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March - 2013 Edition: Some information may be out of date.

Drinking Water Quality Challenges and High Park Fire Impacts

June 9, 2012. Do you remember where you were? It was the first day of the High Park Fire, when lightning struck the area and ignited one of the state's most damaging wildfires. Much of the Cache la Poudre watershed, which provides about half of the City of Fort Collins' annual water supply through the Poudre River, was burned.

Charred soil and sediment remain, all of which can wash into the river and create water quality challenges. As spring approaches, Utilities staff will evaluate how much water to draw from the area to ensure water quality. The current drought situation could present additional challenges to our water supply, especially if we are unable to use water from the Poudre River due to fire-related issues.

Mitigation Efforts

At this time, we are not experiencing any water quality issues; however, we are preparing for expected increased sediment levels in the spring due to snowmelt, rain in burned areas and river flow changes. A new sedimentation basin is being designed for a pipeline that brings river water to the treatment facility that will help settle out the solids (sediment) before treatment. Staff currently is conducting extensive studies with consultants and will implement treatment process changes as needed.

A 4 percent rate increase, which went into effect January 1, will help cover construction costs, water treatment modifications and increased staffing to ensure drinking water quality.

Water Restrictions

In addition to the fire and uncertainty of the Poudre River water quality, our water supplies have been impacted by continued drought conditions and low snowpack. Beginning April 1, Level 1 water restrictions will begin. Lawn watering will be limited to two days per week and not allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Watering of flowers, trees, shrubs and gardens will not be restricted.

Lawn watering will be allowed as follows:

  • Even residential street addresses: Thursday and Sunday
  • Odd residential street addresses: Wednesday and Saturday
  • Commercial/businesses, multi-family and HOAs: Tuesday and Friday
  • No watering on Mondays (unless you have a special permit)
  • Special permits are available for new seed or sod, properties over four acres, medical hardships and religious objections
  • Well and raw water is not restricted but signs are required

Other restrictions include:

  • Car washing: shut-off nozzle and bucket required
  • Impervious surfaces: washing with water not allowed (e.g., driveways, sidewalks)

First violations will receive a written notice and information about the restrictions. Subsequent violations are subject to an official warning and citation, resulting in a minimum fine of $50 each ($250 for non-residential) and up to a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation.

For more information on water restrictions and conservation, visit