Fort Collins concerned about Poudre River water supply

The city of Fort Collins may not draw from its supply of Cache la Poudre River water this year because of contamination problems created by runoff from the High Park Fire.

“Because of water quality reasons … we may not be able to use the water even when it’s there,” Brian Janonis, executive director of the city’s utility, told the City Council this week.

The city draws about half of its water from the Poudre River, which filled with debris and soot following last year’s devastating High Park Fire. Officials are concerned that rainstorms and snowmelt this spring and summer could wash more debris into the river, clogging infrastructure meant to carry water and harming water quality.

The city did not use water from the Poudre River for three months last year. How long it may avoid the water this year depends on the intensity of rain storms as well as the amount of snowpack in the South Platte River Basin and how quickly it melts, said Laurie D’Audney, the city’s water conservation specialist.

“We really can’t predict, which is part of the uncertainty that we’re facing,” she said.

Also facing a drought showing no signs of letting up, the city likely will enact Level 1 water restrictions April 1, Janonis said.

Level 1 restrictions allow watering only two days per week and on schedule. The restrictions bar watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and prohibit watering of surfaces such as sidewalks and patios except as necessary for health and safety.

The city, for its part, would shut off fountains in parks as part of the restrictions.

“I think that’s one of the things the public needs to be aware of when the kids go to the park and there’s no water,” Mayor Karen Weitkunat said.

The minimum fine for violating the city’s Level 1 water restrictions law is $250, with a maximum penalty of $1,000.

Level 1 restrictions would not affect water rates, but increased restrictions considered by the city if the situation deteriorates call for higher rates.

The city would decide whether to go forward with increased restrictions after the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District decides how much Colorado-Big Thompson Project water the city can use.

The last time the city passed water restrictions was 2003.

COMING UP: For more on water-use restrictions as well as the drought’s impact on farmers in Northern Colorado, see the upcoming issue of the Northern Colorado Business Report, in print and online at Friday.


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