Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

If it weren’t for an array of metal electrical boxes and some pipes sticking up from the ground, there would be little to indicate that a state-of-the-art water system is percolating under your feet. Driving along the pipeline, which follows E-470 for about half of its 34 miles north to Aurora, you try not to blink or you’ll miss the pump station visible from the freeway. When you reach the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility just below Aurora Reservoir, you’re tempted to walk inside and ask for the park ranger. There’s water cascading down some steps into a clear blue pond — called a forebay. “There’s not much to see until you get into the water treatment plant,” Aurora Water director Mark Pifher apologizes…

“About 90 percent of our water is reusable in the system from all sources,” Pifher said. “Since all sources come through the treatment plant in Denver, we will use them all in the same proportion.” Aurora draws water from the South Platte, Colorado and Arkansas river basins, and reusing more of it through Prairie Waters will cut down on the amount it takes from its sources. Initially, the $659 million Prairie Waters Project will recycle up to 10,000 acre-feet — 3.25 billion gallons — each year.

“The footprint’s there so we can expand it to 50,000 acre-feet as we grow,” Pifher said. That would nearly double Aurora’s water supply from its current yield of about 58,000 acre-feet…

The first water moved through it this week, as workers and engineers tested the lines installed over the past three years. The project is more than 90 percent complete and a formal dedication is planned in September…

Aurora ratepayers will finance about 60 percent of the project, while new growth in the city is expected to pay for the rest. That’s a somewhat unusual mix for a water project, with more cost usually assigned to growth, but the drought hardening aspect of the project benefits Aurora’s current users, who have been under constant restrictions for water use since 2002. Once Prairie Waters is up and running, it will not take any additional employees to run it. The pump stations require periodic maintenance, and the automated water purification plant requires only six operators, Baker said.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

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