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Friday, December 1, 2017

The importance of Standley Lake

The importance of Standley Lake

Not only is Standley Lake one of the city’s great recreational assets, but it is a vital water storage reservoir.

Westminster’s water from snow pack is stored in Standley Lake, which was built in the early 1900s, and was enlarged in 1967. Standley Lake holds about
14 billion gallons of water, which is the equivalent of filling the Denver Broncos’ football field with water over eight miles high.

While Westminster owns about half of the water in Standley Lake when full, the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company and the cities of Thornton and
Northglenn share the rest for agricultural and municipal uses.

When the lake is full, the city has about one full year of water supply storage. That water lasts more than one year since even in the worst drought year, new water still flows into the lake. The primary purpose of Standley Lake is as a reservoir, so it is normal for the height of the lake to go up and down over the year as it fills more in the spring and releases water throughout the year.

Water quality in the lake is the city’s highest priority. To keep the water clean, the city can turn off the intake when needed. This is only done for emergency situations, such as when there’s a gasoline spill or a mine blow-out upstream in Clear Creek. Staff also perform water tests year round using permanent testing buoys and a pontoon boat. The city is so concerned about water quality that it invested in wastewater plant upgrades for cities in the Clear Creek watershed upstream of Standley to ensure the highest quality of water entering the lake.

This key part of the city’s drinking water system is also a regional recreational asset. In the 2,000 acres of open space around the lake, you can see an amazing variety of wild animals. Prairie dogs, coyotes, deer, beavers and even an occasional moose! Bird watchers can observe many water birds including white pelicans, great blue herons, western grebes, cormorants,gulls, Canada goose and mallard ducks. One of the park's most famous residents for over 20 years is a pair of nesting bald eagles. During the summer, they can be seen fishing in the lake. During the winter, when the lake freezes over, they can be seen hunting on the ice. Some of the other birds of prey, or raptors, seen at the park include great horned owls, Swainson's hawks, prairie falcons and red-tailed hawks.

Though it looks like a park, Standley Lake is one of the jewels in Westminster’s water infrastructure. Being able to maintain high water quality and adequate water storage has allowed Westminster to maximize its ability to get the most out of the water rights the city owns.

(Photo Courtesy Rachel Algra)

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