less snowpack in the south end underscores the importance of balancing Denver’s water system with Gross Reservoir expansion.

April 6, 2018 | By: Ann Baker
In July 2017, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the Gross Reservoir expansion project, which will increase water storage on the north side of Denver Water’s collection system.

People are talking about the dry winter across the state and what that may mean for this summer’s water supply. But, believe it or not, the weather isn’t the only thing Denver’s water managers are focusing on.

Lopsided snowfall across the state means our water managers are operating the system a bit differently to make the best use of water available.

That’s because Denver Water’s supply system is essentially separated into two parts: the North System, in which water from the Fraser River in Grand County and South Boulder Creek is stored in Gross and Ralston reservoirs, and the South System, which includes water from Dillon Reservoir and portions of the South Platte River basin.

Roughly 10 percent of the water in our collection system is stored in the north, and 90 percent is stored in the south. That’s a pretty big discrepancy.

And, the south part of Denver’s water system has fared much worse than the north this year.

This year, collection system data show we’ve had much more snow on the north – roughly 90 percent of average – than our larger basin on the south, which is at 70 percent of average.

“Because there will be more runoff in the north, and less storage available for it, we’ll start ramping up the Moffat Treatment Plant on the north side of our system, treating and delivering more water to customers from this location than we typically do,” said Nathan Elder, interim manager of raw water supply for Denver Water.

“If we start using the water on the north end now, we can preserve water stored in the south and increase the likelihood of filling those reservoirs during this year’s runoff season,” Elder said.

But relying heavily on the north is not ideal, and one reason why the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is so important.

“Our north system not only provides water to our north end but also works as a safety net for when problems arise on the south,”said Jeff Martin, program manager for Gross Reservoir Expansion. “The bigger the safety net, the less vulnerable we are to drought, forest fires, and infrastructure failures on the south.”

Expanding Gross Reservoir would allow Denver Water to store more water on the north, offsetting the current imbalance and giving us that bigger safety net.

“We want to preserve that small amount in the north just in case anything happens on the south,” Elder said. “If we have a better balance, we’re better prepared for those events.”

3 thoughts on “Lopsided dry weather pattern prompts operational changes”

  1. IF TWO FORKS RESERVOIR HAD BEEN BUILT ON THE SOUTH SIDE, THEN WE WOULD NOT BE SO STRESSED DURING THE THE DROUGHT TIMES, IT SEEMS LIKE THE SAME WORRIES ALSO ARISE EVERY 5 OR SO YEARS, THANKS TO THE ONES THAT DO NOT WANT TO SEE ANY WATER INFRASTRUCTURE OR PROGRESS. ONE MILLION ACRE FEET OF WATER SURE SOUNDS GOOD RIGHT ABOUT NOW, SO, NOW THAT THE SELF IMPOSED MORATORIUM WILL BE LIFTED ON TWO FORKS, I THINK NOW IS THE TIME TO GET IT OFF THE BACK BURNER AND PLACE IT ON THE FRONT BURNER, DENVER WATER HAS MET ALL ITS OBLIGATIONS SET BY THE COURTS CONCERNING THE RIGHT AND NEED TO BUILD THE RESERVOIR, REALLY IT IS DENVER DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE DENVER WATER USERS HAVE ADEQUATE WATER SUPPLIES TO MEET THE THE NEEDS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS, RIGHT NOW THERE ARE TO MANY REGULATIONS AND PERMITS TO DEAL WITH, GLAD TO SEE PRESIDENT TRUMP IS ALL FOR WATER INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS, YES RENEWABLE ENERGY IS ALSO A STRONG SPIN OFF FROM HYDRO ELECTRIC GENERATED ELECTRICITY, PLACES THAT ARE CONSIDERED 3RD WORLD POWERS ARE AHEAD OF THE U.S WHEN IT COMES TO THINKING AND IMPLEMENTING LARGE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS, WHAT COMES TO MIND ARE PLACES LIKE ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST. THE U.S SEEMS TO BE STAGNANT WHEN IT COMES TO INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS, TWO FORKS IS THE PERFECT EXAMPLE. SO I GUESS EVERY 5 YEARS OR SO THE HAND WRINGING BEGINS, BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF WILL POWER TO GET OFF OF CENTER AND MAKE THE TOUGH DECISIONS .

  2. I would like to have answers to the following questions:
    1. How many taps does the Denver Water system currently support?
    2. What is the current capacity of the entire system on any given day?
    3. How many front range cities have contracts with Denver Water?
    4. What is the Average usage per tap?

    Thanks for the info

    1. Hello James, for your question. According to the 2016 Denver Water Annual Report, there were 312,412 taps. As far as the average tap use, The 2012-2016 average annual use per customer was just over 200,000 gallons. It should be noted this figure accounts for all customers we serve in our service area. There are a wide variety of customers in our service area that use water for many different purposes. Our customers include residential, commercial, industrial, government and irrigation accounts. Denver Water’s new efficiency plan identifies a benchmark of 40 gallons per person per day as an efficient indoor water use and 12 gallons per square foot of landscape annually. Learn what percentage of our single family residential customers are achieving this and more about the plan here:Efficiency is the new conservation

      For a list of our distributors, click here: Denver Water distributors

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