Water outlook & drought

 Water outlook & drought

As your local water provider, we have a responsibility to protect your water supply and help ensure the health, safety and economic vitality of our community. We carefully monitor several factors, including levels of our reservoirs, snowpack and forecasted stream flow.

As of Sept. 3, 2015

Current reservoir levels
System wide, total water storage is at 89 percent of capacity, which is 8 percent above average (1981 through 2010).

Current situation

  • In August, the average temperature was above average and total precipitation was below average, as measured at the airport.
  • The Drought Monitor shows dry conditions have moved out of Colorado.
  • Streamflow in both the Arkansas and Colorado River has started to drop off for August, but most of the available storage in both basins is near capacity. 
  • The “El Nino” conditions of above normal precipitation are expected to continue through spring of 2016, although we have seen drier conditions across the region this month.
  • We are monitoring streamflow, demand and storage to assess the water supply situation through the 2015 irrigation season.
  • Our diversions from the Colorado River are finished for the season, and we now expect to see storage start to drop. With the recent increase in temperatures and lower precipitation, we are seeing a slight increase in demands
  • We have 2.8 years of demand in storage.
  • Currently, the Water Shortage Ordinance is set at Stage 1 Voluntary Restrictions, which means customers are asked to continue to use water wisely.

See the full report.

Reservoir levels

Pikes Peak​ 80 percent (1981 to 2010 avg. 76 percent)​
Rampart​ 80 percent (1981 to 2010 avg. 75 percent)​
Local total​ 80 percent (1981 to 2010 avg. 75 percent)​
​System total ​89 percent (1981 to 2010 avg. 81 percent)


How does Colorado Springs Utilities determine that we are in are in a drought?
There are a variety of factors used to determine when we are in a drought including: long range forecasts, storage levels, snowpack, operational constraints, soil moisture and others. If total system storage is projected to be below 1.5 years of demand in storage on April 1 then the results are reported to the City Council with a recommendation for implementation of water shortage response measures.

How do we determine what Water Shortage Ordinance stage we are in?
Our water supply staff create a forecast of water storage levels.  If the forecast shows that storage will get below our risk tolerance threshold of one year of demand in storage, experts estimate how much water savings will be needed to keep us at or near that threshold. Each stage of drought response has a corresponding estimate of expected water savings associated with it. We set the Water Shortage Ordinance stage by matching the amount of savings needed with the amount of savings expected from the various stages.

(Click on image to enlarge or for more information from NOAA.)