If you are like most people, when you turn on the tap to wash your hands, brush your teeth or wash dishes, you never give a second thought to where that water just came from. You never think about the journey those hydrogen and oxygen molecules took from more than 100 miles away in the high country of the Western slope to your faucet. You just know that whenever you need the water, it’s there for you. Clean, fresh and…delicious.
The reason it’s always there for you is because of our hard-working Water Planners and Field Operations Teams. On March 21, I had the opportunity to see where our water comes from, through the Continental Divide, to the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Lake. We pump the water more than 100 miles away to the Arkansas River Basin and then to our water treatment plants to deliver it to our customers’ taps.
This year, snowpack is above average, which means we won’t have room to collect every drop. The good news is that this large snowpack will give us a buffer to get through drier years. Water conveyance supervisor Kalsoum Abbasi and her team stage our water and move it around so that we can collect as much as possible. To do this, we utilize our 25 reservoirs to store the water. We are thankful for a large snowpack this year because it will help us fill all of our reservoirs this spring and summer.
Abbasi explains that because snowpack levels vary so much from year to year within Colorado, we use the data we collect from snowpack readings to figure out how much space we need to make in our downstream reservoirs so we can then collect that water from our mountain systems. Every January our Homestake crew goes out to begin taking snow reads. They will continue to do this twice a month through April so we keep a pulse on our snowpack levels.
We are pumping water out of the Turquoise and Twin Lakes Reservoirs at full capacity right now. While this is a little unusual, the reason is so we can make more room in those reservoirs for when the snowmelt does run off, so we have somewhere to put it. While you may look to mountains while skiing this weekend and see all this snowpack, it’s important to remember that although there is a ton of snowpack, all that water is still in the snow. It’s not until the snow melts in late spring or early summer that we will see our reservoirs fill up.
Planning the water supply for a city of 464,474 people and growing is no small feat. Luckily, we have some of the best water planners in the state working hard every single day to make sure that the next time you turn on your faucet, fresh mountain snowmelt comes pouring out.