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Drought

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Water, essential for LIFE.

Water is a precious, limited resource in Colorado. Drought is a natural, reoccurring reality in our state. 

Drought happens when there is not enough water in our streams due to low precipitation.

The City of Westminster has a plan for drought. But we need your help.

Drought Icon - Drought Watch

Current Drought Stage:

Drought Watch

Drought Stages - Drought Watch

 

 

 

Westminster’s water supply in Standley Lake is below average and climate forecasts indicate prolonged dryness.

The city has issued a Drought Watch to protect our water supply and help prevent the need for future restrictions.

 

 

Let's work together! 


Limit watering your lawn to 3 days a week
 before 10 am and after 6 pm.

Save water and money by checking
 for indoor leaks.

 

The city will be doing its part to reduce water use at its parks and irrigated areas.

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Top 3 Ways 

to Prevent the Need for Future Restrictions

Limit watering your lawn to 3 days a week
 before 10 am and after 6 pm.
Adjust your sprinklers so that they're
watering your lawn and garden, and not the
street or sidewalk. 
Set it, but don't forget it! Whether you
have a manual or automatic system, adjust your
watering schedules throughout the season.

 

Questions? Drought@CityofWestminster.us 303-706-3009

The city offers 5 different FREE or discounted programs to help you save water outside. Over 600 people took advantage of these programs in 2020 saving 3 million gallons of water. Learn more and sign up today.
Adjust your sprinklers so that they’re watering your lawn and garden, and not the street or sidewalk. 

Water early in the morning (before 10:00) or later in the evening (after 6:00) when temperatures are cooler and evaporation is minimized.

Set it, but don’t forget it! Whether you have a manual or automatic system, be sure to adjust your watering schedules throughout the irrigation season. 

Adjust your mower to a higher setting. A taller lawn provides shade to the roots and helps retain soil moisture, so your lawn requires less water.

Inspect your overall irrigation system for leaks, broken lines or blockage in the lines. A well-maintained system will save you money, water, and time. 

Install an automatic-rain-shutoff device. This is an inexpensive device you can install on your irrigation system controller that tells it to shut off when a specified amount of rain has fallen. It protects your lawn (and your water bill) from accidental overwatering. An automatic rain shutoff typically costs under $200 to install, including labor. In many parts of the country, it can save enough water to pay for itself within the first season.

Update your irrigation system with a smart controller. A slightly larger investment ($300 to several thousand dollars) will buy you a weather-based irrigation controller capable of improving your watering efficiency by up to 40%. If your water bill has been large it will probably pay itself back within a couple of years.

Upgrade to water-efficient emitters. The past decade has seen growth of leaps and bounds in emitter technology. If your sprinkler heads, rotors, or drip irrigation emitters are more than a couple of years old, ask your local irrigation expert to inspect your system and recommend more efficient alternatives if appropriate

Water leaks can waste 10 to 15 gallons an hour causing your water bill to go up by $30 or more every month. 

Click here to learn how to detect and repair common indoor water leaks.

The Parks, Recreation and Libraries department recently converted over 20 acres of bluegrass to climate-appropriate grasses saving an estimated 15 million gallons of water every year. Another 20 acres will be converted by 2023.

The city recently installed a state-of-the-art central control irrigation system saving about five to ten percent of the city’s total water use.

Irrigation systems citywide will be updated over the next three years to be more efficient, saving an additional 20 million gallons of water a year. 

Implementing a tiered watering program partially so the most used parks stay in top condition while unused areas only receive natural precipitation with an estimated savings of 46 million gallons a year.  

To ensure water supplies are available for our customer’s most critical needs, water providers must anticipate and plan for drought. Westminster City Council approved an updated Drought Management Plan in April 2019. 

  • Drought Factors
    • We often look to Standley Lake to get a sense of the status of our water supply. However, there are many factors that impact this precious resource, including such things as snowpack, temperature and soil moisture. While we monitor all of these factors every day, they are watched even more closely during a drought. These factors influence the current condition of our water supply, but more importantly, they can help tell us what our water supply could look like in the coming months. This information informs what actions we should take to protect our critical water supplies. Positive planning and response can help to maintain the health, safety, economic vitality and quality of life in our community during a drought.
  • Snowpack
    • Westminster, like many communities along the Colorado Front Range, is dependent on snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains for its water supply. Westminster, along with Thornton, Northglenn and FRICO, fills Standley Lake with water from Clear Creek which originates as snow in the mountains. Studying the depth of snow in the mountains, and how much water that snow holds, is critical to understanding how much water may be available in the spring and summer when the snow melts.
    • You may have noticed, when you are shoveling your driveways and sidewalks, that snow can range from heavy and slushy to dry and fluffy. That sense of how much water makes up each snowfall is known as “Snow Water Equivalency” or “SWE.”
    • Remember that Standley Lake gets most of its water supply from Clear Creek. The mountains that contribute a majority of runoff to the Clear Creek basin can see their snowiest months in March and April. In Colorado, while early winter snow (November through January) typically has a lower SWE (less water) spring snows (March, April and May) often contain a higher water content or SWE (more water).This is why spring snow can represent an important portion of Westminster’s eventual annual water supply.
    • The city monitors the Clear Creek snowpack using two SNOTEL sites at Berthoud Pass and Loveland Basin. There are current 115 active SNOTEL sites throughout the mountains in Colorado. Each of these sites, including the two closely monitored by Westminster, are maintained by the federal government and provide daily updates on snow depth and snow water equivalency. City staff use this data to project how much water might be available during the spring snowmelt.
  • Soil Moisture & Sublimation
    • Snow is the main source of Westminster’s water supply. Before this water can be stored in Standley Lake, it must make a long journey from the mountains as snowmelt. This snowmelt makes its way to Clear Creek where it is then diverted to ditches that eventually make their way to Westminster and Standley Lake.
    • If temperatures have been unusually warm with below average precipitation in the fall and winter, the soils in the mountains and plains could be drier than normal. These dry soils will soak up a portion of the melting snow before it reaches Clear Creek. Dry soils (which reflects soil moisture demand) could make a major impact on Westminster’s water supply, even if the mountains were holding plenty of snow.
    • Having moisture in soils is important so less snow melt is soaked up by the ground. Wetter soils also ensure a healthier forest canopy, which in turn can help to reduce the risk of wild fire during the summer.
    • The city monitors soil moisture throughout the Clear Creek basin to help estimate how much of the snow in the mountains will be available in the spring and summer. Soil moisture is monitored by NOAA and other federal agencies who help to produce data and mapping information to help in this tracking effort.
    • While dry soils can certainly have an impact on the amount of snowmelt that reaches Standley Lake, warm temperatures and dry winds can also directly impact snowpack even before the runoff season. When warm, dry air hits the snowpack (think “chinook winds”), the frozen water evaporates, going directly from ice to vapor and bypassing the liquid phase entirely. This is called “sublimation,” and it can have a dramatic effect on eventual runoff levels that form a critical part of Westminster’s water supply each year.
    • Add dust on snow, or not as much of an issue for Berthoud/Loveland as it is for SW CO?
  • Climate Forecast
    • Looking at snowpack and soil moisture provides information on how much water may be available given current conditions. For water providers like Westminster, however, an equally important question revolves around forecasting conditions in the next month or six months out.
    • The National Weather Service provides forecasts ranging from one month to one year based upon global climate models they have developed using years of weather data. These forecasts provide information on how likely temperature and precipitation will be below, at or above average.
    • The city reviews these long-term forecasts in order to project the possible impact on snowpack and streamflow in the coming months. Localized predictions of temperature and precipitation also helps the city predict how much water customers may want to use during the summer months. Drier and hotter forecasts tend to correspond with decreased water supply but increased demand (outdoor water use).
  • Stream Flow
    • Measuring stream flow is one of the most important components of Westminster’s management of its water supply. Remember that Westminster, along with its partners in Standley Lake (Thornton, Northglenn and FRICO) fills Standley Lake with water diverted from Clear Creek. This water is diverted through various ditches that start in Golden and make their way to Westminster.
    • The city monitors stream flow at several locations throughout their system to know how much water is available in the stream and how much water can be diverted to Standley Lake. All of this data, in combination with the city’s portfolio of water rights, eventually determines how much water actually reaches Standley Lake.
    • Stream flow monitoring is accomplished through cooperative efforts between local municipalities, the USGS and Denver’s UDFCD (Urban Drainage and Flood Control District).The public can check out many of these stream flow monitoring stations, such as Clear Creek in Golden.
  • Water Demand
    • Westminster works very hard to know how much water supply may be available to store in Standley Lake. However, knowing how much water is available is just half the picture. The city also closely monitors water demands to understand how much water is being used by our customers. This allows the city to then predict how much water will be needed in the future.
    • The primary tool the city uses to monitor water consumption are water meters. Every customer who receives water from the city, be they single family customers or large office buildings, has a water meter that measures the water used at that property. Currently, Westminster has a total of about 33,300 meters that are billed every month. Historical meter data also allow the city to track consumption over multiple years to understand long term patterns.
    • By reviewing historical water consumption data from the different types of customers (residential home, office, restaurant, etc.) the city is able to build a model of demand that can be expected from each of these different water users. In addition, by understanding the climatic variables discussed earlier (including seasonal temperatures and precipitation forecasts) the city can work to predict outdoor water use demands.
    • By collating all of this water supply and demand information, the city can estimate how much water may be needed in any given month and on an annual basis, and what actions are needed to ensure a secure water supply for all customers into the future.