Dillon Reservoir nears its capacity, despite long-term drought
Ryan Summerlin June 25, 2013
The Dillon Reservoir isn’t quite at capacity, but it isn’t nearly as low as was projected in early spring.
The reservoir is about 6 feet shy of full, Denver Water representative Stacy Chesney said.
Thursday morning the reservoir’s water level, which continues to rise, was at 9,011 feet. It is considered full when it reaches 9,017 feet.
Denver Water estimates the inflow of water peaked on June 10 at 1,754 cubic feet per second. The current inflow is about 834 cubic feet per second.
“We expect the reservoir level to continue rising for a couple more weeks,” Chesney said. “But the rate at which it rises will diminish because the inflow will continue dropping.”
This time last year, the water level was at a similar stage but was already dropping, Chesney said. On June 20, 2011, the water level was at 9,005 feet, but was rising rapidly. The reservoir had been intentionally lowered that year to avoid flooding because of high snowpack.
The amount of accumulated snowpack and precipitation in 2013 is close to average, District 36 water commissioner Troy Wineland said, but that doesn’t mean Summit County is in the clear when it comes to its water supply.
“Even though locally we’ve benefitted from the late April storms, the important take-home message is that we are still in the midst of a drought,” Wineland said.
In March, Summit was in extreme drought. The county has managed to avoid a drought disaster designation, but it remains in a moderate state of drought.
Some of Summit’s neighbors are worse off. On June 14, the federal government declared a drought disaster for 12 Colorado counties: Dolores, Hinsdale, La Plata, Montezuma, Ouray, San Miguel, Archuleta, Gunnison, Mineral, Montrose, Saguache and San Juan.
The water level in Dillon Reservoir is likely to drop if warming and drought trends continue in Colorado.
The drier the county’s future weather, the sooner the Dillon Reservoir will reach its maximum water level, and the lower that level will be by the end of summer, Chesney said.
“The weather on the East Slope and West Slope also plays a role, as it affects water use in Denver and inflows to the reservoir,” she said.