Golden will not dry up this summer, even if it is another long and hot season.
Those were the comforting word from the city’s Public Works Director Dan Hartman at City Council’s March 21 meeting.
The city’s three reservoirs (located in Clear Creek County) reached 100-percent capacity in early March. That, combined with spring and summertime water rights, should be enough to meet the city’s water needs, even if the drought worsens.
Hartman warned that it was still looking like a dry year.
“We’re deep enough in the year, it’s hard to gain too much ground on precipitation levels,” Hartman said.
As of last week, statewide snowpack was only at 77 percent of average. Golden and the Clear Creek watershed are part of the South Platte basin, which is the deepest area in drought, with only 67 percent of average snowpack.
The dry winter has already led Denver Water, among other water providers, to impose early drought restrictions on their users.
City Council actually approved some short term water sales last month, taking advantage of a surplus of water resources.
There are several reasons for Golden’s comfortably wet condition. Hartman said 2000 was the city’s heaviest water use year. Since then, the repair of older, leaking city water lines and the city’s water conservation program, and the 1-percent growth cap have helped keep the city’s water use down. Golden represents only 1-percent of metro area water usage.
Golden’s status as one of the oldest founded cities in the state also helps. During the winter, Golden has first claim on Clear Creek water. During irrigation season, beginning this spring, that priority drops to fifth, which is where the city’s 2,900 acre-feet of water becomes important.
At least once a week, Water Resource officer Will Stambaugh makes the drive up I-70 to check on the reservoirs that serve the city. The largest of those, the Guanella Reservoir, sits just west of the town of Empire.
The reservoir, built 10 years ago, is unique in that an underground wall of bentonite slurry ensures that the groundwater around the reservoir can also be counted toward the city’s storage.
Stambaugh knows the reservoir well. He was in charge of manually checking the nine groundwater monitoring wells that first winter it was in operation. Checking each site five times a week, Stambaugh decided to try skis to get through the deep snow.
“I didn’t really know how to cross-country ski — I didn’t know how to stop, except by falling down,” Stambaugh said.
Nowadays much of the facility monitoring, including security video, is automated. Water levels can be checked from Golden.
Inside the spillway house at the reservoir, Stambaugh shows the gate controls that control exactly how much water is allowed to “spill” out. Last week, he let one-and-a-half acre feet of water out, to fulfill a water agreement with Clear Creek County.
“It’s not such a big deal in wet years,” Stambaugh said. “But in dry years, every drop in and every drop out is being closely watched by everybody.”
To learn more about the city’s water conservation program, go to the City of Golden website and search for “water conservation,” or attend the free Water Wise seminar from 6-8 p.m. April 18 at the Golden Community Center.