From 9News.com (Maya Rodriguez):
“Prairie Waters was born from the drought of 2002-2004, and is a way of fully utilizing Aurora’s water,” Aurora Water spokesperson Greg Baker said.
The Aurora Prairie Waters project is a large-scale effort to reuse water for a growing city.
“You have to think of sustainability,” Baker said. “How are you going to support a community like Aurora, which will probably double its population in the next 50 years? And where is that water going to come from?” Baker asked.
Most of Aurora’s water comes down from the mountains. Snow melt flows into the Colorado and Arkansas River basins. However, one third of Aurora’s water comes from the South Platte River. Its water that is, in effect, reused.
“If you use water in the shower, you wash your car, you take a bath – that water ends up back in the South Platte,” Baker explained. “We retreat down here, put it back in our system, and it ends up back in the South Platte again. We get to use it over and over again. So, it is the ultimate water cycle.”
The cycle involves piping that water underground into a man-made basin, through sand and gravel and then treating the water, including using UV light to get impurities out.
“The things we can remove out of the water now, compared to 10 or 20 years ago, is just staggering,” treatment plant supervisor Kevin Linder said.
Right now, it’s the low season. The plant is processing 14-million gallons of water a day. In the high season, the summer months, it can do more than twice that: 30 million gallons.
“This treatment plant is one of the most advanced plants in North America,” Linder said.
Part of the reason the system isn’t used everywhere is that it is expensive to build. Prairie Waters cost $638-million. However, water managers there see it as a way of protecting the city from the effects of future droughts while protecting Colorado’s overall water supply.
“We’re asking a lot of Colorado to let us use this water for our residents,” Baker said. “And, so, if you’re going to do that, you have to honor that commitment.”
There are plans to expand Aurora Prairie Waters by adding more filters and providing some water to places in Douglas County.