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 April 1, 2014

Current reservoir levels
System wide, total water storage is at 62 percent of capacity, which is average (1971 through 2011).

Current situation
In March, local temperatures were close to average with below average precipitation. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of Colorado is in D0 drought status (abnormally dry), with the exception of the southeast portion of the state which is still in severe to exceptional drought. Drought status of “abnormally dry” is creeping back toward El Paso County.

We have 1.9 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.

Because of abundant snowpack this winter, at this time, the Utilities Board does not anticipate mandatory watering restrictions. Members are considering Water Shortage Ordinance revisions so that an ordinance is in place, should it become necessary to implement restrictions at a future date.

Reservoir levels

Pikes Peak​ 56 percent  (1970 to 2011 avg. 74%)​
Rampart​ 87 percent  (1970 to 2011 avg. 88%)​
Local total​ 75 percent (1970 to 2011 avg. 83%)​
​System total ​62 percent (1970 to 2011 avg. 62%)

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.)