Beautiful snow

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Beautiful wet snow is falling this morning in Denver. Water watchers have great hopes for this storm. Some mountain locations are hoping for a foot or more. That should bolster the low snowpack over the northern part of the state.

Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Once it’s completed later this year, city officials guarantee that Aurora residents will have enough water to sustain them during droughts for decades…

The goal of the project, which broke ground in July 2007, is to collect water from the South Platte River in Brighton and deliver it to the city through a 34-mile-long pipeline, while using state-of-the-art technology to purify the water to the highest degree. When the project is completed in a few weeks, it could increase Aurora’s water supply by 20 percent and deliver up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year…

The project was funded by raising residential water prices and tap fees, and by issuing $450 million in bonds to be repaid over 30 years. The total estimated cost of the project at completion is $659 million, lower than the original projections of $755 million. “We were the beneficiary of an unfortunate deep recession,” said Pifher, who became the city’s water director in 2008 following Peter Binney, who originally conceptualized the Prairie Waters Project. “As a consequence of the recession there were many contractors out there looking for work and they were going to bid as low as they could just to keep their people gainfully employed.”[…]

Much of the project also uses new ideas, Pifher said, not only in terms of the technology that was implemented, but also because the water department found a way to maximize its water rights to the full extent. “The water resource is so scarce today in the arid part of the West that you can’t just go out and appropriate new water,” he said. “So you have to find a way to make use of what you have. That in itself is sort of cutting edge. When you combine all these cutting edge concepts, you do have a state-of-the-art facility and I think this will become the model for similar projects in the West.”

Other counties in the state in search of alternative water sources, such as Douglas County, would also be able to lease some of the excess water that would be produced as a result of the project, he said…

The project begins north of Brighton, off of State Highway 8 and County Road 85, at the site of the South Platte River. The first step in purifying the water from the South Platte River takes place underneath more than 100 acres of open space, where only a few, small man-made structures hint to what’s happening underneath your feet. “If you drove past this, you would never know this is where Prairie Waters begins,” said Greg Baker, spokesman for the water department. “And that was the idea.” More than 22 tunnels were constructed under roadways, waterways and railroad crossings so nearby people, wildlife and environment wouldn’t be disrupted. Water travels from the river through gravel and sand, which are natural filters, to 17 wells located about 300 feet from the river. The gravel and sand act as purifiers that filter out pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Baker said the project was designed so that the filtration systems from Brighton to Aurora would thoroughly remove pharmaceutical products, as city officials expect that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will make that a requirement in the near future. Water samples have already been taken from the wells and studies by the Colorado School of Mines show that about 90 percent of the purification process occurs from the river to the wells. “That’s the neatest thing, as far as I’m concerned,” Baker said. “We’re not using any high technology, we’re not using a tremendous amount of energy to do this, and yet we’re addressing probably one of the biggest issues in water today which is the pharmaceutical industry.”[…]

From the North Campus, the water will flow along the pipeline that largely follows the E-470 highway. The pumping stations are located in Brighton, Commerce City and Aurora, and each station has one 1,250 horsepower pump and one 600 horsepower pump to push the water to Aurora over a nearly 1,000-foot increase in elevation. The water will then flow to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility, where the water is further filtered using 14 ultraviolet reactors and activated charcoal to destroy unwanted contaminants.

More Prairie Water Project coverage here and here.

Lake Pueblo: Flood control waiver from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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Aurora’s water may not spill this spring, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Under operational rules, Lake Pueblo’s elevation must be lowered by April 15 to provide space to contain flood waters. About 3,000 acre-feet of water could be spilled. The water spilled would be in excess-capacity accounts held by users outside the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and spilled on a pro-rata basis. The largest account is Aurora’s, but the Round Mountain Water District in Custer County and the town of Victor in Teller County also have water storage in Lake Pueblo. If snowpack upstream of Lake Pueblo remains below average, however, water users will be granted a two-week extension to move water out of the reservoir under the agreement between the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Lake Pueblo. The agreement allows storage of up to 10,000 acre-feet above flood-control levels until May 1, said Ray Vaughan, manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “This is a one-time, temporary, two-week extension,” Vaughan told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.