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Water Shortage Watch FAQs#

What is the Water Shortage Action Plan (WSAP)?highlight_off

The WSAP includes a comprehensive list of tactics and restrictions for customers to implement in the event of a water shortage. The WSAP also includes definitions of shortage levels and guidelines for the City Manager to declare a shortage or restrictions.

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What is a Water Shortage Watch?highlight_off

A Water Shortage Watch is a voluntary action level in the WSAP when our community is experiencing conditions that may lead to a water shortage. During a watch, all Fort Collins Utilities residential and business water customers are encouraged to voluntarily reduce water use based on best practices for efficient outdoor and indoor water use.

What are water restrictions?highlight_off

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, in addition to voluntary water-saving actions under a Water Shortage Watch.

Learn More about the WSAP

Why are we under a Water Shortage Watch?highlight_off

The Water Shortage Watch has been enacted due to a potential limitation on Utilities’ ability to treat Cache la Poudre River supplies due to ongoing impacts from the Cameron Peak Fire and the potential for high demands during what is projected to be a hot and dry summer.

The Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history, burned more than 200,000 acres in 2020. Much of the burn area is within the Poudre River watershed, with extensive burn areas adjacent to source water infrastructure for Utilities and surrounding communities, including Chambers Lake, Joe Wright Reservoir, and the Michigan Ditch. As a result, water quality or intake structures may be impacted during times of spring run-off and other precipitation events in 2021.

Typically, Utilities receives about 50% of its water from Colorado-Big Thompson shares via Horsetooth Reservoir and 50% from the Poudre River. Utilities anticipates intermittent and temporary timeframes when Poudre River water supplies will be untreatable due to wildfire impacts and treated water will be supplied mainly from Horsetooth Reservoir.

Utilities is committed to providing safe and reliable water to residential and commercial customers. Treated water will continue to meet or exceed standards established under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Early warning water quality alert systems are in place on the Poudre River to ensure that changes in water quality are detected and ash and sediment-laden water can be effectively by-passed at the Poudre River supply intake until conditions improve. These alert systems allow operational flexibility and enhanced protection of drinking water supplies.

The impacts to the watershed and river quality are expected to be long-term. Utilities is coordinating with several organizations and other water providers to establish common priorities, plans and projects for post-wildfire watershed restoration and recovery.

Stay Updated on the Status of Our Water Supplies

When will the Water Shortage Watch end?highlight_off

Upon determination that a watch is no longer needed or that conditions have worsened, the city manager will declare the end of the watch or publish another order indicating the need for mandatory water restrictions following guidelines identified in the WSAP.

What uses are restricted?highlight_off

At this time, no water uses are restricted. During a Water Shortage Watch, all Fort Collins Utilities residential and business water customers are encouraged to voluntarily reduce water use based on best practices for efficient outdoor and indoor water use. 

By taking voluntary actions now to reduce water use, Fort Collins residents and businesses can actively help lower the chance that we may need mandatory water restrictions if conditions worsen.

Are there fines or rate increases under a Water Shortage Watch?highlight_off

There are no rate increases or fines associated with a Water Shortage Watch.

Are all water districts in and around Fort Collins impacted by the Water Shortage Watch?highlight_off

Only Fort Collins Utilities water customers are directly affected by the Water Shortage Watch. The East Larimer County, Fort Collins-Loveland and North Weld water districts use different water sources that were not impacted by the Cameron Peak Fire. Each water provider enacts water restrictions as they deem necessary. Customers should check with their own water provider for restriction status.

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What is the City doing to save water?highlight_off

The Water Shortage Watch applies to all customers who use treated water, including City departments and properties. The following are examples of the City’s planned actions in addition to efficient irrigation practices: 

  • Limiting fleet vehicle washing to as-needed only.
  • Limiting street sweeping to only normal operating schedules and essential sweeping.
  • Whenever possible, using non-water dust control measures, as defined by the City’s Dust Prevention and Control Manual.
  • Limiting hydrant flushing and testing to normal operating schedules and critical situations.
  • When possible, using (untreated) raw water to efficiently irrigate parks, athletic fields, golf courses, cemeteries, and other properties. Raw water may come from different sources that were not impacted by the Cameron Peak Fire.
What is raw (untreated) water?highlight_off

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. 

Who uses raw water?highlight_off

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. 

Is raw or well water impacted by the Water Shortage Watch?highlight_off

No. Fort Collins Utilities does not provide raw (untreated) and well water to customers. In many cases, raw/well water is privately owned water that cannot be regulated by Fort Collins Utilities.

Residents and businesses that use raw/well water are not affected by the Water Shortage Watch. We encourage these water users to follow water-saving best management practices and actions.

How can I track my water use?highlight_off

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

How much should I water my lawn?highlight_off

For lawn watering tips:

What does N, W, 1, 2, 3, 4 reference in the graphics?highlight_off

N = Normal Conditions

W = Water Shortage Watch

1 = WSAP Action Leve I

2 = WSAP Action Leve II

3 = WSAP Action Leve III

4 = WSAP Action Leve IV