Water Supply Status#
As your community-owned, not-for-profit utility, we take pride in offering safe, high-quality and reliable water year-round. Utilities’ drinking water meets and consistently exceeds the standards established under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Our water supply can be affected by many different things, including drought, wildfire and water quality concerns. We continue to mitigate impacts to our water supply from the 2020 wildfires and navigate drought throughout the state.
Poudre River: The Cameron Peak Wildfire will likely impact Utilities' water supply quality for many years.
Colorado-Big Thompson Project (via Horsetooth Reservoir): We are closely monitoring the hydrology of the Colorado River basin and the discussions around the Colorado River Compact.
Poudre River Water Quality
Storms along the Cameron Peak Burn Scar can create flash floods in the Poudre Canyon and other hazards, including flooding and debris along the Poudre Trail in town.
These storms can also reduce the quality of the water on the Poudre River to a point where it is not always feasible to treat the water for our customers. We are fortunate to have two water sources and are able to rely on high-quality water from Horsetooth Reservoir when the Poudre is full of ash, sediment and debris. Customers should experience no change in drinking water quality or service during these water quality events.
Frequently Asked Questions#
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.
Fire-related compounds in raw water supplies can impart undesirable ‘smoky’ tastes and odors in treated water.
At our Water Treatment Facility, raw (untreated) water goes through several processes that ultimately remove suspended matter and provide disinfection.
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.
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:
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.
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. 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.
Early Alert System
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.
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