New @DenverWater rates start Feb. 1

Northwater Treatment Plant — Denver Water is upgrading and modernizing the northern portion of its water system that was built in the 1930s. The utility is building a new water treatment plant, as seen in this rendering, installing a new pipeline, and redeveloping its Moffat Treatment Plant site. Photo credit: Denver Water

Here’s the release from Denver Water (Travis Thompson):

At its meeting today, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted rate changes to fund essential upgrades and new projects to keep Denver Water’s system running smoothly. The new rates take effect Feb. 1, 2019, and monthly bills for most Denver residents will increase by 55 cents if they use water the same as they did in 2018.

“While the cost to maintain and upgrade the water system continues to increase, rapid development inside the city of Denver has brought in more fees from new taps sold, helping to minimize the 2019 rate increase for Denver customers,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager. “The surrounding suburbs, however, had less development than in the past, reducing the amount collected from new tap fees, which means we’ll need to collect more revenue from suburban water rates in 2019.”

Suburban customers who receive water from one of Denver Water’s 65 distributors will see an additional monthly increase added to their volumetric charges. The Denver City Charter requires that suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount. Learn more about how this works: “Why Denver water costs more in the ‘burbs.”

If you live outside Denver and receive water from a distributor under contract with Denver Water, you can expect to see an annual increase between $23 and $41, which is between $1.90 and 3.40 a month (based on an annual use of 102,000 gallons of water).

Pat Fitzgerald, general manager of four Denver Water distributors including the Platte Canyon Water and Sanitation District and chairman of the suburban districts’ Technical Advisory Committee, which reviews Denver Water’s rates annually, provided this statement:

“The advisory committee supports the rate increase. The cost-of-service study used to determine the difference between inside city and outside city customers is fair and reasonable, and the committee had no objections to the results. The expenses are going up, but they’re all projects that are necessary to provide a reliable and safe source of water.”

The major multiyear projects that water rates fund include building a new, state-of-the-art water treatment plant, installing a new 8.5-mile water pipeline to replace a pipeline that was built in the 1930s, expanding Gross Reservoir to provide a more reliable future water supply, constructing a new water quality lab to ensure the highest water quality standards, investing more than $100 million to repair and replace water pipes, and more. There are 158 major projects identified in Denver Water’s five-year, $1.3 billion capital plan.

A customer’s bill is comprised of a fixed charge, which helps ensure Denver Water has more stable revenue to continue the necessary water system upgrades to ensure reliable water service, and a volume rate. The fixed monthly charge — which is tied to meter size — in 2019 is increasing by 55 cents for most residential customers both inside the city and out.

Denver Water’s rate structure includes a three-tiered charge for water use (called the volume rate). To keep water affordable, indoor water use — like for bathing, cooking and flushing toilets — is charged at the lowest rate. Essential indoor water use is determined by averaging the customer’s monthly water use on bills dated from January through March each year. This is called average winter consumption. Water use above the average winter consumption — typically for outdoor watering — is charged at a higher price.

Volume rates for Denver residents will remain the same, but will increase on suburban bills.

Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of pipe — enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York — as well as 20 dams, 22 pump stations, 30 underground storage tanks, four treatment plants and more. The water provider’s collection system covers more than 4,000 square miles, and it operates facilities in 12 counties in Colorado.

Denver Water does not make a profit or receive tax dollars, and reinvests ratepayers’ money to maintain and upgrade the water system. The utility is funded by water rates, bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and fees for new service (called System Development Charges).

Customers will see more information about 2019 rates in their bills and on Denver Water’s website over the next few months.

Gross Reservoir — The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir, pictured, to increase by 77,000 acre-feet. The additional water storage will help prevent future shortfalls during droughts and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. With this project, Denver Water will provide water to current and future customers while providing environmental benefits to Colorado’s rivers and streams. Photo credit: Denver Water

Local governments are contributing money to forest health

Breckenridge fire July 2017. Photo credit: Allen Best

From US News and World Report (Alan Neuhauser):

Water districts in Denver and Santa Fe, New Mexico, plus the town of Ashland, Oregon, meanwhile, are helping fund tree-thinning and other fire-prevention measures in crucial watersheds that supply their water systems.

“There’s always that feeling, even at our municipal government, that we pay our taxes, why aren’t you already doing this?” says Alan Hook, manager of the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Program. “The community realized how much these fires cost and how much the Forest Service is pouring into [fire] suppression costs. … If we lose this source of supply, we could be in dire straits in the near future.”

Denver Water, for example, owns only 3 percent of the watershed it’s protecting, while the Forest Service holds 54 percent, says Christina Burri, watershed scientist at the utility. But the utility nonetheless agreed to put up $33 million in a 50-50 partnership with the agency, a decision in part prompted by memories of fires in 1996 and 2002 that dumped scorched sediment into water district reservoirs and forced $28 million in repairs and remediation.

“That motivated Denver Water to invest in forest health, to create a healthy forest so we can be proactive against these costs,” Burri says. “It’s important for us to be able to partner to be able to get access to work on these lands and create a healthier condition in these forests, because that’s the source of our water.”

The towns and water districts maintain that the new expenses can easily be absorbed by their budgets. The funds being put forward by Denver Water, for example, account for 1 percent of the utility’s budget overall.

Boulder County Land Use Director issues determination in response to @DenverWater (Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal) request

Here’s the release from Boulder County:

Determination states that Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 – Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041)

Denver Water requested that Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case determine the applicability of the Boulder County Land Use Code to Denver Water’s proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir.

Denver Water has argued that it is exempt from having to submit its project for Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041) review under Article 8 of the Land Use Code.

Director Case responded to Denver Water on Oct. 22. His determination is that Denver Water’s proposed reservoir expansion project is subject to review under Land Use Code. Before undertaking the project, Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 of the Code.

Documents:

  • Gross Reservoir Dam expansion proposal determination letter to Denver Water, October 22, 2018
  • Determination request letter from Denver Water, October 12, 2018
  • Denver Water may appeal the decision to the Boulder County Board of Commissioners as provided for under 8-406(B).

    Land Use Code Section 8-406 Determination of Whether a Proposed Activity or Development Must go Through the Permit Process states that “The Director shall determine the applicability of Section 8-400 to the conduct of any proposed activity or development. The Director shall make this determination within 10 calendar days after the Director receives a written request from the applicant stating the reasons why the proposed activity or development is not subject to Section 8-400.

    Background

    The Board of Water Commissioners for the City and County of Denver, aka “Denver Water,” is in the process of applying for a planned expansion of the Gross Reservoir Dam in southwest Boulder County. While this is not a Boulder County project, the reservoir resides entirely in unincorporated Boulder County.

    The Army Corp of Engineers issued its Record of Decision granting Denver Water a federal permit for the project in July 2017. However, before it can commence the project, Denver Water must still receive approval of its hydropower license amendment application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    On March 20, 2018, the county responded to FERC’s Supplemental Environmental Assessment, once again pointing out the deficiencies that Boulder County finds in Denver Water’s FERC application and FERC’s environmental assessment of the project.

    The county plans to further address impacts and concerns during a county (local) land use review process and has explained to FERC that Denver Water must obtain required county permits before it undertakes the project. Denver Water has not yet applied for a permit under Article 8 of the Boulder County Land Use Code (also known as a 1041 permit).

    A 1041 review would allow the Boulder County Planning Commission and the County Commissioners to conduct public hearings and review the application according to the criteria in the Code.

    More Information

    More information can be viewed on the county’s Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal information webpage. Also, individuals can sign-up to receive Boulder County-related hearing and meeting announcements concerning the proposed Denver Water Gross Reservoir Expansion Project. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    To receive notices about the Gross Reservoir project from Denver Water, look for the “Sign Up for Email Updates” option at the bottom of the page on the Gross Reservoir project website. All notices of meetings, minutes, and updates on the proposed project (also known as the “Moffat Collection System Project”) can be found on Denver Water’s website at https://grossreservoir.org/.

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    #Drought news: Dillon reservoir is dropping ~1 inch/day

    Dillon Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

    From TheDenverChannel.com (Liz Gelardi):

    Staff at Frisco Bay Marina are trying to keep up with water levels that are dropping about one inch per day.

    “And so an inch a day going down means the water line is moving 10 feet out every day, so we have to keep chasing it and moving the docks, which is definitely a lot of work,” said Tom Hogeman, the marina’s general manager…

    Hogeman said he hasn’t seen the water this low since 2012 and it will only continue to go down as we head into the fall. The marina is typically open for rentals through mid-October but this year the season could end early.

    @Denver Water, Aurora in dispute with state over lead treatment — @WaterEdCO

    Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Denver Water and three other organizations are seeking to overturn a state order that directs Denver to adopt a strict new treatment protocol preventing lead contamination in drinking water.

    Denver is not in violation of the federal law that governs lead, but it has been required to monitor and test its system regularly since 2012 after lead was discovered in a small sample of water at some of its customers’ taps.

    In March of this year, after Denver completed a series of required tests and studies, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) ordered the utility to implement a treatment protocol that involves adding phosphates to its system. It has until March of 2020 to implement the new process.

    Denver, which serves 1.4 million people in the metro area, has proposed instead using an approach that balances the PH levels in its treated water and expands a program replacing lead service lines in the city. Old lead service lines are a common source of lead in drinking water.

    Treating lead and copper in water systems is a complex undertaking governed by the federal Lead and Copper Rule. In Denver, for instance, there is no lead in the water supply when it leaves the treatment plant. But it can leach into the supply via corrosion as water passes through lead delivery lines and pipes in older homes. Denver has 58,000 lead service lines in its system. Lead has continued to appear in samples it has taken at some customers’ taps, according to court filings, though not at levels that would constitute a violation of the federal law.

    Eighty-six samples taken since 2013 have exceeded 15 micrograms per liter, including one tap sample which measured more than 400 micrograms per liter, according to court filings. The 15-microgram-per-liter benchmark is the level at which utilities must take action, including public education, corrosion studies, additional sampling and possible removal of lead service lines.

    In response to the state’s order, the City of Aurora, the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and the nonprofit Greenway Foundation, which works to protect the South Platte River, sued to overturn it, concerned that additional phosphates will hamper their ability to meet their own water treatment requirements while also hurting water quality in the South Platte. Denver joined the suit in May.

    Because Denver Water services numerous other water providers in the metro area and participates in a major South Metro reuse project known as WISE, short for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, anything that changes the chemical profile of its water affects dozens of communities and the river itself.

    Among the plaintiffs’ concerns is that phosphate levels in water that is discharged to the river have to be tightly controlled under provisions of the Clean Water Act. If phosphate levels in domestic water rise, wastewater treatment protocols would have to be changed, potentially costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, according to a report by the Denver-based, nonpartisan Water Research Foundation.

    From an environmental perspective, any increased phosphate in the South Platte River would make fighting such things as algae blooms, which are fueled by nutrients including phosphorous, much more difficult and could make the river less habitable for fish.

    But in its statement to the court, the CDPHE said the state’s first job is to protect the health of the thousands of children served by Denver Water in the metro area.

    “The addition of orthophosphate will reduce lead at consumers’ taps by approximately 74 percent, as opposed to the cheaper treatment favored by plaintiffs [PH/Alkalinity], which will only reduce levels by less than 50 percent,” CDPHE said in court documents. “This is a significant and important public health difference, particularly because there is no safe level of lead in blood…Even at low levels, a child’s exposure to lead can be harmful.”

    How much either treatment may eventually cost Denver Water and others isn’t clear yet, according to state health officials, because it will depend in part on how each process is implemented.

    Denver, Aurora and Metro Wastewater declined to comment for this story, citing the pending lawsuit.

    The Greenway Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

    In late July, all parties agreed to pause the legal proceedings while they examine water treatment issues as well as the environmental concerns raised by higher levels of phosphorous in Denver Water’s treated water supplies. If a settlement can’t be reached by Nov. 1, the lawsuit will proceed.

    Jonathan Cuppett, a research manager at the Water Research Foundation, said other utilities across the country may be asked to re-evaluate their own corrosion control systems under a rewrite of the Lead and Copper Rule underway now at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    The newly proposed federal rule is due out for review later this year or by mid-2019.

    Cuppett said the changes may lean toward more phosphate-based treatment for lead contamination. In fact, the EPA issued a statement in March in support of the CDPHE’s order to Denver Water.

    “Within the [Lead and Copper Rule] there are a variety of changes that may be made. Depending on what those changes are other utilities may have to evaluate their strategy again or more frequently. And if that is the case, we may see more of this issue where someone is pushing for phosphorous for control for public health, creating a conflict of interest with environmental concerns,” Cuppett said.

    Colorado public health officials said they’re hopeful an agreement can be reached, but that they have few options under the federal Safe Water Drinking Act’s Lead and Copper Rule.

    “The [Lead and Copper Rule] is a very prescriptive, strict rule,” said Megan Parish, an attorney and policy adviser to CDPHE. “It doesn’t give us a lot of discretion to consider things that Metro Wastewater would have liked us to consider.”

    WISE water arrives in Castle Rock; join the celebration June 8 — @crgov

    WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

    Here’s the release from the Town of Castle Rock:

    For years, Castle Rock Water has made providing long term, renewable water a priority. Now, a major milestone has been reached and the first drops of WISE water are headed to Town. Join the celebration to help commemorate this accomplishment and take a look at what’s coming up next for water in Castle Rock.

    The fun-filled family celebration will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 8. Bring the kids, sunscreen and a great attitude to Gemstone Park, 6148 Sapphire Pointe Blvd., to join the festivities and celebrate the WISE water partnership.

    After stakeholders officially cut the ribbon, the community is invited for a festival full of games, food trucks, bump soccer, bounce houses, a foam party, giant bubbles, water colors and more. Plus, get a chance to meet the Most Hydrated Man in Castle Rock.

    Learn more about the celebration at http://CRgov.com/WISEWater.

    The celebration will help mark more than 9 years of planning and $50 million in infrastructure to help ensure the community’s strong water future. When the WISE partnership was created, many communities in Colorado were faced with a drought. With limited, non-renewable resources, communities knew they needed to come up with a plan. Regional water providers saw the opportunity to partner in a solution and share in the expense to buy, transport and treat renewable water.

    The WISE partnership is an arrangement between Denver Water, Aurora Water and 10 other south metro water providers to import renewable water. Castle Rock is the southernmost community partner.

    Castle Rock Water finished the last piece of infrastructure – connecting a pipeline from Outter Marker Road to Ray Waterman Treatment Plant – in late 2017. The first drops of imported WISE water came to Town in late April.

    Follow the entire journey for WISE water with the Most Hydrated Man at http://CRgov.com/WISEWater.

    “…why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project” — Lurline Underbrink Curran

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Lurline Underbrink Curran):

    I would like to share why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project.

    While located in Boulder County, the project obtains the water from Grand County — a county that is currently the most impacted county in the state of Colorado for transbasin diversions. You must wonder why the county and its citizens, stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin, along with Trout Unlimited support this project.

    The reason is the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which is an historic agreement with statewide environmental benefits which were fought for and gained through sometimes difficult and long negotiations. It has been hailed as a new paradigm and one that will serve as an example of what can be gained when dealing with a finite resource like water. The signatories to this agreement represent the entire Colorado River Basin, and I had the honor of acting as Grand County’s lead negotiator in this agreement. I worked for Grand County for 33 years, retiring as county manager in 2015. I have lived in Grand County over 60 years and have deep roots and interest in the well-being of our waterways.

    The environmental benefits gained by Grand County, which include additional flows, river ecosystem improvements, use of Denver Water’s system, participation in an adaptive management process called Learning by Doing, money for river improvements, just to name a few, are necessary to protect and enhance the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Without these benefits, these rivers will continue to degrade, with no hope of recovery or improvement.

    Those who oppose the project offer no solutions to the already stressed aquatic environment of the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Through the Learning By Doing format and a public private partnership, partners have already implemented a river project on the Fraser as an example of what can be done. This project immediately produced improvements that were astounding. Colorado Parks and Wildlife can verify this claim. This essential work will not continue without the CRCA.

    The impacts that are associated with the construction of the Gross Reservoir Enlargement are substantial and one sympathizes with those who will experience them, but the reality is they will end. Mitigation for the construction impacts can be applied. However, without the CRCA, the impacts to the Fraser and Colorado rivers will continue with no hope of improvement.

    The environmental enhancements and mitigation that are part of the CRCA cannot be replicated without the reservoir expansion project, and the loss of these enhancements and mitigation will doom the Fraser and Colorado rivers in Grand County to environmental catastrophe.