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Drought impacts are still unknown for Broomfield

But the impacts of a dry summer and fall won’t become clear for a while, said Peter Goble, service climatologist and drought specialist with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. 
Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Broomfield was among a handful of Colorado counties classified as being in extreme drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor this month, but how that will impact the city and county moving forward is still up in the air. 

Extreme drought is the fourth of five drought classifications on the monitor, with possible impacts including worsening pasture conditions, large fires developing, low reservoirs and water restrictions. 

But the impacts of a dry summer and fall won’t become clear for a while, said Peter Goble, service climatologist and drought specialist with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. 

“The impacts are going to depend on the next few months because Colorado’s drought impacts tend to be very seasonal,” Goble said. “We see the most impact in the warm season.” 

One of the reasons the drought monitor was ramped up as quickly as it has been is because of impacts on agriculture, Goble said, which might not be what the average Broomfield resident thinks about. Crops planted later in the year suffered from the dry summer, and winter wheat struggled during a dry fall. 

“One reason metro-area residents may not experience impacts imminently is because those water supplies (from Denver Water or the Colorado-Big Thompson Project) have been well managed,” Goble said. 

“If you look at the last two to four years of data we certainly have long-term drought as well as short-term drought, so the fact that the precipitation has been as low as it has been and those are still storing normal … you have to tip your cap to how our water supplies have been managed,” he continued. 

The city and county of Broomfield is supplied with treated water from Denver Water and raw water from Northern Water’s Colorado-Big Thompson Project and Windy Gap system.

Broomfield staff closely monitor water supply conditions, Director of Public Works Kimberly Dall said in a statement. 

The city and county are currently in “Drought Watch,” which aims to reduce water use through voluntary reductions like limiting outside water use, reducing lawn watering and not using a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. 

Broomfield can declare a drought emergency if it’s necessary to put mandatory water conservation measures in place “for the preservation of public property, health, peace and safety of the public,” according to the city’s website. 

“Water supply projections and hydrologic conditions are significant components in deciding when a drought response is needed. The amount of the water supply shortage contributes to the severity of drought declared and the necessary level of response from the community,” Dall said in a statement. 

Broomfield’s drought response is based on reservoir storage levels from its providers, and should those be projected to fall, the municipality may put water restrictions in place. 

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project is currently above its average storage levels for this date, said Jeff Stahla, spokesperson for Northern Water. 

“What that means is going into 2022, with a combination of efficient water use and some of the storage we’ve been able to maintain, we feel confident that we’re ready for this year and will be able to meet the challenge,” Stahla said. 

Stahla noted that Colorado’s annual highs and lows for precipitation can seem out of sync with the averages. 

“In Colorado, you’re often either going into or coming out of a drought,” Stahla said, and effective water management can help smooth out the roller coaster ride of precipitation. 

Northern Water’s Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which is currently being constructed in Larimer County, will bring additional resiliency to Broomfield’s water supply, Stahla said. 

Water conservation efforts in Broomfield are ongoing, Dall said. 

The city and county worked with nonprofit Resource Central in 2021 to provide residents with water conservation education, like the Garden in a Box program that teaches water efficient landscaping through DIY professional garden kits and Slow the Flow, which educated community members on irrigation and managing water needs. 

Broomfield distributed nearly 150 Garden in a Box kits that converted 10,000 square feet to xeriscape gardens, saving an estimated 800,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the gardens, according to Dall. 

Broomfield also processed more than 570 rebates for high-efficiency toilets and other water-saving equipment this year, and Park Services reduced water usage by 10% through reducing irrigation hours and reducing watering when it rains. 

The city and county will expand water efficiency programs in 2022, including through a lawn replacement program to help residents replace “water-intensive turf,” saving 3,000-6,000 gallons of water per participant. 

“During this time of Drought Watch, all water conservation measures implemented are appreciated,” Dahl said in a statement. “A little effort can make a big difference in conserving this valuable resource.”