Despite recent snowfall in the sprint in certain parts of Colorado, most of the State is experiencing another year of a severe drought that started off this spring in a stage 2 drought condition. The drought has led to lower snowpack, above-average temperatures and lower reservoir levels. As a result, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners declared a Stage 2 drought earlier this year, which meant customers will have two assigned watering days effective April 1. This was recently lifted to a stage one, which allows 3 watering days per week. The recent restrictions prompted several complaints amongst residents who are wondering what the purpose of our reservoirs serve and where our water actually goes. Additionally, residents are furious over the laws the prohibit them from capturing rain water or re-using of “graywater” .
“By law, Denver Water customers are not allowed to use bath or laundry water (commonly referred to as graywater) for other purposes. After this water is used once by Denver Water customers, it must return to the South Platte River where it will be used seven or eight times before it gets to Nebraska. Denver Water does not endorse graywater systems. Regarding rainwater, In 2009, however, the Colorado State Legislature passed two laws that carve out exemptions from the general rule.
Failure to comply with the watering restrictions could result in fines of up to $500 and suspension of service. Water use enforcement will patrol the city, educating customers and enforcing the rules. You can report drought violations by calling 311.
The first law says that if you are not served by a domestic water system, such as Denver Water, and you are located in a designated ground water basin or your collection system qualifies as exempt from 37-92-602(1)(g)(I), you are allowed to capture rainwater for household, fire protection, stock watering and irrigation of up to one acre of lawns and gardens as long as it is applied to uses specified in the well permit that applies to your property.
“We’ve never seen conditions like this, and we are concerned about our water supply,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “Our reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011. We need our customers’ help to reduce water use and keep as much water as possible in storage as we move through this year and into the next.” Denver Water projects that we need to save 16 billion gallons of water in the next 12 months to avoid a Stage 3 drought, which would result in a ban on all outdoor watering.
“Our goal this summer is to ensure water is available for public health and safety, while balancing the quality of life and economic vitality of our community,” Lochhead said. “Last year was dry, and this year has been, too. Ultimately, we need to be prepared for a potentially worsening situation in 2014.”
If you are planning to re-landscape this Spring, you may request an exemption to the watering restrictions for up to 30 days (for newly planted seed) or 21 days (for newly planted sod, trees and other plants).