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Effective May 1, 2023
Aurora's water availability status will be Stage I

During Stage 1 watering is limited to no more than two assigned days per week, with no watering permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. These dates are based on the last digit of your address. To review your assigned days please visit our Watering Times page.

Have questions? Contact us at [email protected] or call the Water Conservation Hotline 303.739.7195.

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 outside 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.

Struggling on why Aurora has declared drought when other cities have not? Here's a great story from the Denver Gazette.

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 – June 6, 2023
Active Capacity (a.f.)
Current Content (a.f.)
% full
Aurora Reservoir
31,064 31,064 100%
Quincy Reservoir
2,693 2,679 99%
Jefferson Lake
2,313 1,138 49%
Aurora Rampart Reservoir 1,238  1,095 88%
Spinney Mountain Reservoir
53,651 40,625 76%
Shared Storage* 65,452 29,490 45%
 Total 156,411 106,105 68%
 * 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

Storage is very low

This tells a story in images. Colorado on the whole is doing great for snow, but where Aurora gets its water from is not seeing this benefit. Remember, our storage was at 53% of capacity in April, which doesn't give us much buffer to meet the city's water needs into the future.

Snowpack peaked in mid-April and is now declining. These images reflect that peak.

Statewide Snowpack
April 13, 2023
South Platte Basin
Aurora gets 50% of our water from this basin
Statewide Snowpack S. Platte basin
Subbasins within the South Platte Basin
 Headwaters Subbasin of the South Platte
Aurora's S. Platte water rights are mostly from here
 S. Platte subbasins  Headwaters Subbasin of S. Platte

Drought and...

Drought FAQ

What does Stage 1 Drought mean?

Aurora’s Water Management Plan outlines several drought stages and, based on water supply and forecasts, it prescribes various steps that should be taken to reduce water usage. By proactively implementing progressive restrictions, we can hopefully avoid more drastic measures.

During Stage 1 watering is limited to no more than two assigned days per week, with no watering permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. These dates are based on the last digit of your address. To review your assigned days please visit our Watering Times page.

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.

The media is reporting that there is plenty of snow in mountains. How can Aurora's reservoirs be so low?

Aurora’s system is based on renewable surface water and responsible resource management
Snowpack: Aurora has a diverse water system, based on surface water from snowpack and runoff as a renewable supply. Our water comes from three distinct river basins, with 25% coming from the Colorado River, 25% from the Arkansas River and the remaining 50% originating in the South Platte River, mostly from upper reaches in Park County.

Storage: Throughout these three basins, Aurora stores water across twelve reservoirs, using a complex system of tunnels, pipelines, pump stations and even the rivers themselves to move water from our high-altitude system to the city. Storage provides multiple benefits. It helps us manage the water we collect from snow runoff, which comes between April and June. Storage also allows us to reduce risk from prolonged drought, like the one the arid west has been facing since 2000. By storing water during better years, we can help backfill our needs during dryer years.

Demand Management: Our goal for water supply is to be able to meet the city’s water needs over a 30-to-36-month period. When our storage and other resources, including our Prairie Waters potable reuse system, are not able to meet that goal, we look to managing the city’s demands to preserve our supply to protect Aurora from continued drought. Aurora has always taken a very conservative approach to water risk, driven by our experiences with extreme droughts in the early 1950s and again in the early 2000s.

Current conditions for Aurora’s water supply are poor
Snowpack: Anyone following the local media’s coverage on snow conditions and drought would be left with the impression that this will be a great year for water in Aurora. What’s lost in the context is that snowpack conditions are very local and the “average” comparisons being made by media outlets do not translate to “great” conditions in most cases. One area of Colorado can be getting spectacular snow, while just a mountain range over, the snowpack can be well below average.

Storage: The current combined content of Aurora’s twelve reservoirs is at 53% of capacity. Denver’s reservoirs, by comparison, are at 80% of capacity. Runoff typically begins between mid-to-late April, so we won’t see significant benefit from the current snowpack until then.

Demand Management: Acting on a recommendation from staff based on current system conditions, City Council adopted a Stage 1 drought declaration on February 13, 2022. The Stage 1 declaration reduces outdoor automated spray irrigation to 2 days per week (down from three).

When it comes to snowpack and reservoir storage levels in Colorado, everything is local
So, if Aurora’s reservoirs are low, why doesn’t the great snowpack statewide help us in recovering to satisfactory levels? It has to do with where it’s snowing. Just as in real estate, it’s all “location, location, location.” The statewide report on the evening news is based on 114 snow measurement stations across seven Colorado river basins, called ”SNOTEL” sites. Aurora uses a small subset of these sites to monitor our areas of diversions, which are defined by our water rights and their associated water court decrees in three of Colorado’s river basins. This narrower group that Aurora relies on is only 16 of these SNOTEL sites since they more directly reflect our water system. For example, in the South Platte River basin, where we get 50% of our mountain supply, there are 20 SNOTEL measurement sites across the entire basin, yet only four of these sites report on the areas Aurora gets its water from. In the Upper Colorado River basin, there are 31 SNOTEL sites, with only seven of these sites reporting on Aurora’s areas of diversion. And in the Arkansas River basin, Aurora is only impacted by five of the eleven sites. So you can see how having huge snowstorm in Steamboat Springs or Wolf Creek Pass, both noted ski areas, would boost the statewide reports, but not impact the areas Aurora needs snow.

How can the statewide snowpack be so high, yet Aurora's numbers are so low?

It's location, location, location. Here's an example. Aurora gets 50% of its water from the headwater area or subbasin of the S. Platte River basin. The snowpack for the whole basin is currently at 107% of average - good, but not great (think of average as "C" when grading on a curve). But in the headwaters subbasin, that snowpack is only at 79% of average. the better snow is in the northern subbasins.

What is a drought surcharge and how much is it?

Stage I drought also results in surcharges of $1.95 per thousand gallons on top of the existing water rates, beginning in tier II for residential customers and for usage above 110% of the winter quarter average for commercial and multifamily customers. The winter quarter average represents your indoor use in December, January and February and is used to calculate your sewer charges. You can find your winter quarter average on your water bill under "Sewer Usage Chg."

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, 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?

Now would be a great time to replace your lawn with a low water-use water-wise landscape, but you don’t need to stop watering if you have functional, healthy turf. Adhere to the requirements of the current drought stage. We recommend following the guidance on our Watering Times page. During the hottest months of the summer, your lawn can go dormant (not dead). Check out this article for tips on letting your grass go dormant. Enter dormancy article link here. If you're tired of mowing or have grass you never use, consider our Grass Replacement Incentive Program and let us help you turn that thirsty lawn into a beautiful water-wise landscape. 

If residents can’t water more than two days a week, why do I see sprinklers running in the parks and golf courses more than two 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 need less water to get established. 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. 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. Permits are good for 20 days when irrigating new sod and 30 days for seed. If you see a neighbor watering every day or during the day after their permit has expired, please contact us at 303.739.7195 or let us know using the Access Aurora app.

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. Watering of any turf lawn must adhere to the drought stage watering times regardless of whether you water by hand or use an automated sprinkler system.

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 explain how droughts and watering restrictions affect lawns.

Stage 1 drought requires all types of properties to reduce their watering days to twice per week. Per Aurora city code, homeowner's associations cannot penalize residents for yellowing turf lawns because of watering restrictions. 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.

I have a tree in my yard. Do I have to water it differently?

Visit our Parks Recreation and Open Space Department's Forestry page for more information on how to take care of your tree(s).

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, additional usage charges on top of the current water rates, in stages I through III. Surcharges incentivize water savings and help us cover our operational costs and provide revenue for leasing water to allow our reservoirs to recover and help us prevent future water shortages. In 2021, Aurora Water created a new rate tier for residential customers that recognizes indoor water use necessary for life, safety and health needs. The first 5,000 gallons of monthly use are exempt from the drought surcharges. 

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

How is the water wasting ordinance enforced?

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 and is always our first step. Aurora Water staff patrol the city to identify and witness water wasting. We also receive messages from community members that we investigate and verify before considering enforcement actions.

Aurora Water will issue penalties for water wasting violations if needed. First violations carry a penalty of $125, which is added onto the residential customer’s water bill. Multifamily, commercial and irrigation accounts are penalized $250 for the first violation. Subsequent violations increase.

How much water should I be using?

Generally, for indoor water usage, you should expect to use 1,200-1,500 gallons per month for each person in the house. 

What else can I do to conserve water and can I get help?

Water Conservation offers a host of free programs to help reduce water use at any Aurora property.  
If you're with a homeowners' association or multifamily property, we can also help you conduct outreach to your residents. We have conservation resources tailored especially to you.

Visit Water Conservation for details on all our conservation programs.

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.

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