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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 permitting between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 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 it 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 landscaping irrigation in progressive stages. Stage triggers are determined by an internal Drought Action Team which meets regularly to monitor supply and demand. Mitigation efforts, such pursing 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 impacting customers.


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

Aurora Water Reservoir Summary – Nov. 25, 2021
Storage
Active Capacity (a.f.)
Current Content (a.f.)
% full
Aurora Reservoir
31,064 27,171 87%
Quincy Reservoir
2,693 2,211 82%
Jefferson Lake
2,313 1,121 48%
Aurora Rampart Reservoir
1,238 1,095 88%
Spinney Mountain Reservoir
53,651 31,494 59%
Shared Storage* 65,452 38,998 60%
 Total 156,411 102,039 65%
   
 * 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

2021 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 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. from May 1 to September 30.

Do you anticipate declaring a Stage 1 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.

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 at aurorawater.org, 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 City Scene 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 it 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 on golf courses more than three days a week?

The Parks Recreation and Open Space Department – 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, cannot water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. unless they are installing new sod or seed. The Parks, Recreation & Open Space Department (PROS) takes conservation seriously, so many of the parks and golf courses are watered with reclaimed water, wastewater that is partially treated so that it 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. Reclaimed water is used at the following locations: Properties using reclaimed treated wastewater from Sand creek treatment plant: Del Mar Park Highline Park Bicentennial Park Central Facilities Alameda/225 Landscaping Aurora Sports Park Aurora Hills Golf Course Murphy Creek Golf Course AMC Campus In two other parks – Expo and Utah – the PROS department 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. The PROS department 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 otherwise be used for irrigation.

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

Yes, though if you can delay installation until the cooler weather comes, you 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.

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 Neighborhood Services team 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, 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 is provided by Aurora Water that includes permit details. This sign must be displayed during sees and sod establishment. Permits are also required before installing an automatic sprinkler system. If you see a property that is watering outside of two days a week schedule or between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and they do not have this permit sign, please 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, giving us a buffer during many droughts, but no system can protect us completely when conditions are extreme.

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 will be exempt the drought surcharges.

Are there any other restrictions besides not watering during the day or more than two 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?

Our Water Conservation team 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 more low-water landscape. Visit AuroraWater.org to learn more about all of our conservation programs.

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