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Clouds reflected in water as a person rows a boat creating ripples in the wake
A person rows a boat on the Dillion Reservoir, July 7, 2023, in Summit County. The Denver Water’s reservoir holds 257,304 acre-feet of water during full capacity. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Taps for irrigation in Fort Collins used 69% less water from May to June than the recent spring average. 

Denver Water’s massive user base sprinkled 37% less water in June than a 52-year average, and had the smallest overall June use since 1969, when there were 540,000 fewer people drawing from the Denver system. 

Aurora residents cut their April to June outdoor water use by two-thirds. 

The sense of deluge across much of Colorado in May and June was not mere recency bias. Rainfall in those two months really was historic, and it meant home water users in many parts of the state kept their landscape taps off and allowed drought-strained reservoirs to top up with tasty runoff. 

Ask any water agency, and you’ll get an optimistic answer: Colorado Springs Utilities sent out only 66.6 million gallons a day in June, down 29% from recent averages. Storage at the city’s reservoirs has hit 91% of capacity for a reassuring three-plus years of use. 

An extended runoff period from snowpack combined with the rains to push the projected water yield for the Colorado Springs catchment system to 107% of normal, up a whopping 7% from the May projection, spokesperson Jennifer Jordan said. 

Elbert County, northeast of Colorado Springs, was one of the areas in eastern Colorado with higher rainfall this year. There, creeks flooded and more than 20 roads completely washed out, said Mike Devol, the public works director for the town of Elizabeth.

On the flip side, town residents used 225,000 gallons of water Wednesday for their homes and gardens — roughly half what was being used daily last year; city staff are racing to keep up with speedily growing grass; and farmers are producing more hay than they have in decades, he said. 

“Everything took off. The rains hit at the right time when the grass was starting to grow, and it just went crazy, honestly,” Devol said. 

There’s a statistical basis for why you are slapping at more mosquitoes than usual this year.

Denver’s June rainfall of 6.1 inches set a record for the wettest June since 1872, according to National Weather Service historical data. May 2023 was the fourth-wettest May on record with 5.53 inches of rain.

Cities and towns across the Front Range and northeastern Colorado have seen similarly high rainfall so far this summer. Fort Collins recorded 5.6 inches of rain in June, not far from its wettest June on record: 6.31 inches in 1949. The city’s average rainfall for the month is 1.79 inches, based on data collected since 1894.

Colorado Springs also struck a record for June rainfall: 9.62 inches of rain, the most in June since data collection began in 1895. That’s more than four times the month’s average rainfall of 2.07 inches.


“It’s definitely one of the more wet years we’ve seen, especially that May to June period,” said Bernie Meier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The early summer wet pattern is fueled by moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, but the region is already coming out of the wetter period, he said. Heading into the weekend, Friday and Saturday will be cooler with a chance of showers, and early next week will have highs in the 90s. Toward the end of July, Colorado will start to see the monsoonal pattern with moisture from the tropical Pacific. 

“We still have a few showers and storms around, but the frequency has been quite a bit fewer,” Meier said. “That’s kind of typical of late June, early July.”

Water agency representatives are contractually bound to say “don’t get carried away” immediately after offering a positive statistic.

Even as parts of Colorado saw record rainfall, June was setting a global record: the warmest June in 174 years of data collection. The year-to-date global surface temperature from January to June was the third-warmest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And although the year’s rainfall has been well above average along the Front Range, much of the Western Slope has seen lower-than-normal rainfall so far, according to the National Weather Service.

“We encourage our customers to continue the water-wise conservation actions that have helped Colorado Springs keep its water use relatively flat since the mid-1980s, despite our population nearly doubling since then,” Jordan said. “These practices will help see us through drier years.” 

Fort Collins home users take up about 53% of city water supplies in a given year, spokesperson Nick Combs said, with commercial users consuming the other 47%. Ample rain has helped the city avoid drought or problems with supply tainted by runoff from the 2020 Cameron Peak fire footprint. 

Fort Collins, the state’s fourth-largest city at about 170,000 residents, was projected to use 31 million gallons of water a day in June. Instead, residents and businesses used only 21.1 million gallons a day. 

“This year, we expect to have an ample water supply to meet our customers’ needs without water restrictions,” Combs said. “However, in our arid climate, it’s always important to use water wisely and keep up good habits.”

Michael Booth is the Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of the Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He is co-author with Jennifer Brown of the Colorado Book Award-winning food safety investigation “Eating Dangerously.” Booth was part of teams that won two Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news. He also writes frequently about inexplicable obsessions that include tamarisk, black-footed ferrets and tire fires. Booth also serves as the underpaid driver for four children, and plans to eventually hike every inch of Colorado.

Shannon Mullane writes about Western water issues for The Colorado Sun and her work is funded by a grant from the Catena Foundation. She focuses on the Colorado River Basin, tribal affairs related to water, and West Slope water issues.
Born in East Tennessee, Shannon has been in Colorado for a decade or so and is holding down the fort in Durango, the Sun's latest outpost. Before joining the Sun's team, she contributed award-winning reporting on government, environment, health and more as a staff writer for The Durango Herald and as an intern for the Colorado Independent. She also earned a master's in journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. Shannon is conversational in French, trying really hard in Spanish, and often spotted baking or enjoying live music.