Water supply concerns: Fingers crossed for a snowy winter

After dry summer, Metro North cities consider drought mitigation

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/11/21

With 2020 being dry and officials expecting 2021 to be the same, north metro cities are crossing their fingers about snow this season. Though water supply and drought seem out of sight, out of mind, …

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Water supply concerns: Fingers crossed for a snowy winter

After dry summer, Metro North cities consider drought mitigation

Posted

With 2020 being dry and officials expecting 2021 to be the same, north metro cities are crossing their fingers about snow this season.

Though water supply and drought seem out of sight, out of mind, Northglenn City Council discussed the item at their Jan. 4 study session. Tamara Moon, Northglenn’s environmental manager, told councilors she wants to work on Northglenn’s drought mitigation plan as a major initiative.

Since 2020, a La Niña climate pattern has been in place and is expected to last into 2021, meaning an existing drought will intensify, according to an October report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The analysis is concerning to Northglenn, Moon told councilors at the study session.

“The metro area is in extreme drought. We haven’t had nearly the amount of water that we need for this time of year. So, we are going to be watching this very closely,” she said.

At the end of November, Northglenn had 71 percent of the average water supply it would expect to have in Standley Lake. Meanwhile, water usage hasn’t decreased correspondingly. It’s about on track with 2019.

Northglenn isn’t alone. Andrew Bliss, a spokesperson with Westminster’s public works and utilities department, said they are closely monitoring local water conditions and the Clear Creek watershed, where most city drinking water comes from.

The current conditions, Bliss said, “Don’t yet equate to any drought declarations at this time due to adequate levels of reservoir water storage. The upcoming snow season may perpetuate or completely change the dry conditions, so let’s all hope for a very snowy winter in the mountains!”

Thornton’s reservoir supply is at an average level for this time of year, but the city’s South Platte basin snowpack accumulation isn’t, said Emily Hunt, Thornton deputy infrastructure director. “Current conditions have us concerned,” Hunt added.

In 2019, both Westminster and Thornton published drought management plans that layout different scenarios depending on the severity of a drought. In Westminster, fines and restrictions kick in at the third of five total stages. In the third stage, for example, the city would assign customers times to water their lawn. The fifth stage, though, would impose a ban on outdoor water and only allow limited indoor water use.

Thornton’s drought plan lays out a similar structure of four stages. Past the second stage, nonessential outdoor water use is prohibited, and the city might assess drought surcharges to bolster revenue for utilities operation and maintenance. Hunt said the city staff is preparing to discuss with the city council to officially activate its plan.

It’s this planning that Northglenn looks to complete by spring. Meanwhile, Moon said, “We’ll be encouraging residents to continue being conservative with their water and make sure that we have enough to go around.”

Northglenn City Council had few questions for city staff and members expressed their support for near-future contingency planning.

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