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Water Restrictions

Mandatory outdoor water restrictions on lawn watering and other outdoor water uses will go into effect Thursday, Oct. 1.

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Water Restrictions FAQs

What are water restrictions?

Water restrictions are measures used to reduce water use. Fort Collins Utilities’ Water Shortage Action Plan (WSAP) establishes conditions and restrictions to manage our water supply in the event of projected water shortages as established by City Code Section 26-167(a). The WSAP includes a comprehensive list of tactics and restrictions to be implemented in the event of a water shortage, as declared by the city manager. According to the WSAP, there are four action levels for water restrictions.

Learn More about the WSAP

Why are we under water restrictions?

Water restrictions have been enacted to avoid a water shortage due to the ongoing drought conditions, the Cameron Peak fire and the infrastructure repairs known as the Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP).

Typically, Utilities receives about 50% of its water from Colorado-Big Thompson shares via Horsetooth Reservoir and 50% from the Cache la Poudre River. During HOP, Utilities will have limited access to water supplies in Horsetooth and will rely more heavily on the Poudre River.

If conditions during HOP – like continued drought or poor water quality due to the Cameron Peak Fire – prevent or limit the ability to deliver water from the Poudre River, a temporary backup pump system will convey water from a different Horsetooth Reservoir outlet to the Utilities Water Treatment Facility. The capacity of this backup system is expected to supply only average Utilities winter water demands, which does not include irrigation or other seasonal outdoor uses.

If water demand levels have not decreased to typical winter levels and the backup system is used, there will likely be a water shortage. Outdoor water use restrictions will proactively increase Utilities’ ability to deliver full water demand if the limited-capacity backup pump system is needed before overall demand decreases to typical winter levels.

What uses are restricted?

Under the current action level IV alternative outdoor water use restrictions, lawn watering is not allowed beginning Oct. 1. Trees, gardens for food production and other landscapes may be watered by hand or drip systems. There are also restrictions on vehicle washing, power washing and street sweeping, among others. Click below for a full list of restrictions. 

View List of Water Restrictions

What is our current water demand?

Utilities' overall water use during the winter months is approximately two-thirds lower than summer use. Typical winter water use is about 13-15 million gallons per day (MGD) and summer use ranges from 35-40 MGD. On average, a Fort Collins household uses about 425 gallons during a summer day and only 125 gallons on a winter day.

View Current Demand Status

Are there any exceptions to the restrictions?

Exceptions to the lawn watering restrictions will be made for athletic/active fields for health and safety purposes and new lawn installations. Customers can apply for exception permits in these cases.

Raw (untreated) and well water are not affected by the Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) and the water use restrictions do not apply. Raw water does not affect treated water needed during HOP and, in many cases, is privately owned water not regulated by Fort Collins Utilities. Examples of raw water irrigators include City parks, golf courses, cemeteries, the Gardens on Spring Creek, Colorado State University, schools and some homeowner associations. Raw water users need to register online.

Exception Permits and Raw Water Registration

Can I blowout my sprinkler system?

Yes. Sprinkler blowouts are allowed. Minimize test runs if performing any other sprinkler maintenance.  

What does action level IV mean?

Action level IV alternative water restrictions are reserved for unique water shortages that are not adequately addressed by the other action levels defined in the Water Shortage Action Plan.  

Learn More About Action Level IV

Why are parks, cemeteries and golf courses still watering active areas?

Many of these properties are watered with raw (untreated) water. Raw and well water are not affected by the Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) and the water use restrictions do not apply. Water restrictions are in place for a combination of reasons, one of which is the need to reduce treated water demand in the event limited-quantity backup pumps are needed during HOP. In many cases, raw water is privately owned water not regulated by Fort Collins Utilities.

The Parks Department will continue to water parks, golf courses and cemeteries with raw water to protect the green infrastructure in the parks system, as these are valuable public assets. Promoting the growth of the turf prevents it from deteriorating from overuse.

Other examples of raw water irrigators include the Gardens on Spring Creek, Colorado State University, schools and some homeowner associations. Raw water users need to register online and display yard signs in a visible area.

Additional exceptions to the water restrictions may be made for active/athletic fields for health and safety reasons. Anyone with an exception is required to display a yard sign in a visible location.

Programming at sites with potable (treated) water has been intentionally restricted, with exceptions being obtained for continued watering of sports fields at select locations. If watering does not continue in some capacity on sites that are still being used by the public, the cost and resource needs for future restoration efforts could become unmanageable.

While these areas are permitted to continue watering, Parks is working together with Utilities to save water wherever possible.

What is raw (untreated) water?

Raw water is water that has not been treated to remove bacteria, parasites, minerals or particles. Raw water is non-potable, which means it should not be used for drinking. In Fort Collins, raw water may be used for non-potable uses, such as irrigation or fire protection. Raw and well water are not affected by the Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) and the water use restrictions do not apply. Raw water users must register at fcgov.com/water-permits and display yard signs.

Who uses raw water?

Fort Collins Utilities diverts about 3,000 to 4,000 acre-feet of raw water to irrigate City parks, golf courses, cemeteries, the Gardens at Spring Creek, greenbelt areas and some school grounds. Other private raw water irrigators include Colorado State University and some schools and homeowner associations that are not regulated by Utilities. Raw water users must register at fcgov.com/water-permits and display yard signs.

Why isn't raw water restricted?

Raw and well water are not affected by the Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) and the water use restrictions do not apply. Water restrictions are in place for a combination of reasons, one of which is the need to reduce treated water demand in the event limited-quantity backup pumps are needed during HOP.

During HOP, Utilities will have limited access to water supplies in Horsetooth and will rely more heavily on the Poudre River.

If conditions during HOP – like continued drought or poor water quality due to the Cameron Peak Fire – prevent or limit the ability to deliver water from the Poudre River, a temporary backup pump system will convey water from a different Horsetooth Reservoir outlet to the Utilities Water Treatment Facility. The capacity of this backup system is expected to supply only average Utilities winter water demands, which does not include irrigation or other seasonal outdoor uses.

If water demand levels have not decreased to typical winter levels and the backup system is used, there will likely be a water shortage. Outdoor water use restrictions will proactively increase Utilities’ ability to deliver full water demand if the limited-capacity backup pump system is needed before overall demand decreases to typical winter levels.

Raw water users must register at fcgov.com/water-permits and display yard signs.

What will happen to my lawn if I don’t water in October?

We typically have cooler temperatures, more precipitation and first frosts in October. The majority of residents stop watering and blow out their irrigation systems by the middle of the month. With cooler temperatures and shorter days, lawns begin to go dormant and even without additional irrigation during what may be a hotter and drier fall, they should return green in the spring.

Prior to Oct. 1, check out our daily Lawn Watering Guide (available from May to October) designed to help you determine the right amount of water for your lawn and for how many minutes you should water.

What will happen if I don’t water my trees in October?

Water trees and shrubs deeply prior to Oct. 1. If you have new landscape, you can hand water or use drip irrigation or deep root fork during the restriction period.

Check out these fall and winter tree water schedules. Typically, it's recommended to water all trees 1-2 times per month but only when temperatures are above 40 degrees and there is no snow cover on the ground. The amount of water needed depends on the tree's diameter.

How can I track my water use?

You can track your water use and get leak alerts using the MyWater portal at fcgov.com/mywater. It’s free and quick.