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Utilities

Water Supply Status#

We are committed to providing safe and reliable water to our residential and commercial customers. Utilities’ drinking water meets and consistently exceeds the standards established under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Our water supply comes from two primary sources:

  1. The Cache la Poudre River
  2. Horsetooth Reservoir via the Colorado-Big Thompson (CBT) Project

Our Watershed Program and certified Water Quality Laboratory staff conduct a range of water quality monitoring and analyses services to ensure the high-quality of our raw water supplies.

At our Water Treatment Facility, raw (untreated) water goes through several processes that ultimately remove suspended matter and provide disinfection. Water Quality Laboratory and Water Treatment Facility staff monitor the quality of raw water as it enters the facility and during the treatment process. 

In addition to continuous process monitoring, the Water Quality Laboratory also completes more than 3,300 water quality tests each month to ensure our drinking water meets all applicable standards.

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Impacts to Water Supply and Water Quality#

Ash-laden water on the Poudre River.

In 2020, the watersheds that provide Fort Collins Utilities’ water supplies were severely impacted by the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires. These two wildfires are considered the two largest in Colorado history, raising significant concern about both the availability and quality of our future raw water supplies.

As we enter runoff and thunderstorm season, we’re likely to see sediment and ash from the Cameron Peak Fire flow into the Poudre River. Because of this, Fort Collins Utilities may experience temporary periods when Poudre River water supplies are unavailable. In these situations, we have the flexibility to rely on high-quality water from Horsetooth Reservoir.

These source water limitations, in addition to higher irrigation demands during what is projected to be a hot and dry summer, have the potential to create a water shortage. We are actively monitoring water quality and availability to provide the highest quality water possible for our customers.

Due to the severity of the burn area in the Cache la Poudre River and Big Thompson watersheds, impacts to the watershed and river quality are expected to be long-term.

No Water Restrictions in Effect

Water Restriction Level: Normal Conditions

Currently, there are no water restrictions in effect due to improving water resource conditions and less demand on water supplies with irrigation season-ending.

Restriction Status

Burned forest

Post-Wildfire Watershed Recovery

After a wildfire, work needs to be done to restore watersheds to safe and healthy environments.

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Running faucet

Water Availability

See how weather, drought and snowpack impact our water supplies.

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Frequently Asked Questions#

How Do Ash and Sediment Affect Water Treatment?highlight_off

Fire-related compounds in raw water supplies can impart undesirable ‘smoky’ tastes and odors in treated water.

What is Fort Collins Utilities Doing to Address Potential Treatment Issues?highlight_off

We have mitigation measures in place to reduce the likelihood of contaminants entering the Water Treatment Facility. There also are processes in place to remove taste and odor compounds and to address other changes in quality, should they occur. The City is currently collaborating in a regional cost-share study to determine the occurrence of these compounds in our raw as well as finished water supplies.

How are Unwanted Taste and Odors Detected in Drinking Water?highlight_off
Staff detect tastes and odors in water through sensory monitoring

Chemist Kathleen Ganzer evaluates water samples for taste and odor compounds via smell.

In addition to monitoring and testing the quality of the water entering the Water Treatment Facility, staff use sensory monitoring to detect odors in the raw (untreated) water. The Odor Profile Panel is a group of individuals who have special training to identify odors and certain compounds in water at various stages in the treatment process through smell.

Typically, the panel evaluates raw water entering the plant once a week. Since the fires, the water is evaluated once a day to ensure the highest quality water possible for our customers. 

During the Odor Profile test, staff analyze the water for a variety of smells, including:

  • Smokey
  • Earthy
  • Swampy
  • Muddy
  • Flowery
  • Spicey
  • Fishy
  • Medicinal
  • Chlorinous

Even after going through the treatment process when water is safe to consume, it can hold onto undesirable odors and tastes. By detecting these early on, staff can adjust the treatment process to remove/eliminate those unwanted compounds, ensuring a pleasing aesthetic for our drinking water. 

How is Fort Collins Utilities Monitoring Water on the Poudre?highlight_off

Post-fire hillslope erosion following rain events is expected to produce flash pollution events in the Poudre River Watershed. To address these concerns, we have installed two water quality meters within the Upper Poudre to provide early-warning alerts to water treatment staff before post-fire pollution can reach our intake.

Using this system, ash and sediment-laden water can be effectively bypassed at the Poudre River supply intake until conditions improve. This alert system allows operational flexibility and enhanced management of drinking water supplies.

Resources#

Poudre River

Water Shortage Scenarios

We plan for a variety of water shortage events, like drought, limitation of water supplies, or an emergency in our water distribution system.

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Low water level on Horsetooth Reservoir

Water Shortage Action Plan (WSAP)

See what tactics and restrictions customers may implement in the event of a water shortage.

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Water 101 graphic - click button for details

Water 101

Learn how our three water utilities serve the Fort Collins community.

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