Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry signed a Declaration and Order for a voluntary Water Shortage Watch pursuant to Fort Collins City Code Section 26-167(a) and the Water Shortage Action Plan (WSAP). The Water Shortage Watch and corresponding voluntary water restrictions (water-saving actions) went into effect Thursday, April 29 for Fort Collins Utilities water customers.
The Water Shortage Watch has been enacted due to possible limitations on Utilities’ ability to treat Cache la Poudre River supplies following the Cameron Peak Fire. Runoff and thunderstorms may cause sediment and ash from the burn area to flow into the river. This erosion, in addition to irrigation demands during what is projected to be a hot and dry summer, has the potential to create a water shortage.
Upon determination that a watch is no longer needed or that conditions have worsened, the city manager will publish another Declaration and Order, either declaring the end of the watch or indicating the need for mandatory water restrictions following guidelines identified in the WSAP. For more information on the WSAP, visit fcgov.com/WSAP.
A Water Shortage Watch is a voluntary action level in the WSAP, used when our community is experiencing conditions that may lead to a water shortage. During a watch, all Fort Collins Utilities residential and business customers are encouraged to voluntarily reduce water use based on best practices for efficient outdoor and indoor water use. There are no water rate increases or citations associated with a watch.
The voluntary water-saving actions implemented during a Water Shortage Watch follow measures under WSAP Action Level I, including limiting lawn watering to two days a week, no watering between 10 a.m. and 6 ppm, and using a shutoff nozzle on hoses, including while hand watering and washing vehicles at home.
The Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history, burned more than 200,000 acres in 2020. Much of the burn area is within the Poudre River watershed, with extensive burn areas adjacent to source water infrastructure for Utilities and surrounding communities, including Chambers Lake, and a portion of Utilities’ drinking watershed.
Typically, Utilities receives about 50% of its water from Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Horsetooth Reservoir and 50% from the Poudre River. Utilities anticipates intermittent and temporary timeframes when Poudre River water supplies will be untreatable due to ash and sediment impacts and treated water will be supplied mainly from Horsetooth Reservoir.
Utilities is committed to providing safe and reliable water to residential and commercial customers. Treated water will continue to meet or exceed standards established under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Early-warning water quality alert systems are in place on the Poudre River to ensure that changes in water quality are detected and ash and sediment-laden water can be effectively bypassed at the Poudre River supply intake until conditions improve. These alert systems allow operational flexibility and enhanced protection of drinking water supplies.
The impacts to the watershed and river quality are expected to be long-term. Utilities is coordinating with several organizations and other water providers to establish common priorities, plans and projects for post-wildfire watershed restoration and recovery.
Depending on the water quality conditions and the severity of the impacts from the wildfires, Utilities will continue looking to the community for help reducing water use when necessary. Stay updated on the status of Utilities’ water quality and resources by visiting fcgov.com/water-status, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 970-416-8040 or V/TDD 711. For a full list of voluntary measures, visit fcgov.com/water-restrictions.