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Drought

Colorado has experienced lower-than-normal precipitation since 2020. Aurora Water is carefully monitoring both our water mountain water supply and our in-town demands. This page will be updated regularly to help keep our customers informed.


Aurora's water availability status is NORMAL.

Under Normal status, watering is permitted no more than three days per week. From May 1 to September 30, watering is not permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Aurora and Drought

Colorado has a semi-arid environment and is a drought-prone state. The Front Range receives approximately 15 inches of precipitation in the form of rain and snow on an annual basis, which is insufficient moisture to meet the needs for most non-native landscapes without supplemental irrigation. During water shortages, water must be prioritized to meet potable needs for life, safety and health.

Aurora Water has a Water Management Plan that was approved by city council and provides triggers and mitigation stages to allow for the reduction of water demands. These reductions are limited to outdoor water use, primarily by restricting the number of days permitted for watering landscape in progressive stages. Stage triggers are determined by an internal Drought Action Team that meets regularly to monitor supply and demand. Mitigation efforts – such as pursuing water leases from other water entities and constraining or interrupting leases from Aurora Water to outside entities – are fully vetted, as are operational changes that may yield additional potable water without significantly affecting customers.


Aurora stores water in 12 reservoirs across three river basins. Our goal is to maintain more than 30 months of water demands in storage to help buffer us from Colorado's drought cycles.

Aurora Water Reservoir Summary – Oct. 2, 2022
Storage
Active Capacity (a.f.)
Current Content (a.f.)
% full
Aurora Reservoir
31,064 23,818 77%
Quincy Reservoir
2,693 2,286 85%
Jefferson Lake
2,313 1,308 57%
Aurora Rampart Reservoir
1,238 1,101 89%
Spinney Mountain Reservoir
53,651 33,489 62%
Shared Storage* 65,452 37,049 57%
 Total 156,411 99,051 63%
   
 * Aurora is in many reservoirs across Colorado. Since we move our water to meet many needs, this number represents Aurora’s water in these other reservoirs at this time. All numbers in this report should be considered to be an estimate or projection. Included in shared storage is Aurora's share in Homestake Reservoir, Turquoise Lake, Twin Lakes Reservoir, Pueblo Reservoir, Strontia Springs Reservoir and Lakes Meredith and Henry

Aurora is situated in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. All three of these counties are currently in moderate or severe drought.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Drought FAQ

What does Normal Stage mean?

Aurora’s Water Management Plan outlines several drought stages and, based on water supply and forecasts, it outlines various steps that should be taken to reduce water usage. By proactively implementing progressive restrictions, we can hopefully avoid more drastic measures. Normal is in effect when our water supply is sufficient to meet 30 months or more of anticipated demands. Watering is limited to no more than three days per week, with no water permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 1 to Sept. 30.

Do you anticipate declaring a Stage I drought?

Aurora Water, like many other municipalities in the region, relies heavily on snowmelt. Weather has been unusually dry and warm for the past year, and snowfall in the mountains has been far below average. That means our mountain reservoirs – which capture the snowmelt – are much lower than usual, and we are concerned about maintaining our water supply. We are carefully monitoring the situation and if our water supply cannot meet 30 months or greater of anticipated demands, we may ask City Council to declare a Stage I drought.

What is the watering schedule during Normal?

Outdoor watering is allowed no more than three days a week, which you can chose to best fit your needs. Watering is prohibited from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May 1 to Sept. 30. 

How will water customers be notified of drought stages?

Aurora Water will notify customers by mail of the drought stage change and will provide information on any watering restrictions that might be in place. Updates will also be provided on our website, Aurora’s Water social media channels (Twitter @AuroraWaterCO, Facebook @AuroraWater and NextDoor.com), the city’s News Aurora newsletter that accompanies the water bill and This is Aurora email newsletter. Customers can call 303.739.7195 for additional information.

Since we’re in a drought, should I just stop watering my lawn?

No. It’s better to maintain your grass than to let it completely die. You shouldn’t, however, expect or try to keep it in pristine condition during a drought. 

If residents can’t water more than three days a week, why do I see sprinklers running in the parks and golf courses more than three days a week?

The Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department (PROS), which includes the Golf Division, has been given a water consumption allocation, and they too are being efficient in their water use. Because of the large amount of landscape that must be watered, in certain situations there is no way – and not enough water pressure – for them to water everything on a limited schedule. They must stay within their water allocation, and cannot water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., unless they are installing new sod or seed.

PROS takes conservation seriously, so many of the parks and golf courses are watered with reclaimed water, which is partially treated wastewater that can be used for irrigation but not for drinking. Although it’s not possible for residents and businesses to use reclaimed water for irrigation because the infrastructure isn’t in place, the PROS Department’s use of reclaimed water helps preserve the city’s water supply, which is critical, especially in drought years.

Properties using reclaimed treated wastewater from Sand Creek treatment plant: Del Mar Park, Highline Park, Bicentennial Park,  Central Facilities, Alameda/I-225 interchange landscaping, Aurora Sports Park, Aurora Hills Golf Course, Murphy Creek Golf Course, and Aurora Municipal Center.

In two other parks, Expo and Utah,  PROS uses some fully treated water to irrigate the parks, but they also use what is called return flows. When residents and businesses water their lawns, the runoff eventually makes it back to streams near those parks. PROS pulls that water out of the stream and uses it again to help water those two parks. It extends the use of the water, and again, minimizes the amount of fully treated drinking water that would be used for irrigation.

I recently bought a newly constructed home. Can I install landscaping this summer?

Yes, though if you delay installation until the weather is cooler,  your landscape will be healthier. Hot and dry conditions are the worst time to establish new plant material. In order to install new sod, seed or an automatic sprinkler system, you must obtain a Lawn and Irrigation Permit. Call 303.739.7351 for additional information.

Can I hand water?

You may water flowers, shrubs, trees and vegetables as long as you use a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle. Please remember to water your trees once a month.

I live in a covenant-controlled neighborhood that requires me to keep my lawn green. What should I do?

Aurora Water and the city’s Department of Housing and Community Services have been contacting homeowners’ associations to ensure they understand how droughts and watering restrictions affect lawns. While city code requires you to keep your lawn heathy, mowed and weed-free, maintaining a lush lawn in a semi-arid environment is an unreasonable expectation. If you are facing penalties from your homeowner’s association because your lawn is not green enough, call the Neighborhood Support Division at 303.739.7280.

My neighbors put in new sod and they’ve been watering every day. Are they supposed to do that?

Any time someone wants to install new seed or sod, they must obtain a Lawn and Irrigation Permit. Once they do, they are allowed to water as needed and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. A sign provided by Aurora Water includes permit details. This sign must be displayed during seed and sod establishment. Permits are also required before installing an automatic sprinkler system. If you see a property that is watering more than three days a week or between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and they do not have this permit sign, call the Aurora Water Conservation Hotline at 303.739.7195.

Wasn’t Prairie Waters built to protect us from droughts like this?

Prairie Waters, which reuses our water rights by recapturing them from the South Platte, helps us fully utilize our mountain water. This helps us better manage our water supply and provides a buffer during extended droughts. No system, however, can protect us completely during extreme conditions.

Don’t you just declare a drought so you can raise our rates?

Our rate structure is designed with conservation in mind, so customers who use less pay lower rates. We do use drought surcharges in stages I thought III to incentivize water savings and help us cover our operational costs. Drought surcharges, however, are not in effect during Normal conditions. In 2021, Aurora Water created a new rate tier for residential customers that recognizes indoor water use necessary for life, safety and heath needs. The first 5,000 gallons of monthly use are exempt from the drought surcharges.

Are there any other restrictions besides not watering during the day or more than three days a week?

As always, our city ordinances are written with conservation in mind. They prohibit water wasting, which includes watering so much that it pools; watering onto sidewalks, driveways or streets; failure to repair a leaking irrigation system or letting water run unrestricted from the hose.

How do I report a watering violation?

You can call our Water Conservation Hotline at 303.739.7195 or file a report online using the Access Aurora app or at aurorawater.org.

Will you be more strictly enforcing the water wasting ordinances?

We have found that most residents want to do their part to conserve and, in most cases, are not intentionally wasting water. Providing information and alerting residents to a possible water wasting issue is far more effective. We do issue penalties for water wasting violations if needed. First violations carry a penalty of $250, which is added onto the residential customer’s water bill. Multifamily, commercial and irrigation accounts are penalized $500 for the first violation. Subsequent violations increase.

How much water should I be using?

Generally, for indoor water usage, you should expect to use 1,200-2,000 gallons for each person in the house. We can help you determine how much water you and your family should be using, both indoors and outdoors by enrolling in our “Know Your Flow” program. Learn more at AuroraGov.org/KnowYourFlow.

Is there anything I can do to conserve beyond following the restrictions?

Water Conservation offers a host of free programs that can help you reduce your water usage. Our indoor water assessments can help you detect leaks, monitor your water usage and check to see if your showerheads and faucets are high-efficiency models. We also provide outdoor water assessments to help check your automated sprinkler system. We also offer free classes on Water-wise landscapes – and free design consultations – to help you convert your grass into a low-water landscape. Visit the Water Conservation webpage to learn more about our programs.

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