South Suburban Parks and Recreation manages several popular lakes and ponds that are being affected by the drought, mainly because none has a significant water source and all are at the mercy of Mother Nature.
The Aberdeen Village Homeowners Association is particularly worried about Ketring Lake, which is fed solely by the High Line Canal. Denver Water controls flows in the canal, and after several years of drought conditions it has decided to let the canal stay empty for 2013. That means the lake could dry up.
Littleton City Manager Michael Penny told the HOA that people have asked about using City Ditch water for filling Ketring, but the ditch is well below Ketring in elevation and at least a half-mile away.
“We are using all our City Ditch water for the Littleton Center. We would have to acquire more water rights — not a quick process,” he wrote in his email to the neighbors. “We really don’t have any other ideas for getting water to fill Ketring Lake. It would be difficult to justify using water for this purpose when we need to use water for more important reasons, especially in drought years.”
Similar droughts occurred in 2002 and 2003, and again in 2011 and 2012. In the late 1970s, Ketring Lake went temporarily dry.
SSPR manages Ketring Lake and is exploring alternative water sources, but staff is doubtful there will be a viable solution. In the meantime, it’s treating the lake to control aquatic weeds and combat the growth of algae. The aerator in the lake helps circulate oxygen, but as the water level drops, the fish could die. SSPR will remove dead fish on a regular basis.
“Short of the influx of fresh water from rain, there’s not a lot more that can be done,” says Dave Brueggeman, SSPR’s parks maintenance supervisor. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is responsible for stocking the lakes, which likely won’t happen this year.
Other lakes, including Sterne and Cherry Knolls, are experiencing the same issues.
“We understand the public’s feelings about the aesthetics of the lakes, and we’re trying to do what we can,” said Brueggeman.
To that end, SSPR joined Denver Water to discuss new water restrictions.
SSPR agreed to convert some low-use areas of turf to natural open space and seed them with native grasses in the fall. The water features at Gallup Gardens and the AirLife Memorial Park will remain empty, and the sprayground at Cornerstone Park will close at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than in previous years. In addition, SSPR will only plant trees that were approved before April.
“It’s a balancing act to maintain parks and conserve water at the same time,” said Jamie Bartolomeis, SSPR spokesperson. “Residents have come to love their green parks. However, district parks may not be as green this year. … South Suburban is doing its best to do what it can to manage the parks and keep them looking as good as possible.”