@DenverWater ‘evaluating options’ after Gross project ruling — The Arvada Press #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gross Reservoir, west of Boulder. Photo by Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Arvada Press (Casey Van Divier):

A court ruling from the end of 2019 determined Denver Water officials must obtain an additional permit for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — a project that Arvada is depending on so it can continue developing land…

Arvada has a contract to purchase raw water from the reservoir and, in return, is sharing the cost of the project with Denver Water…

Denver Water is one of two sources through which Arvada obtains its water, with the other being Clear Creek, said Jim Sullivan, the city’s former director of utilities.

In total, the city has the rights to roughly 25,000 acre-feet of water, with about 19,000 of that provided through its existing contract with Denver Water, he said.

“We have a comprehensive plan that shows what the city limits will eventually grow to” by 2065, when an estimated 155,000 people will live in Arvada, Sullivan said. This plan would require approximately 3,000 additional acre-feet of water, which will be provided by the expansion project.

If the project was canceled, the city would need to halt development until it could secure alternate resources, Sullivan said.

Those other resources “have been harder and harder to come by,” said Arvada water treatment manager Brad Wyant. Other entities have already laid claim to the other major water supplies in the area, he and Sullivan said.

“The next big water project will be some kind of diversion of water from the Western Slope to the Denver area,” Sullivan said. This would be a major endeavor and “there’s nothing even on the horizon at this point,” he said, making the success of the Gross project a necessity for Arvada development.

So far, the city has contributed about $3 million to the project, with plans to contribute about $100 million by 2030.

The contributions are funded through Arvada Water’s capital improvement budget, which consists of one-time tap fees that customers pay when they first connect to the Arvada Water system. Resident’s bimonthly water billing funds ongoing operations and will not be used for the Gross project, Sullivan said.

Denver Water has estimated the project will cost a total of $464 million.

The WISE Partnership recently brought home a “Community Water Champion Award” from WateReuse @DenverWater @AuroraWaterCO

WISE Project map via Denver Water

From Yourhub.Denverpost.com (Todd Hartman):

An innovative water-sharing partnership between Denver Water, Aurora Water and water utilities that serve the south metro area has won national recognition.

The WISE Partnership, WISE being short for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, recently brought home a “Community Water Champion Award” from WateReuse, a national organization that advances the use of recycled water.

The award marks another sign of success for a project that showcases sustainability on multiple fronts.

WISE not only provides a way for Denver and Aurora to reuse water supplies, it also creates a dependable supply for 10 water providers that serve the south metro region.

That more dependable supply, in turn, reduces pressure to pull more water from the Colorado River, conserves dwindling groundwater supplies south of Denver and diminishes the need for metro area utilities to buy agricultural water in the South Platte River Basin, which can lead to drying up farmland if the water is diverted…

The unusual nature of the WISE project may have helped it capture the national award.

Awards typically recognize a specific facility, such as a water recycling plant, or a technology. WISE includes such features, but also leverages the power of a regionwide partnership to make it all work.

WateReuse described the award this way: “This innovative regional partnership for a sustainable water future will reduce groundwater reliance and bolster renewable water supplies to the South Metro area, while maximizing existing water assets belonging to Aurora and Denver Water.”

WISE works by pulling water that Denver and Aurora have a legal right to reuse from the South Platte River near Brighton. That water is then pumped via pipeline back upstream to Aurora for a series of treatment steps before distribution to project partners…

Simply put, the project’s benefits accrue this way:

  • Denver Water develops a new water supply by being able to use Aurora’s Prairie Waters system and a new revenue stream by selling unused water to the south metro area water providers.
  • Aurora Water benefits by selling unused water and putting unused treatment and pipeline capacity to use while receiving revenue that helps keep its water rates down.
  • The South Metro Water Supply Authority receives a permanent renewable water supply, helping to reduce its reliance on nonrenewable groundwater.
  • From high in the Rockies to the South Platte, here’s where #Denver gets its water — Denverite #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    From Denverite (Lindsay Fendt):

    Denver’s water supply today
    The city of Denver has gotten its water from the utility Denver Water since 1918. Today, the utility’s coverage area is larger than the city limits of Denver, covering surrounding suburbs like Lakewood and Littleton. This includes about 1.4 million people who use an average of 65 billion gallons of treated water per year…

    Most of this water goes to Denver homes and apartment buildings, and a whopping 40 percent of it winds up being used outdoors on lawns and other landscaping.

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Denver water map
    The map shows the system Denver Water uses today to collect water and transfer it to homes in the metro area. In any given year, about 52 percent of the water that finds its way into Denver’s taps comes from the South Platte River. The Fraser River and Williams Fork River together make up 20 percent of the water supply and the final 28 percent comes from the Blue River.

    These last three rivers are all part of the Colorado River system, and that water needs to be transferred to Denver under the Continental Divide. Water geeks call this type of water conveyance trans-mountain diversions. There are 24 main tunnels that bring about 400,000 acre-feet of water from the West Slope to the Front Range and provide water for both the growing cities and the robust agricultural industry on the Front Range.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    While these diversions have been common over the last century, they’ve become controversial in the last few decades of drought on the Colorado River. There is debate as to whether the Colorado River system can sustain many more large diversions.

    On the map, you can see Denver has two major trans-mountain conveyance systems.

    Workers pose for a photo in the Moffat Water Tunnel in this 1930 photo.

    Moffat Tunnel: This old railroad tunnel was the first trans-mountain diversion to feed the city of Denver. The tunnel transfers water directly from the Fraser River under the divide and into South Boulder Creek where it eventually ends up in Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. From there, the water is diverted through a canal to Ralston Reservoir, which provides water to the Moffat Water Treatment Plant.

    The Williams Fork River also puts water into the Moffat Tunnel, but its journey is even more complicated. Before any Williams Fork water even reaches the Moffat Tunnel, it is first diverted into the Gumlick Tunnel, under Jones Pass then back over the divide again through the Vasquez Tunnel. The Vasquez Tunnel empties near Winter Park where the Moffat Tunnel is. By the time this water reaches Denver, it has passed under the Continental Divide three times.

    Harold D. Roberts Tunnel: The Roberts Tunnel was built in 1952 to bring water to Denver from Dillon Reservoir, which sits at the confluence of the Blue River, Snake River and Ten Mile Creek. This large reservoir is Denver Water’s largest, representing 37.1 of the utility’s total storage capacity.

    The tunnel diverts water directly from the reservoir and pipes it under the divide. The 23-mile-long tunnel sits 4,000 feet underground at some points. The pipe itself is ten feet in diameter. This water empties into the North Fork of the South Platte River and runs down the main stem of the river.

    Cheesman Dam spilling June 2014 via Tim O’Hara

    South Platte River Water: Most of Denver’s water supply is drawn straight out of the South Platte River. There are three stems to the river (South, Middle and North), which all converge just south of Denver. Along the river are a number of reservoirs. When the river is running high, the reservoir’s dams hold back some of the water so it can be used later on by the city. These storage reservoirs, which can be found all over the state, let water managers capture the high levels of spring runoff and distribute it well into the summer.

    Water from the South Platte is eventually diverted through a series of pipelines to the Marston Reservoir, which is treated at the Marston Water Treatment Plant and sent to city customers.

    Ducks patrol the South Platte River as construction workers shore up bank. Oct. 8, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith

    Boulder District Judge Andrew Macdonald affirms Boulder County’s 1041 oversight for @DenverWater’s Gross Reservoir Expansion Project

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    In a seven-page ruling, Boulder District Judge Andrew Macdonald stated that based on evidence placed on the record by both sides in the controversy, he found Boulder County “did not exceed its jurisdiction or abuse its discretion, or misinterpret or misapply the law,” when it asserted its permitting authority.

    That authority, Boulder County has maintained, is established by State House Bill 1041, passed by the Legislature in 1974, which allows local governments to review and regulate matters of statewide interest through a local permitting process.

    Denver Water challenged that authority by filing suit in Boulder District Court in April of this year, claiming what it termed a “zoned law exemption” which it asserted excused it from having to pass through the county process. Denver Water’s complaint claimed the zoning at the reservoir that existed at the time of the passage of the 1041 legislation — officially known as the Activities and Areas of State Interest Act — permitted its planned activities.

    Additionally, the suit stated Boulder County commissioners had exceeded their jurisdiction and/or abused their discretion at a March 14 hearing at which they unanimously upheld Land Use Director Dale Case’s finding that the county review process must apply to Denver Water.

    Macdonald’s ruling struck down Denver Water’s claim to an exemption based on prior zoning.

    “There is nothing on the record that Denver Water had any well-established development rights to expand Gross Dam and Gross Reservoir prior to May 17, 1974,” he ruled. “Any prior contemplated expansion projects cannot be determined to be well-established development rights because the proposed Expansion Project is essentially an entirely new construction project.”

    […]

    In an email Friday night, Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said, “As we continue to follow the process of determining the appropriate permitting methods, we will review the order and evaluate our next steps. No matter the path forward, we remain committed to considering input from Boulder County and from community members to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the Project.”

    An additional hurdle remains for the project. Denver Water is still waiting for a final decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a hydropower licensing amendment that Denver Water needs in order to go forward with its planned expansion of the reservoir.

    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Public Notice: Alternative Treatment Technique for National Primary Drinking Water Lead and Copper Regulations for Denver Water — @EPA

    Denver Water’s new Administration Building, seen from West 12th Avenue looking south. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Here’s the release from the EPA:

    Summary

    U.S. EPA Region 8 approved a variance under the Safe Drinking Water Act for Denver Water. This variance will allow Denver Water to implement a Lead Reduction Program Plan (LRPP) as an alternative to treating for the corrosion of lead and copper with orthophosphate. EPA believes that Denver’s LRPP will provide health benefits and will be as protective in lowering the lead levels as the requirements under the Lead and Copper Rule. Under the LRPP, Denver will implement a holistic lead management strategy that requires an accelerated lead service line replacement schedule, provides filters to customers, and controls corrosion through pH/alkalinity adjustments. Additionally, Denver Water will develop a comprehensive lead service line inventory and conduct an extensive community outreach campaign. This variance is effective for an initial period of three years and may be extended if Denver Water demonstrates that that LRPP can be effectively implemented and results in reductions to lead in drinking water.

    Concurrent with this action, EPA is asking for comments on the potential criteria for how the Agency will determine whether to extend this variance for up to an additional twelve years. EPA is accepting public comments on these criteria and on EPA’s interpretation of the statutory standard for future variance requests. See the Federal Register notice in the docket for specific questions on which EPA is seeking feedback.

    Related Documents

    Denver Water Variance Letter Final (PDF)(2 pp, 125 K, 12/16/2019)
    Denver Water Variance Order Final (PDF)(20 pp, 2 MB, 12/16/2019)
    Denver Water Variance Federal Register Notice – Pre-Publication (PDF)(7 pp, 301 K, 12/16/2019)
    Denver Water Variance Appendix Final (PDF)(14 pp, 1 MB, 12/16/2019)

    From Colorado Public Radio (Taylor Allen):

    Denver Water will expedite the removal of lead pipes from homes across the metro area after the Environmental Protection Agency granted approval Monday.

    The public agency will launch the program in 2020 and expects it to take 15 years and cost $500 million to complete. Officials estimate there are between 64,000 and 84,000 lead service lines in the system.

    High lead exposure can lead to kidney and brain damage as well as developmental issues for children. Homes built prior to 1951 are more likely to have lead service lines, according to Denver Water…

    Denver Water proposed the program to the EPA in July. Without the approved plan, it would take 50 years to remove the lead pipes, Lochhead said.

    Denver Water has committed to remove at least 4,500 lines annually under an agreement with the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    The idea for the program came soon after the state ordered Denver Water to do orthophosphate treatment in its water supply in March of 2018. The treatments are used to reduce lead and copper in water that’s delivered to peoples’ taps.

    “That did not cure the overall cause of the problem, which is the lead service lines,” Lochhead said. “Orthophosphate treatment, being a nutrient, creates water quality and environmental issues in the water supply as well as costing more than simply going in and removing them.”

    Denver Water worked with federal and state agencies to develop this alternative approach. It will be funded through water rates, bonds, new service fees and hydropower generation. The company said it will also look for funding through loans, grants and partnerships.

    Graphic via Denver Water

    “If we can’t save the rivers in Grand County, every river in Colorado is doomed” — Kirk Klancke #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    From The Colorado Sun (Moe Clark):

    For decades, the Fraser River has struggled with low flows, rising stream temperatures, sediment build-up, plummeting fish populations and degrading aquatic habitats due in large part to Front Range water diversions that drain 65% of the river.

    But after years of heated negotiations — and the formation of a partnership between environmentalists, Grand County officials and Front Range water diverters — some stretches of the Grand County tributary of the Colorado River have started to show improvement.

    Some are heralding the success as the beginning of a new era of collaboration between historically fraught Front Range and Western Slope water stakeholders…

    Proponents of the collaboration have rejoiced at the results of the work, saying that it’s the first time that major Front Range water diverters have participated in meaningful river restoration projects, and have taken responsibility for damage done to Colorado’s rivers. The partnership, dubbed the Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort, or LBD, includes the two biggest water utilities in the state, Denver Water and Northern Water, as well as Trout Unlimited, Grand County officials and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The partners celebrated their first success in 2018: the completion of a $200,000 restoration project called the Fraser Flats Habitat, which rehabilitated a mile of the river near Tabernash by narrowing the streambed to increase the river’s depth and velocity, to improve the aquatic ecosystem.

    A winter wonderland in Winter Park, Colorado, near the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel, which delivers water from the Fraser and Williams Fork River basins, under the Continental Divide and on to the Moffat Treatment Plant in Lakewood, Colorado. Photo credit: Denver Water. (Photo taken in winter of 2016-2017.)

    For decades, the Fraser River has struggled with low flows, rising stream temperatures, sediment build-up, plummeting fish populations and degrading aquatic habitats due in large part to Front Range water diversions that drain 65% of the river.

    But after years of heated negotiations — and the formation of a partnership between environmentalists, Grand County officials and Front Range water diverters — some stretches of the Grand County tributary of the Colorado River have started to show improvement.

    Some are heralding the success as the beginning of a new era of collaboration between historically fraught Front Range and Western Slope water stakeholders. But with future restoration projects being contingent on two new water diversion projects that will siphon even more water from the Fraser to the Front Range, some worry that the efforts might only be a mirage.

    “They’re basically putting a Band-Aid on the issue, they’re not helping the underlying cause of the problem, which is that too much water is being taken out of a river to meet human needs,” said Jen Pelz, wild rivers program director for the organization WildEarth Guardians.

    Proponents of the collaboration have rejoiced at the results of the work, saying that it’s the first time that major Front Range water diverters have participated in meaningful river restoration projects, and have taken responsibility for damage done to Colorado’s rivers. The partnership, dubbed the Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort, or LBD, includes the two biggest water utilities in the state, Denver Water and Northern Water, as well as Trout Unlimited, Grand County officials and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The partners celebrated their first success in 2018: the completion of a $200,000 restoration project called the Fraser Flats Habitat, which rehabilitated a mile of the river near Tabernash by narrowing the streambed to increase the river’s depth and velocity, to improve the aquatic ecosystem.

    Kirk Klancke, pictured Aug. 21, 2019, in front of the Fraser Flats area, was the visionary for the restoration efforts that improved fish habitat along the 1-mile stretch of the Fraser River. The efforts, which were partially funded by Denver Water, involved narrowing parts of the river to create deeper channels and faster flows. (Matt Stensland, Special to The Colorado Sun)
    Seeing the river flowing again brought tears to the eyes of Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited and longtime resident of Grand County.

    “It was like I was looking at a completely different river,” said Klancke, who has been an integral part of the collaborative. “In the 48 years I’ve lived in Grand County, it was the first time that I saw the river actually looking healthier.”

    “We’ve got the most heavily diverted county in Colorado, about 300,000 acre-feet a year comes out of Grand County. The next highest competitor is Pitkin County, with 98,000… We consider ourselves ground zero. If we can’t save the rivers in Grand County, every river in Colorado is doomed.”

    Colorado water utilities, pushed to respond to climate change, are giving up their energy-guzzling ways — @WaterEdCO

    Workers put finishing touches on Denver Water’s new super-sustainable administrative complex. July 17, 2019. Credit: Jerd Smith

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Colorado’s water utilities, seeking environmental street cred and pushed by citizens, are slashing energy use and carbon emissions.

    Denver Water, the state’s largest water utility, uses lots, and lots, and lots of energy every year, some 56 million kilowatt hours. That’s roughly the same amount of power that 6,900 homes would use during that same period, according to the U.S. EPA.

    Brian Good, the utility’s chief administrative officer, can cite, almost without limit, one energy use statistic after another. That’s because it is his job to take the utility into a new uber sustainable world, one in which it produces as much clean energy as it uses, a quest in the energy world known as “net zero.”

    The utility is on track to hit that mark, system-wide, by the end of next year, according to Good.

    The heart of the initiative is the utility’s new headquarters on the west side of central Denver. When it is finished it will generate the electricity it needs and will be able to capture rainwater and wastewater on site, treating it so that it can be reused.

    Good and others believe the facility will be the most sustainable facility in Colorado. By operating in a way that reduces climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions, Good said the utility is helping protect the watersheds that are threatened by a warming climate.

    “Our water comes from the environment,” Good said, “so we have to demonstrate that we are doing our part to take care of it.”

    Large industrial users, such as water utilities and wastewater treatment plants, are among the biggest users of electricity and, as a result, among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

    But that may be changing. Utilities from Grand Junction to Englewood, from Colorado Springs to Boulder and Longmont, are investing heavily in climate-friendly technology.

    According to a report by the Colorado Energy Office, industrial operations account for one-third of total energy consumption in the United States.

    The state is working hard to change that with new laws and emissions goals. By 2050, Colorado plans to have greenhouse gas emissions slashed to the same levels as 2005, according to Michael Turner, director of commercial and industrial energy services for the Governor’s Energy Office.

    Water and wastewater utilities are key players in that initiative, according to Turner. He is leading an effort to help major industrial sectors across the state become more sustainable, and he said water and wastewater utilities, as well as large breweries, are poised to make major contributions to the greenhouse gas reduction effort.

    “Denver Water has demonstrated that they want to be at the forefront of the conversation,” Turner said. “But a lot of [utilities] have expansive industrial complexes and they have invested in significant reduction goals and projects.”

    Net zero is a sort of holy grail in the sustainability world and Denver Water has been chasing it since 2014.

    In 18 months, by the end of 2020, the agency will have replaced its 40-year-old, administration building with a new structure that is net zero and whose inner workings include the ability to use carefully constructed interior wetlands to process rainwater from the roof and wastewater generated on-site so that it all can be reused on the campus. The entire seven-building complex will use nearly 60 percent less energy than the old complex, according to Denver Water spokesman Todd Hartman, dropping from 6.25 million kilowatt hours annually to 2.5 million.

    “We need to demonstrate the future of sustainable urban water use but also demonstrate that it is not just water. It’s energy as well,” Good said.

    Brian Good, chief administrative officer at Denver Water, is leading the effort to help the utility achieve “net zero,” meaning it produces as much clean energy as it uses. July 17, 2019 Credit: Jerd Smith

    Once the complex opens, it will have one of the smallest eco footprints possible with existing technologies, Good said. Several of the buildings will be at least partially buried to help reduce heating and cooling loads. Electricity use will be offset by an extensive solar grid and by the utility’s seven hydroelectric plants. All told, the $204 million project is expected to save about $4 million a year in energy costs.

    In some parts of the project, Denver Water has pushed out ahead of technologies and the regulators who oversee them.

    One Denver building inspector visited the site several months ago to examine its hyper-sophisticated plumbing system for wastewater reuse, only to leave early because he had never seen the technology being deployed and could not render a decision on whether it had been properly installed, according to Good.

    The effort to reuse wastewater has been particularly challenging with state regulations still being written for on-site wastewater reuse systems.

    “We thought it would be great to capture the rainwater off our roof before it hits the ground. We also thought it would be great to capture our wastewater and use it to flush our toilets. Neither of these was legal at the time [planning began],” Good said.

    Since then the utility secured a water right to capture the rainwater, but regulations governing how wastewater can be treated on-site and reused have yet to be finalized, though Denver Water is working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop them.

    “We eventually got a permit to build the [wastewater] system,” Good said. “But we still don’t have a permit to run it.”

    Denver Water’s net-zero initiative comes as concerns over climate change and rising greenhouse gas emissions grow.

    But it isn’t the only large utility spending big bucks to slash emissions.

    South Platte Water Renewal Partners, which processes wastewater for Englewood, Littleton and several small water districts, next month will become the first wastewater utility in the state to capture the biogas emitted from its waste treatment facility, converting it to natural gas, and injecting it into a pipeline for Xcel Energy. The program benefits the environment by reducing the amount of methane, a highly damaging greenhouse gas, released into the atmosphere. It also allows SPWRP to earn a climate credit, which it then sells in a climate exchange marketplace.

    Grand Junction was the leader in biogas capture and conversion, using the natural gas to fuel its fleet operations.

    The City of Boulder’s utility division too is preparing to capture and convert its biogas, rather than flaring it off, and will likely sell it to Western Disposal, a regional trash hauler, according to Cole Sigmon, the project engineer overseeing the program. Western will use the gas to power 15 of its trucks as part of a fleet conversion from diesel to natural gas.

    Longmont is close to finalizing its own biogas recapture facility and Colorado Springs is in the midst of a feasibility study.

    In addition, when the new National Western Center is completed in 2025, it will be heated with waste heat captured from the Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District’s wastewater collection system.

    At SPWRP, much of the work has been driven by the cities, their citizenry, and their joint quest for sustainability, said Dan DeLaughter, data and regulatory program manager.

    “Water and wastewater [operations] account for 35 percent of municipal energy bills,” DeLaughter said. “So we are continuously looking for ways to reduce energy use.”

    As the solar panels go up at Denver Water’s new complex and the high-tech interior wetlands are built, Good continues to watch the electric meter reports.

    Two years ago, he said, even before the complex was complete, the utility almost hit net zero, thanks to the large amounts of power its hydroelectric plants were able to produce that year.

    By the end of 2020, Good believes the utility should be able to fully hit the net zero mark.

    “It’s going to be close, but we set a stretch goal. If we miss, we’ll keep plugging away. If we hit it, we will set a new goal,” he said.

    Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at jerd@wateredco.org.