The Denver Board of Water Commissioners lowered its drought restrictions from Stage 2 to Stage 1 during its meeting on Wednesday.
The decision removes a two-day-per-week assigned watering schedule. Denver Water customers can now water up to three days per week and follow annual watering rules.
Denver Water implemented Stage 2 drought conditions in early spring, based on 60 percent snowpack measurements, extremely dry conditions and lower-than-normal reservoirs. But Denver Water officials said late-season weather improved conditions significantly, and the snowpack in both of its watersheds ended up above 90 percent of the average peak.
District 36 water commissioner Troy Wineland applauded Denver Water placing the Stage 2 restrictions in early spring.
“Denver Water did the right thing going to Stage 2 drought early on when things were really looking bad,” he said.
Denver Water representatives said they don’t expect to see a significant increase in water use by customers that would cause an irregular drop in the Dillon Reservoir as a result of the change in restrictions.
“Drought restrictions are still in place, and with the Stage 1 drought response, we anticipate a 10 percent decrease in customer use from what we would see in a typical year,” said Denver Water representative Travis Thompson.
“Customers have already proven that they are paying attention to their water use this year, and have saved 3.4 billion gallons of water since April 1,” he said.
Dillon Reservoir is now about 94 percent full. Runoff season is ending, and the reservoir levels are only rising at about an inch and a half each day, so Denver Water officials said don’t expect to see much more of an increase to the reservoir level this season. The agency regularly monitors water-supply conditions, along with weather forecasts and stream-flow forecasts, to strategically manage its water system, Thompson said.
“We are always planning for the long term, and we used this information to make the decision for Stage 1 drought restrictions,” he said.
Water commissioner Wineland said he can see Denver Water’s point of view based on the reservoir’s current supply and the agency’s goal to serve its customers. But, he said, he can also see the issue from another point of view.
“Looking at the bigger water picture — and particularly when you look at the southeast part of the state who are the hardest hit — I understand how people could think it isn’t the right choice to make,” Wineland said.
While Summit and most of its neighboring counties are in a moderate state of drought, other parts of the state remain in severe, extreme and exceptional drought conditions. Water commissioner Wineland said no matter where in Colorado residents live, each person must understand they live in a semi-arid climate.
“We place more demand on the available water supply than there is water available for our demand,” he said. “We have already tipped the scale.”
Although water can be a politically contentious issue, he said, the bottom line is that every person plays a role in water consumption.
“It comes down to a personal level. People need to understand where it is we live and how precious and limited our water resources are, and how much more precious they will become with each year.”