#Colorado #Water Congress Summer Conference Day 2: The Airborne Snow Observatory does not replace SNOTEL, in fact we need an expanded SNOTEL network — Taylor Winchell

Sunset August 24, 2022 Steamboat Springs.

Day 2 included a “Rapid Topics” session with moderator Kelly Romero-Heaney, CO Dept of Natural Resources:

RAZORBACK SUCKER The Maybell ditch is home to four endangered fish species [the Humpback chub (Gila cypha), Bonytail (Gila elegans), Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), and the Razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus)] © Linda Whitham/TNC

Colorado and San Juan River Endangered Species Program: Julie Stahli, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This map shows the snowpack depth of Castle and Maroon valleys in spring 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make more accurate streamflow predictions. Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

Colorado Airborne Snow Measurement Group: Taylor Winchell, Denver Water

Screenshot from the http://water22.org website.

Water ‘22: Jayla Poppleton, Water Education Colorado

Denver Water crews dug up old lead service lines from customers’ homes for years of study that led to the utility’s Lead Reduction Program. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Eliminating Lead in School Drinking Water Facilities: Mike Beck, CO Water Quality Control Division

Winchell told the attendees that, “ASO is an extremely powerful #climate adaption tool.”

He’s right, stationarity is dead so Colorado needs to incorporate new strategies for measurement of snowpack and that is exactly what the ASO technology provides.

Major municipal #water providers across #ColoradoRiver Basin announce commitment to significant reductions in water use — @DenverWater #COriver #aridification

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Map credit: AGU

Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water Website:

Large water providers from across the Colorado River Basin announced today a commitment to substantially expand existing efforts to conserve water, reduce demands and expand reuse and recycling of water supplies.

The agreement includes water providers in both the upper and lower basins of the Colorado River, stretching from Colorado’s Front Range to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The providers invite other utilities in the basin to join in the commitment to increasing water-use efficiency and reducing the demand for water.

The agreement comes amid a two-decade drought on the river that affects 40 million people who rely on it for drinking water, agriculture, power production, landscape irrigation, recreation and more. Demands for water in the basin have exceeded available supply, reducing storage levels in lakes Mead and Powell to critically low levels.

The water providers are outlining their commitments in a Memorandum of Understanding that was delivered to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton today. Some providers have committed to pursuing the MOU’s intent while awaiting final approval through their various governing boards.

“We are developing prudent municipal water conservation actions that every community that relies on the Colorado River should be using,” water providers said in the letter to Touton. Moving forward, “We will describe the steps our organizations will take now and codify our commitment to continued effort as we work to ensure our river and the communities it serves continue to thrive. We sincerely hope our commitment to action inspires other stakeholders that share the river to do the same.”

Specifically, the agreement will focus on several key areas as pathways to cutting water use, including:

  • Develop programs to replace non-functional or passive cool weather turf grass (grass that serves primarily a decorative role and is otherwise unused) with drought- and climate-resistant landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies where appropriate.
  • Increase water reuse and recycling programs where feasible.
  • Continue and expand conservation and efficiency programs to accelerate water savings.
  • “Achieving the protection storage volumes needed to preserve water and hydropower operations within the Colorado River basin cannot be met by a singular country, basin, state, or water use sector,” continued the letter to BOR. “While municipal water use represents only a small fraction of total Colorado River water use, progress begins with one and then many until we are all moving in the same direction.”

    While not all the conservation strategies under consideration may make sense for each community, utilities say the agreement demonstrates the commitment that municipal water providers have not only to coordinating and collaborating on strategies to conserve and manage water demands, but to also help protect the Colorado River system.

    Links to the letter to the BOR, the MOU and a support letter from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Quotes from signatories to the BOR letter:

    “The water supply challenges we are facing on the Colorado River are accelerating at an alarming pace. Everyone who relies on the Colorado River must take bold and immediate action to reduce their use on this vital water source,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “This agreement represents our commitment to working with our municipal partners on the river to come up with innovative, collaborative approaches to better manage our Colorado River supplies and promote a more sustainable future for our communities.”

    “With climate change and aridification affecting the entire Basin, improving the health of the Colorado River system requires a swift and collective effort of all water users — in all sectors — to reduce water use and implement actionable strategies, policies and programs to protect this vital resource and balance water supplies with demands,” said John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager.

    “Climate change and overuse of the Colorado River have put us squarely within the crisis we long saw coming. The bottom line now: We all need to work on solutions, no matter our individual impacts on river flows,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water. “While we have long been a conservation leader, Denver Water has consistently said it is prepared to do even more, and the commitments contained in this agreement reflect our readiness to take further important steps to keep more water in the Colorado River Basin.”

    “Water issues in the arid west are accelerating,” stated Aurora Water General Manager Marshall Brown. “Aurora is embracing these conservation pathways through Colorado’s largest potable reuse system, an aggressive turf replacement rebate program and a new ordinance that prohibits nonfunctional turf in new developments. We’re doing what needs to be done to ensure a reliable water supply for our community in unpredictable times and we challenge other municipalities to do the same.”

    “Colorado Springs Utilities is committed to conservation programming that ensures a clean, reliable water supply for years to come. Building on our customers’ successful 41% reduction in per capita use since 2001, we continue to pursue and implement water efficiency and reuse initiatives that support our vibrant community and make wise use of this valuable resource,” said Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Aram Benyamin.

    “The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District supports the efforts of the Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC), the State of Colorado, and municipal and agricultural water providers in the basin, to collaborate in bringing the system into balance,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the district.

    Using #water to fight lead in drinking water: How #Denver Water engineered a permanent solution to a legacy problem — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Cathy Proctor and Jay Adams):

    Protecting people from hazards that can lurk in their drinking water is the day-in, day-out job for water industry engineers, utilities and regulators.

    And at Denver Water, efforts to protect people from the health risks posed by lead from old, lead service lines getting into drinking water, has been part of the job for decades.

    There is no lead in the water Denver Water delivers to customers, but the utility regularly tests for lead in the drinking water of homes that are known to have lead water service lines, the primary source of lead in drinking water.

    Rachel Himyak, water treatment lead, collects a sample of water that’s been run through old lead service lines as part of ongoing studies at Denver Water of pH adjustment. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In the first half of the 20th century, lead was a common, cheap and easy-to-work-with material to use when forming small pipelines that carry drinking water from utility pipelines in the street into customers’ homes. But these old lead service lines, which in Denver Water’s experience are more often found in homes built before 1951, pose a threat in the community, particularly to children, infants and pregnant women.

    Denver Water has tested for lead in customers’ drinking water for decades under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. In 2012, the routine monitoring indicated the utility needed to investigate whether it could adjust the chemistry of the water it delivered to customers to better protect them from the risk of lead getting into drinking water.

    Read this 2019 story to learn about Denver Water’s efforts over the years to combat lead in drinking water, which culminated in the 2020 launch of its groundbreaking Lead Reduction Program.

    In short, the results of tests on customers’ drinking water launched Denver Water into years of study centered on one question: What more could it do to better protect at-risk customers?

    The first step was more testing.

    “For a utility of our size and the number of lead service lines we have, you can’t just test something by putting it into the distribution system that’s delivering water to 1.5 million people every day. That’s not acceptable to us,” said Ryan Walsh, manager of the water treatment engineering section at Denver Water.

    “We had to test things at a pilot scale, by doing the pipe loop study, before we could move forward.”

    Walsh’s team was in charge of testing various treatment options via the pipe loop study and later planned, designed and executed the treatment plant systems involved in increasing the pH level.

    Denver Water crews dug up old lead service lines from customers’ homes for years of study that led to the utility’s Lead Reduction Program. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    To build the pipe loop study, Denver Water used old lead service lines its crews removed from customers’ homes (replacing them with lead-free lines) as the crews found the old lines during their regular work on water mains across the utility’s service area.

    Denver Water plumbers connected the decades-old pipes together on racks and its treatment engineers ran water through them for hours, days and years. They tested different treatment methods to find out which worked best to reduce the risk of lead from the old pipes getting into the water passing through them.

    Watch this video to see Denver Water’s pipe loop study, which is still underway today.

    “That testing was so critical because we used the water that had been treated by our treatment plants, Moffat and Marston, the water that was going into our system to customers. The pipe loop study allowed us to test the adjustments we might do to the water to keep people safe,” said Patty Brubaker, a water treatment plant manager.

    Aaron Benko, water treatment lead, pulls a sample of water from the rack of old customer-owned lead service lines that Denver Water crews dug up from customers’ homes and researchers continue to study. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “We tried different pH levels, we tried different phosphate levels, and we tried all of them on the actual lead pipes that had been taken from our system,” Brubaker said.

    “There were so many people involved in putting this together. We had the crews who went out and pulled those lines, the plumbers that put them together on the racks, the people who made the adjustments and tested the water as it ran through the pipes.

    All of us were studying the impacts to figure out which would be the best method to use to protect our customers from those old lead pipes.”

    Decision time

    In March 2018, based on Denver Water’s studies, state health officials told Denver Water it had two years — until March 2020 — to get ready to start using a food additive called orthophosphate to tamp down the potential for lead to get into customers’ drinking water.

    The decision worried many people inside and outside of Denver Water.

    The concern wasn’t whether orthophosphate would reduce the potential for lead to get into drinking water. They knew it would.

    Denver Water treatment engineers and operators (from left) Ryan Walsh, Aaron Benko, and Rachel Himyak at the pipe loop rack, which continues to have water running through the old lead service lines for ongoing studies. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Denver Water’s years of tests on the old pipes had shown orthophosphate would work, and other water utilities use orthophosphate to reduce the risk of lead getting into their drinking water.

    But Denver Water, environmental groups and other water and wastewater utilities downstream of Colorado’s capital city worried about the widespread, long term — and expensive — consequences of adding orthophosphate to such a large system, including the increased potential for environmental impacts in and downstream of the Denver metro area.

    Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, had been hired at the utility few months before the state’s 2018 decision on orthophosphate. From previous jobs involving water and wastewater treatment plants, she’d seen what orthophosphate could do at the plants and in the environment.

    Hector Castaneda, a water treatment technician, and Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, at the Marston Treatment Plant filter beds, where water is filtered through tiny pieces of sand and anthracite coal as part of the treatment process. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “I’d seen the algae, which can grow faster when there are higher levels of phosphate in the water. I’d seen it coating the valves coming into the treatment plant so we couldn’t bring water in. I’ve seen how the taste and odor problems with the water were so bad that people bought and used bottled water instead of tap water,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

    “And in Colorado’s dry, arid environment, with our long, sunny days and the UV light, adding orthophosphate to our system would have created a primordial soup. Plus, after the expense of adding it to the water at the drinking water treatment plant, it’s hard, expensively hard, to get phosphorous out of the water when it arrives at the downstream wastewater plants,” she said.

    About half of Denver Water’s residential water use is outdoor water use used on lawns and gardens. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    On top of the expensive work that would be required at wastewater treatment plants, there simply was no way to recapture all the orthophosphate that would be added to Denver’s drinking water due to the way water is used in the metro area, she said.

    About half of Denver Water’s residential water use is outdoor water use, tied to the irrigation of lawns and gardens. That means some of the orthophosphate-treated drinking water was bound to run off of lawns, down the gutter and end up in the metro area’s urban creeks, streams and rivers.

    Water used for irrigation of lawns and gardens often ends up in urban creeks and streams that flow throughout the Denver metro area. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The groups worried that under the right conditions, that additional phosphate could accelerate the growth of algae not only downstream of the city, but also in the metro area’s urban creeks, streams and reservoirs.

    There had to be another way, they said.

    Alternative path

    “We went back to the data from the years of tests we’d run. We saw that if we raised the pH level of the water, instead of adding orthophosphate, we could protect people from the lead service lines,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

    “And if we combined a higher pH with replacing those lead service lines with new, lead-free copper lines, then the lead levels would drop to the point where the tests couldn’t detect anything.”

    In 2019, Denver Water formally proposed an alternative approach to state and federal regulators.

    Denver Water’s proposal, at its core, called for raising the pH of the water delivered to customers from 7.8 to 8.8 on the pH scale, and keeping it there with relatively little variance as it flowed from the treatment plant to the customers’ homes and businesses.

    Raising the pH of the water delivered to customers strengthens an existing protective coating inside lead service lines, which reduces the risk of lead getting into drinking water. Image credit: Denver Water.

    The higher pH level would strengthen an existing protective coating inside the lead service lines, reducing the risk of lead getting into the drinking water as it passed through the lead pipes.

    And that — combined with significantly accelerating the replacement of the old lead services lines — would 1) lower the risk faster than relying on orthophosphate alone, and 2) do so without the cost and environmental concerns posed by adding the phosphate.

    This graphic (not to scale) portrays how a higher pH level creates a stronger protective coating (shown in white and brown on the left) inside a lead service line (shown in grey), separating the water (blue) from the lead pipe and reducing the risk of lead getting into the drinking water. Image credit: Denver Water.

    “It was a better solution, a permanent solution to the problem of old lead service lines, which are the primary source of lead in drinking water,” Poncelet-Johnson said.

    “Because instead of a Band-Aid approach, instead of just adding chemicals to the system and then dealing with the widespread economic and environmental consequences of that decision for decades, we went the other way and proposed permanently removing the problem by raising the pH of the water and replacing the lead service lines,” she said.

    Listen to Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of Denver Water’s water quality and treatment section, discuss Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program:

    Denver Water’s alternative proposal focused on five areas:

    Raising the pH of the water it delivers to 1.5 million people to 8.8, and keep it fairly constant, with very little variance, as the water flowed from treatment plant, through the distribution system, to customers’ homes and businesses.

  • Mapping the location of the customer-owned lead service lines in its service area and sharing that map with customers.
  • Replacing the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines in its service area with new lead-free copper lines at no direct cost to the customer.
  • Providing customers enrolled in the program with water pitchers and filters certified to remove lead to use until six months after their lead line was replaced.
  • Launching the largest public health communication effort Denver Water had ever done to educate its customers about the risks of lead, the importance of using filtered water until the old lead service lines could be replaced, and the process for replacing those lead pipes.
  • Watch this video to learn more about lead service lines.

    Breaking new ground

    The proposal broke new ground in the water industry in two main ways.

    It attacked the legacy issue posed old lead service lines from all sides — by raising the pH level, replacing customers’ old lead service lines, providing water filters to customers enrolled in the program to use until six months after their line was replaced, and educating those customers about the program.

    And Denver Water said it would tackle all those steps on a scale and at a speed never before seen in the water industry.

    Communicating with customers enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program is one of five elements of the biggest public health initiative in Denver Water’s history. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Other cities had aimed to replace a few thousand lead service lines.

    But Denver Water proposed replacing up to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines estimated to be in Denver Water’s service area, doing it at no direct cost to the customer, and doing it in 15 years.

    And, the utility proposed sending water pitchers and filters to more than 100,000 households enrolled in the program to use for cooking, drinking and preparing infant formula until six months after their lead line was replaced.

    More than 100,000 households enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program were supplied with water pitchers and filters certified to remove lead to use for cooking, drinking and preparing infant formula until six months after their lead line is replaced. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In December 2019, health officials at the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment agreed to Denver Water’s alternative proposal.

    Weeks later, in January 2020, Denver Water launched its Lead Reduction Program — and immediately faced a crucial deadline.

    The utility’s engineers, treatment plant operators and monitoring teams now had to implement the systems and processes that would raise the pH level of the water and maintain that level as the water flowed across more than 3,000 miles of pipe to 1.5 million people. And they had less than 90 days to do it.

    Hard choices for the #ColoradoRiver — Writers on the Range #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (Quinn Harper and Mark Squillace):

    The seven Colorado River states – Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming – face a daunting mid-August deadline. The federal government has asked them to come up with a plan to reduce their combined water usage from the Colorado River by up to 4 million acre-feet in 2023.

    That is a massive reduction for a river system that currently produces about 12.4 million acre-feet. The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the Colorado River, warned that it will “act unilaterally to protect the system” if the states cannot come up with an adequate plan on their own.

    The seven states have worked cooperatively over the past two decades to identify solutions to a shrinking river. But their response now, much like the global response to climate change, seems far from adequate to the enormous challenge.

    In a recent letter to BuRec, the Upper Colorado River Commission, speaking for the four Upper Basin states, proposed a plan that adopts a business-as-usual, “drought-reduction” approach. They argue that their options are limited because “previous drought response actions are depleting upstream storage by 661,000 feet.”

    The Commission complains that water users “already suffer chronic shortages under current conditions resulting in uncompensated priority administration, which includes cuts to numerous present perfected rights in each of our states.”

    This leads the Commission to conclude that any future reductions must come largely from Mexico and the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada, because they use most of the water.

    But the Lower Basin states have already taken a significant hit to their “present perfected rights,” and if BuRec makes good on its promise to act unilaterally, they will face another big reduction. The cooperative relationship among the Basin states will not endure if the Upper Basin refuses to share the burden by reducing its consumption.

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project involves raising the height of the existing dam by 131 feet. The dam will be built out and will have “steps” made of roller-compacted concrete to reach the new height. Image credit: Denver Water

    A good place to start might lie with two Colorado projects to divert water from the Colorado River basin to the Front Range. Both began construction this summer. The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will triple the size of one of Denver Water’s major storage units. Denver Water’s original justification for this project – to serve Denver’s growing urban population – seems odd given that water demand in their service area over the past two decades has shrunk, even as its population rose by nearly 300,000.

    Outflow from the dam across the Colorado River that forms Windy Gap Reservoir. Taken during a field trip the reservoir in September, 2017.

    Similar questions have been raised with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap Firming Project, which plans to store Colorado River water to support population growth in Front Range cities.

    These two projects suggest that Colorado is prepared to exacerbate the current crisis when the opposite response is so desperately needed.

    Abandoning these two projects would signal that Colorado is serious about giving the Colorado River a fighting chance at survival. It might also jump-start good-faith negotiations over how Mexico, the states, and tribes might work to achieve a long-term solution to this crisis.

    The homestead laws of the 19th century attracted a resilient group of farmers to the West who cleverly designed water laws to secure their water rights against all future water users. “First in time, first in right” became the governing mantra of water allocation, because, except for Tribal Nations, the farmers were first.

    That system worked well for many years. As communities grew, cities and water districts built reservoirs to store the spring runoff, ensuring that water was available throughout the irrigation season.

    Climate change and mega-droughts have upended that system. Nowhere have the consequences been as dire as in the Colorado River Basin. America’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead – key components of the Colorado River’s water storage system – have not filled for more than two decades. They now sit well below 30% of their capacity.

    Hotter temperatures, less mountain snowpack, and dry soils that soak up runoff like a sponge have brought us to this seven-state crisis. All seven states must now share the pain of addressing this crisis.

    The Upper Basin Commission’s anemic response to BuRec’s plea is not a serious plan. We can do better and we must.

    Mark Squillace and Quinn Harper are contributors to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. Mark Squillace is the Raphael J. Moses professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School. Quinn Harper is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in natural resource policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Take a bow ‘Use Only What You Need,’ you’re in the hall of fame!: @DenverWater’s decadelong campaign played pivotal role in creating culture of #conservation in the metro area — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Cathy Proctor):

    Do you know you should “Use Only What You Need”?

    If yes, then you’re familiar with Denver Water’s decadelong campaign, launched a few years after the 2002 drought, that urged customers to reduce the amount of water they used in their everyday lives.

    Denver Water’s decadelong Use Only What You Need campaign found humor in conservation. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The occasionally cheeky campaign showcased images like a park bench with only room for one person, water from a broken sprinkler head cascading onto a giant billboard and suggestions for using less water — like showering with a friend.

    And it worked. By the time the campaign — created by Denver’s Sukle Advertising & Design — ended in 2015, water use by Denver Water’s customers had dropped 22% compared to usage before the drought.

    The “Use Only What You Need” campaign has been recognized repeatedly over the years for its effectiveness and memorability, and on May 17 the Out of Home Advertising Association of America inducted it into the OBIE Hall of Fame, a group dominated by advertising campaigns backed by national and international brand names.

    See how one Denver Water employee transformed his northwest Denver yard to make it more attractive and use less water.

    “Denver Water’s signature orange box asking customers to ‘Use Only What You Need’ became advertising legend in the Denver metro area,” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager.

    “In a light-hearted and at times outrageous way, the campaign led the charge for our conservation programing where we had a critical call to action: Reduce water use by 22%. Eight years after achieving that goal, Use Only What You Need has remained a one-of-a-kind catchphrase that has continued to help Coloradans embrace a culture of conservation, which is so vital in the arid West where water is such a precious resource.”

    Tip for using less water? Showering with a friend was part of a conservation campaign that reduced water use among Denver Water customers by 22% compared to usage before 2002. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Out-of-home advertising is visual advertising outside of the home, such as billboards, indoor and outdoor signs, ads on bus shelters or benches, in airports or train stations, and in a stadium or movie theater.

    Previous OBIE Hall of Fame winners include the insurance company Geico (2021), entertainment giants The Walt Disney Co. (2007) and Universal Studios (2019), brewer MillerCoors (2018) and technology company Apple Inc. (2005).

    Get simple strategies to save water inside and outside your home.

    Competition for the 2022 Hall of Fame award put Denver Water up against international heavyweights — and household names — Google, Netflix, Procter & Gamble Co., Pepsi and Samsung.

    In the 30-year history of the OBIE Hall of Fame awards, Denver Water’s award is only the second time a regional brand has won the judges’ nod. The first was the San Diego Zoo in 1995.

    “This is one of the highest creative honors in our industry, and we are immensely proud to be recognized by OAAA and our peers,” said Mike Sukle, owner of Sukle Advertising & Design.

    “Creating and managing the campaign for a decade shaped how we approach every campaign we create. It cemented our philosophy that work must be both smart and creative to generate exceptional results. And while mass media including out of home was critical, the campaign spread almost as much through word-of-mouth. Our audience became our media. That’s an important lesson for all brands. And if you can make people like you, they may also listen to you,” he said.

    The campaign encouraged customers to take a hard look at how much water they — and their lawns — truly needed. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Anna Bager, president and CEO of the association, called Denver Water’s campaign “truly brilliant and entertaining.”

    “Denver Water has achieved legendary out-of-home status with a sustained level of creative excellence over many years. Their commitment to the ‘Use Only What You Need’ headline came to life in a seemingly endless number of creative solutions,” she said.

    And while Denver Water’s message that water is precious and should be used wisely hasn’t changed, the utility’s campaign around water has evolved into a simple main message: Water is everything.

    Denver Water’s latest campaign focuses on what water brings to our lives under the tagline “Life Is Better With Water.” Image credit: Denver Water.

    Using the tagline “Life Is Better With Water,” the utility’s current campaign with Denver advertising agency Pure Brand celebrates the importance of water as a precious resource in our everyday lives and one that plays a vital role in Colorado’s unique lifestyle.

    “It’s about elevating the value of water in our daily lives. Together, we all can help create a ripple effect that ensures our Colorado lifestyle continues for generations to come,” said Kathie Dudas, manager of brand and marketing at Denver Water.

    Battling #ClimateChange with #solar, #hydro and a shifting fleet Denver Water is cutting its carbon footprint, while preparing for a drier, hotter future — News on Tap #ActOnCLimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Todd Hartman):

    Denver Water sits on the front lines of climate change.

    Rising temperatures, long-term drought and less dependable snowpack are all making the job of providing water to 1.5 million people tougher.

    Denver Water’s administration building is powered by solar panels. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In response, the utility is preparing for a future with a less consistent water supply for its customers, through innovations including greater efficiency, One Water and new storage projects such as the Gross Reservoir expansion.

    Learn more about how the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project makes us more resilient in the face of climate change with greater water security.

    The utility also is moving aggressively to cut its own carbon footprint, striving to meet goals for producing renewable energy and reducing dependence on energy sources tied directly to warming temperatures.

    In 2020, Denver Water met an organizational goal for “net zero” annual energy consumption. That’s a fancy way of saying it produced as much or more energy than it consumed, and that its energy was generated using carbon-free sources: hydropower and solar power.

    To be precise, the utility produced roughly 1.5 million more “kilowatt-hour equivalents” than it used in 2020.

    The utility’s solar power panels and hydropower generators produced enough clean energy to account for not only its electricity use but also the natural gas it uses for heat. Natural gas burned to supply heat is an energy category that’s not always factored into “net zero” calculations, but Denver Water made a point of including it to create a stretch goal for its effort.

    Denver Water’s solar panels generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. Photo credit: Denver Water

    “Several years earlier, we had set a goal to hit ‘net-zero’ as a benchmark for our sustainability efforts,” said Kate Taft, Denver Water’s sustainability manager. “Hitting that in 2020 was the result of a lot of focused, dedicated work across the organization and represents an important milestone in the utility’s long history of environmental progress.”

    Net-zero is a big deal in the era of climate change.

    Learn more about how Denver Water has leaned into the challenge of climate change and how its work to track emissions has been recognized by outside experts.

    Many major corporations are striving to attain the status, including companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors. Many companies and governments have set net-zero goals for 2030 and 2040, for example.

    Denver Water got there sooner. Though, to be sure, Denver Water benefits from — wait for it — water in this endeavor.

    Water spills from Williams Fork Reservoir in 2019. The power of moving water is a major source of emission-free electricity for Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Hydroelectric power is generated at seven locations in Denver Water’s 4,000-square-mile collection area. That includes power generated at reservoirs but also at places like Roberts Tunnel, where the energy of water moving downhill through a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide creates electricity.

    All told, Denver Water’s hydropower operations generate about 65 million emission-free kilowatt-hours per year. That translates to about the amount of electricity consumed by 6,000 homes for a year.

    While Denver Water generated hydropower for decades and is continuing to look for additional opportunities to generate power from moving water, including at its Northwater Treatment Plant currently under construction near Golden, the addition of solar power to its renewable energy portfolio is more recent.

    At the utility’s newly redeveloped Operations Complex, completed in 2019, solar power panels on the roof of the Administration Building and atop parking structures generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. That offset the Administration Building’s use with more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours to spare.

    Crews install solar panels on top of Denver Water’s administration building in 2019. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s extra clean electricity that can go back into the grid for use by others.

    And in Denver Water’s new sustainability goals issued in 2021, the utility set a new target for itself: to increase its capacity to generate renewable energy by 1 megawatt and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from a 2015 baseline.

    How much is that 1 megawatt? Roughly, it would be like adding another solar array about the size of the one at the Operations Complex. Or, like adding the hydropower capacity that now exists at Strontia Springs Reservoir, situated 6 miles up Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver.

    Even as it works to add more green power, Denver Water may not always be able to meet its net-zero goal, at least in the short term.

    That’s because maintenance projects at times take hydroelectric facilities off-line or reduce their capacity. For example, for the next five years, Gross Reservoir will generate less power because its storage space for water will be cut by about one-third while a dam-raising project proceeds.

    Students learn about the hydroelectric plant at Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver. Hydroelectricity at Hillcrest and six other sites is key to the utility’s ability to meet its net zero energy goals. Photo credit: Denver Water

    However once that project is completed, and the capacity of the reservoir is tripled, the location is expected to be a greater source of clean energy, increasing its production capacity by nearly 15% compared to its capacity before the project.

    In 2021, too, Denver Water fell short of its goal due in part to work on the hydroelectric facility at Roberts Tunnel. Work to upgrade the hydro facility at the tunnel kicked off in 2019.

    Finally, while Denver Water focuses on offsetting electricity and heat generated by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, its net-zero calculations don’t currently count gasoline burned by its fleet vehicles or propane needed at some remote sites.

    “As we make a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources, there will be bumps in the road,” Taft said. “We still, inevitably, will depend on more traditional sources at times and in certain locations. But we are relentlessly pushing to generate more of our own green energy and cut emissions associated with natural gas, coal and vehicles.”

    Learn more about how Denver Water has constructed a low-energy heating and cooling system and its long history of environmental stewardship.

    As part of its effort to cut emissions, Denver Water is beginning the long transition to electric fleet vehicles.

    The utility already has six Ford F-150 hybrid trucks and hopes to test the use of some all-electric pickups in 2023, pending supply chain challenges.

    And as the utility continues to look at other electric vehicle options, it is partnering with analysts at Drive Clean Colorado and Xcel Energy’s Fleet Electrification Advisory Program to help guide the process.

    “Getting this right will take time and a constant push forward,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s chief administrative officer. “But it is the right thing to do. We are a water utility, and providing reliable, safe, clean water isn’t possible without protecting the natural environment from which it flows.”

    Starting a water-wise garden that glows in hot, dry conditions: In 2021, #Denver-area Garden In A Box customers planted 100,000 sq. ft. of low-water gardens instead of grass — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Jay Adams):

    Do you recognize these plant names? Moonbeam coreopsis. Autumn joy stonecrop. Blonde ambition.

    They may not be well known among most homeowners, but they are examples of water-wise plants gaining popularity in Colorado every year.

    Water-wise plants mostly rely on what Mother Nature provides, requiring either no additional water or only a few inches during the growing season.

    Plant Select, which promotes low-water plants that thrive in Colorado’s climate, describes this plant as an “impressive, highly ornamental form of Western native grass with tall, upright stems.” We think it lives up to its name: Blonde Ambition. Photo credit: Denver Water

    The plants are an alternative to thirsty Kentucky bluegrass and thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate. Water-wise plants also offer additional benefits such as low maintenance and added color. Many also attract birds, bees and butterflies.

    Denver Water promotes water conservation efforts in customers’ yards and encourages them to learn about incorporating water-wise plants into their landscapes.

    Check out stories and advice from Denver Water customers who have added Garden In A Box kits to their landscapes.

    Good sources of information include Resource Central, which offers the popular Garden In A Box program, and Plant Select, which promotes plants that need less water and thrive in the high plains and Rocky Mountain regions.

    Elie Zwiebel and his partner, Laura, stand in front of their home in Denver’s Athmar Park neighborhood showing off results of their Garden In A Box. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Resource Central

    Since 2012, Denver Water has regularly supported Resource Central, a nonprofit organization based in Boulder that promotes water conservation programs.

    One of its programs, Garden In A Box, offers a variety of water-wise plants along with plant-by-number garden designs from landscape professionals. The kits also come with information about the care and maintenance needs of the plants.

    A Garden In A Box, after a few years, will delight homeowners and those who pass by. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Customers can choose from gardens with names like “Naturally Native” and “Painted Shade,” indicating the kind of plants in each garden and the type of conditions they thrive in.

    Programs like Garden In A Box are important to Denver Water because among its customers, outdoor water use accounts for about 50% of single-family residential water use. Converting a section of lawn into a water-wise garden is one way to reduce a home’s outdoor water footprint.

    “Garden In A Box started in 2003 and we’ve sold more than 41,000 kits through fall 2021,” said Elisabeth Bowman, conservation engagement manager at Resource Central.

    “Interest in the gardens has grown every year in the metro area so we’re happy to see so many people looking for water-wise landscapes.”

    Between 2003 through 2021, Resource Central estimates it’s helped plant 3.1 million square feet of low-water landscapes, saving 228.6 million gallons of water over the lifetime of the gardens sold to customers across the Front Range.


    A homeowner near Denver’s City Park removed grass from his front yard and planted a Garden In A Box. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Denver Water pays Resource Central more than $15,000 a year to set up four garden pickup events in Denver every spring, so customers who live in and near Denver Water’s service area don’t have to go far to get their gardens.

    More than 10,000 gardens have been sold to Denver-area residents since 2014.

    Garden In A Box offers water-wise plants and professional designs in each kit. Image credit: Resource Central

    “Denver Water is a huge partner for us, the support they provide makes it easy for Denver residents to pick up their kits. Over 1,000 of our gardens go to Denver residents every year,” said Melanie Stolp, manager of Resource Central’s Garden In A Box and its water efficiency Slow the Flow programs.

    And the results of the customers’ purchases are amazing.

    Just take a look at Resource Central’s 2021 numbers for Denver Water:

  • 1,834 Garden In A Box kits sold to customers who live in Denver and the surrounding suburbs of Centennial, Edgewater, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Littleton and Wheat Ridge.
  • 100,000 square feet of low-water gardens planted, according to Resource Central’s estimates.
  • 9.5 million gallons of water saved over the lifetime of those new gardens, according to Resource Central’s estimates.
  • A Resource Central employee loads a Garden In A Box kit during the spring 2021 pickup event. Photo Credit: Denver Water

    “The Garden In A Box program helps people start small, converting a section of the lawn from turf to low-water plants,” said Jeff Tejral, Denver Water’s former water efficiency manager who guided the partnership with Resource Central.

    “It helps people learn about these plants, how to care for them and the beauty they can bring to their home. From there, they often convert more sections of grass to water-wise landscapes.”

    Customer surveys indicate about two-thirds of Garden In A Box buyers have little or no experience with water-wise plants, according to Tejral.

    The Garden In A Box kit comes with a plant-by-number guide for a landscape designed by professionals using water-wise plants. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s why each garden comes with a guide that helps customers through the planting and early years of the garden’s life.

    Gardens have been sold in the spring and typically sell out quickly. Resource Central continues to increase the number of kits available each year to meet the growing demand. The organization has also conducted a fall sale for about four years and in 2021 increased its offerings by 35%.

    Plant Select helps gardeners find water-wise plants that thrive in Colorado and the retailers that sell them. See their Top 10 plants from 2020.

    The fall 2021 sale sold out. Another fall is planned for 2022.

    Bowman encourages anyone interested in purchasing a Garden In A Box to check out Resource Central’s website and sign up for their newsletter.

    A Garden In A Box kit planted in southeast Denver’s Hampden neighborhood. Photo credit: Denver Water

    In addition to Garden In A Box, Resource Central also offers other water conservation programs through its water utility partners, including:

  • Lawn Removal Service program.
  • Slow the Flow consultations to improve water efficiency inside and outside.
  • Free webinars on water-wise landscaping held in the spring.
  • Simple strategies can cut #water use and save money: From faulty flappers to sunken sprinklers, how small things can add to your water bill — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the News on Tap website (Jay Adams):

    As summer is typically a time of higher water use (and higher monthly bills), Denver Water wants to remind customers that making changes to indoor and outdoor water use can help save water and save money.

    “The best way to save money on your water bill is to become more efficient at using water,” said Jeff Tejral, a former water efficiency manager at Denver Water.

    Denver Water and the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program have several resources available to help save water and money.

    From fixing leaks inside and outside to turning off the water when brushing your teeth, some of the following water-saving ideas are free or inexpensive and can be done quickly. Others, like revamping your landscape or replacing appliances, may require a more long-term approach.

    A constantly dripping faucet won’t only drive you crazy but it will freak Mother Nature out, too. Even a small faucet leak can waste up to three gallons of water each day. Photo credit: Delta Faucet

    Fixing leaks indoors

    Across the U.S., Americans waste about 1 trillion gallons of water every year through water leaks and spend about 10% of their water bill on wasted water, according to the EPA.

    “If you’ve got a leak, you are spending money on water that you’re not even using,” Tejral said. “Leaking toilets are often the biggest culprits for water waste. Some leaks are almost undetectable, while others are easy to spot.”

    The biggest cause of toilet leaks are worn-out flappers. These are the rubber parts that seal off the tank from the bowl. Over time, the flappers decay and allow water to slowly leak into the bowl.

    This toilet has a small, almost undetectable leak through its pink, circular flapper on the bottom of the tank. Some leaks can be detected by listening to hear if water is coming into the tank after it’s done filling. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Another common cause of leaks is a float arm that is not set properly, causing water to constantly flow down the overflow/refill tube.

    The EPA reports that an average leaking toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water every day.

    For Denver Water customers, a leak of 200 gallons per day can add around $415 per year on your water bill.

    Here’s how to check if your toilet is leaking.

    Listen to hear if the toilet continues to run after a flush. Or, drop dye tabs or a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank. If there is a leak, color will show up in the bowl after a few minutes depending on the size of the leak. Just make sure to flush after the test to prevent stains.

    Fixing flappers and float arms are relatively simple and inexpensive repairs. Replacement parts can be found at hardware and home improvement stores and there are many resources online to help guide you through the fix.

    Placing a few drops of food coloring in a toilet’s tank will leak into the bowl if there is a leak in the flapper. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In addition to checking toilets for leaks, Tejral also suggests inspecting all water sources in your home, including faucets, showers, and water supply lines for dishwashers, washing machines, swamp coolers and ice machines.

    Denver Water has tips for conducting a self-audit of your home’s plumbing on its website.

    And remember, small leaks can add up over time. A leak of 10 drops per minute can waste 300 gallons of water per year.

    Not only can these leaks again add to your water bill, they can damage your home.

    Fixing leaks outdoors

    Spring is a great time to inspect your irrigation system and outdoor hoses for leaks as you turn the system on in preparation for the summer irrigation season. Be sure to wait until it warms up to turn on the system, the last freeze in the metro area is typically around May 4, according to the National Weather Service.

    Inspecting your sprinkler throughout the watering season is a good way to spot problems. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Outdoor water leaks can be found in sprinkler heads, pvc pipes, backflow preventers, irrigation system valves, sprinkler heads and drip systems. Not only do leaks raise your water bill, they lower the performance of your entire sprinkler system.

    Let’s run the math on how leaks can hit you in the wallet.

    Irrigation system experts say it’s not uncommon for a sprinkler zone to leak one gallon per minute. If you run that zone for 18 minutes, three times per week, that’s 216 wasted gallons of water per month and roughly an additional $1.22 on your Denver Water bill.

    If there are similar leaks on multiple sprinkler zones in your yard, and those leaks continue all summer and over many years, that’s a lot of wasted water that adds onto your utility bill.

    And if you use a manual sprinkler, remember to check your hose connections for leaks too.

    Wet areas around sprinklers can be a sign of a leak in a supply line or connection underground. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Watering rules can save you money

    The EPA reports that 50% of water put on lawns nationwide is lost due to wind, evaporation and runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods.

    That’s why following Denver Water’s rules for outdoor water use can help save money on your water bill.

    “The summer watering rules are in effect from May 1 through Oct. 1. They can really help customers save money by encouraging them to water efficiently,” Tejral said. “We see a lot of inefficiencies with sprinkler systems and small problems that can add up.”

    One basic rule is to water between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. This avoids watering in the heat of the day when water can be lost to evaporation before it ever lands on the grass.

    It is also best to avoid watering when it’s windy, so water doesn’t blow off your yard.

    Also, check to make sure sprinklers are not aiming onto the street, driveway or sidewalk.

    Homeowners should also check the weather forecast and look for rainy days when they can skip irrigating and let your lawn soak up Mother Nature’s rain.

    Check to make sure your sprinklers aren’t accidentally watering the sidewalk or street. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Setting the control clock

    The watering rules can help your lawn by providing guidelines for how long to run sprinkler zones based on various types of sprinklers. Denver Water recommends watering only two or three days per week.

    Tejral reminds homeowners to check their irrigation system’s control clock throughout the watering season, avoiding the “set it and forget it” approach.

    Common problems with control clocks include sprinklers going off in the middle of the day, zones not running for an appropriate length of time and run times that are not adjusted during the watering season as weather conditions change.

    roperly programming your irrigation control system will improve the efficiency of your sprinklers and improve the health of your yard. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “Understanding your control system is one of the most important things you can do to make sure you are watering efficiently and not wasting water,” Tejral said.

    Tejral also recommends setting controllers to “cycle and soak.”

    This means splitting the total run time for each sprinkler zone in half. For example, instead of running each zone for 18 minutes all at once, run each zone for nine minutes and then wait a bit before running the same zone for another nine minutes.

    “Cycle and soak practices give the ground more time to absorb water like a sponge,” Tejral said. “If the sponge is full, it can’t absorb any more water. The ground works the same way.”

    When customers do not follow these guidelines, they often think using more water is the best way to get a greener yard. But that often adds to the bill and does not help the grass.

    “Cycle and soak” is a watering technique used to break up sprinkler run times to give water time to soak into the ground. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Another tip is to monitor each sprinkler zone because some zones need less water than others.

    For example, grass in a backyard that has several trees will need less water than grass in a front yard with no trees that is in the full sun all day.

    The watering rules also provide guidance for adjusting sprinkler zone run times throughout the watering season. Less water is needed in May and September, when the weather is cooler, than in June, July and August, when the weather is warmer.

    Avoid overwatering

    A common mistake that leads to higher water bills is overwatering the yard when brown spots or dry areas appear.

    “Often, homeowners see brown spots and immediately think they need to run their sprinklers longer, when in fact the brown spots could be due to a variety of problems,” Tejral said.

    Sprinkler-related reasons for brown spots include heads that have sunk into the ground, broken heads, sprinklers that are not aimed properly, water pressure issues and poor coverage. Doing a visual inspection when the sprinklers are running is a good way to spot problems.

    Some problems can be easily fixed.

    Note the leak on the sprinkler after it’s hit by a lawnmower. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “Plastic sprinklers can crack in the winter and break easily in the summer if they’re hit by lawnmowers or stepped on, so it’s important to check them throughout the summer,” Tejral said.

    A comprehensive approach to checking how much area your sprinklers are reaching is to do a catch can test.

    This involves spreading cups across each sprinkler zone to see if water from the sprinklers is dispersing evenly and reaching target areas.

    Tejral says if you are a customer with a water bill that is over $200 per month during the irrigation season or if you are considering installing or retrofitting your irrigation system, you may benefit from hiring a professional who has earned their Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper certification.

    Landscape and irrigation professionals take part in Qualified Water Efficiency Landscape certification training at Castle Rock Water in February 2020. Photo credit: South Metro Water Supply Authority.

    A list of certified landscape and irrigation experts can be found on the QWEL website. The experts provide a number of services including sprinkler system audits, water efficient irrigation system designs, water-saving landscape designs and installation. Services are provided for residential and commercial customers.

    “A QWEL certified professional may cost money up front, but the savings will add up over time,” Tejral said. “A water efficient landscape will also hold up better in times of drought.”

    WaterSense also provides links to qualified professionals.

    Landscape change

    Changing the kind of lawn and landscape you have in your yard also can reduce water use.

    If you want a different look for your yard, consider different types of turf grass or other landscape changes.

    Mrs. Gulch’s Blue gramma “Eyelash” patch August 28, 2021.

    “Kentucky bluegrass requires more water,” Tejral said. “Homeowners who like the look of grass but are open to something different can look at buffalo grass, blue gramma and fescue.”

    Tejral said it is a good idea to evaluate your outdoor living needs every year and determine if grass is the best fit.

    Hardscapes, patios, vegetable gardens and shrubs may be more practical and require less water than grass.

    The owners of this home in Denver created a diverse backyard with with a mixture of grass, shrubs and patio space. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Rebates

    Denver Water offers rebates for customers interested in reducing water use indoors and out.

    Rebates are available for some high-efficiency toilets, smart irrigation controllers and high-efficiency sprinkler heads. Be sure to check the Denver Water website for details about which models qualify for rebates.

    High-efficiency rotary spray heads deliver water at a slower rate to give water more time to soak into the ground. They also provide a stream of water that is more likely to fall to the ground compared to a spray head that sends out a mist of water that can be swept away by the slightest wind.

    High-efficiency sprinklers deliver water in streams and at a slower rate than fixed-spray head nozzles. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Replace old fixtures and appliances

    While many water-saving fixes are free or relatively inexpensive to do, the EPA says the average family can save 13,000 gallons of water annually by investing a bit more to save money down the road.

    When buying new appliances and fixtures, purchase products that carry an Energy Star or WaterSense label, an indication that the product uses less energy or water compared to products that don’t carry those labels.

    This includes washing machines, dishwashers, showerheads, faucets, toilets, irrigation controllers, sprinkler parts and more.

    Installing WaterSense fixtures reduces water consumption and saves money on water bills. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    High-efficiency shower heads use about 1.75 gallons per minute compared to older ones that use 2.5 gallons per minute.

    Replacing an older washing machine with an Energy Star model can save 30 gallons to 40 gallons per load.

    Newer dishwashers can save 3,870 gallons of water annually.

    Replacing faucet aerators is an easy way to save water at home. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Replacing faucet aerators is another way to save money and water.

    New aerators for bathroom sinks dispense just half a gallon of water per minute compared to older ones that use around 1 gallon to 1.5 gallons per minute.

    The TAVA Waters community in southeast Denver shows how advancements in technology allow water efficiency products to save money and water without loss of performance.

    Crews from Ecosystems install 2,500 high-efficiency toilets at the Tava Waters community in Denver in 2017. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Other easy changes

    There are other simple actions that don’t cost anything to do but will save money on your water bill.

    These include taking shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing teeth.

    Running dishwashers and washing machines when they are full is another way to save water.

    You can also use a spray nozzle with a shut-off handle when washing the car or cleaning windows and patios.

    Directing downspouts to landscapes is another way to help plants without increasing water consumption.

    Even small amounts of extra rainwater add up over a season and can help keep trees and shrubs healthy. Just make sure the water drains toward the landscape and not toward the home’s foundation.

    Aiming downspouts away from the house and onto landscapes is a good way to take advantage of rain and snowmelt. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Another free tip to improve your lawn’s health is to make sure you don’t mow the grass too low.

    Lawn experts at Colorado State University’s Extension office recommend keeping your grass height at 2.5 to 3 inches to make it more resistant to heat, drought and insects.

    And remember to cover up your pool or spa when not in use, this prevents water loss due to evaporation.

    Billing

    Denver Water encourages customers to review their monthly water bills. Unusually high bills could indicate a leak.

    Customers should also watch their email for Denver Water’s summer watering efficiency reports.

    The monthly report, sent June through October, shows if you are using water efficiently. If you want this report, make sure your Denver Water account is updated with your email or call Customer Care at 303-893-2444 to sign up.

    Denver Water sends out water efficiency reports to customers during the summer watering season. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Develop a plan

    While there are a wide range of ideas, Tejral said it’s perfectly OK to start small, or to make a plan that takes on manageable changes that will help save water in your home and landscape.

    The key to saving money, watering efficiently and having a healthy landscape is to develop a plan either by yourself or with a professional. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “Many of these ideas save small amounts of water, but when you combine them, it can add up and result in significant savings,” Tejral said. “The good news is that saving water at home not only helps lower water bills, it also creates healthier lawns while reducing the impact on rivers and streams in the mountains where we collect our water.”

    For this story, the cost of water lost through leaks is based on $5.69 per 1,000 gallons, the average cost of water for Denver Water residential customers, both those inside and outside the city. The amount of money saved by changes suggested in this story are general amounts, as individual monthly bills include a range of factors that were not part of the calculations in this story.

    Don’t waste Mother Nature’s gift: Weekend storm was no #drought buster, but it does mean you can turn off your sprinklers for days — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the News on Tap website (Denver Water):

    The piles of snow left by last weekend’s storm have melted away, but lawns and landscapes are benefiting from the free water the storm brought to the metro area.

    That means lawns won’t need extra water, in the form of sprinklers and irrigation systems, for days, even a week as more rain is in the forecast.

    Denver Water saw customer demand drop by about half over the weekend as its customers did a great job responding to Mother Nature’s free water by turning off their sprinklers.

    Let all that water soak in! And challenge yourself: Don’t water your lawn until it needs it. (Take the screwdriver test.) Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In fact, you’re doing your lawn a favor by turning off the sprinklers and keeping them off for several days after the weekend storm — or any upcoming rain. Babied lawns that get too much water too often can have trouble with Colorado’s hotter summer months.

    (And watering too much too often will drive up your monthly water bill to boot!)

    “Your lawn can last longer than you think,” said Austin Krcmarik, a water efficiency expert at Denver Water. “Challenge yourself, see how long you can keep your sprinklers off.”

    An easy way to test for soil moisture is to probe your lawn with a screwdriver. If it goes into the soil easily, that indicates sufficient moisture. Watch the video below to see how quick and easy this test is to perform.

    While the storm dumped up to 2 feet of snow in Colorado’s mountains, it wasn’t a drought buster. (And other parts of the state didn’t see much from the storm.) Denver Water’s planners do not expect the utility’s reservoirs to completely fill this season.

    “We hope to fill our reservoirs after every runoff season to help supply us through the hot summer months and into next year,” said Krcmark. “We already know that isn’t going to happen this season, but you can help keep water in our reservoirs by keeping those sprinklers off after storms.”

    A general rule of thumb is that you can skip a watering day when we receive ¼ inch within 24 hours.

    Weather watchers estimate the storm delivered 1 to 1.5 inches of water to the metro area. And, with the potential for more rain in Denver’s forecast, you may not need to water at all this week.

    For now, Denver Water’s regular summer watering rules remain in effect, but additional restrictions could be needed if conditions warrant this summer.

    Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which is in Denver Water’s watershed where the utility collects water, reported receiving 19 inches of snow from the weekend storm. Lots of snow, though unfortunately it wasn’t a drought buster. Photo credit: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.

    Construction kicks off at Gross Reservoir: Denver Water’s critical project to raise the dam by 131 feet gets underway — News On Tap #BoulderCreek #FraserRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Jay Adams):

    Construction began April 1 on Denver Water’s five-year project to expand Gross Reservoir by raising the height of the dam.

    The reservoir and dam, located in the foothills west of Boulder, were named after former Denver Water Chief Engineer Dwight Gross. The dam was completed in 1954 to store water from the West Slope for Denver’s growing population.

    The dam was originally designed to be raised in the future when needed.

    Now, Denver Water is raising the height of the dam by 131 feet to help ease a storage imbalance in the utilities’ water collection system. Once completed, Gross will be the tallest dam in Colorado.

    The dam was originally designed to be raised in the future when needed.
    Now, Denver Water is raising the height of the dam by 131 feet to help ease a storage imbalance in the utilities’ water collection system. Once completed, Gross will be the tallest dam in Colorado.

    “We’ve been busy bringing trucks, cranes and other heavy equipment to the site to prepare for construction,” said Doug Raitt, construction manager of the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project for Denver Water. “A lot has to be done just to prepare the site for all the work that has to happen.”

    Crews navigate a winding road near the dam to bring a large crane to the construction site. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Early work involves blasting rock on the sides of the canyon to make way for the additional concrete that will be placed over the downstream face and above the existing dam.

    A machine drills holes into the rock above the dam to place explosives for blasting operations. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Crews also are building a walkway on the upstream side, or reservoir side, of the dam to provide access for workers to walk from one side of the dam to the other.

    Upcoming work includes hydroblasting 2 to 3 inches of concrete from the face of the dam so the new concrete will adhere to it. Part of the dam’s spillway will also be removed to prepare for the addition.

    Early work involves installing walkways on the upstream side, or reservoir side, of the dam. The walkways are needed because the top of the dam will be removed to make way for the addition. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    To raise the dam, crews will start at the bottom and extend the base of the dam out. Then they will build a series of steps up to the dam’s new height — similar to what you see on the sides of an Egyptian pyramid.

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project involves raising the height of the existing dam by 131 feet. The dam will be built out and will have “steps” made of roller-compacted concrete to reach the new height. Image credit: Denver Water

    “When it’s done, it will be the largest dam in Colorado and nearly triple the storage capacity of the existing reservoir,” said Jeff Martin, manager of the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project for Denver Water. “We’re really excited to begin construction on this important project.”

    Doug Raitt, construction project manager for Denver Water, stands next to a 60-ton dump truck at the construction site on April 20, 2022. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Martin said that work conducted during 2022 and 2023 will be mostly site preparation for the on-site concrete production and foundation work on the rock on the sides of the dam and around the bottom.

    At the height of construction there may be as many as 400 workers on site at a time, Raitt said.

    “Raising a dam is often trickier than simply building a new one,” Raitt said. “We have to continue sending water through the dam during construction while transforming the dam into a new structure.”

    Crews remove rock that has been blasted away on the north side of the dam. The area near the red machine at the top of the picture will be the new crest of the dam. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Throughout the project, safety will be the No. 1 priority at the site.

    “Denver Water and our construction partners have an emphasis on safety for the public and our workers every day,” Raitt said. “We all go through safety training and will continue to evaluate our operations throughout the project.”

    Workers take part in safety training with Kiewit-Barnard, the general contractor for the expansion project in April. At the peak of construction, up to 400 workers will be on-site at the dam during the day. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Protecting the environment and wildlife is another important part of the project. Denver Water worked with biologists to make sure there were no bird nests in the area before the start of construction and will continue to do so throughout the project.

    Additional environmental mitigation efforts were put in place to protect South Boulder Creek and the reservoir from sediment and erosion washing in during the work. These efforts will continue throughout the project.

    Erosion control measures are put up around construction areas to protect dirt and rocks from falling or washing into South Boulder Creek and Gross Reservoir. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Denver Water also is spending time updating community members around the reservoir.

    “It’s important that we let them know what’s happening with the project,” Raitt said.

    “For months, we’ve been doing outreach to the community with public meetings, newsletters and emails. We’ve received a lot of feedback from our neighbors letting us know what’s important to them and we’ll continue to work with them and update them throughout the project.”

    Denver Water is hosting community meetings with residents who live around Gross Reservoir to update them on the project and answer questions. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    How much #water is in the snow below? State grant expands high-tech airborne snow surveys to help manage #Colorado’s water supply — News on Tap

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Cathy Proctor):

    The amount of information Colorado water managers have about the state’s crucial snowpack is poised to swell exponentially over the next two years.

    In mid-March, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which aims to help water managers conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water, approved a $1.9 million grant to help pay for a plane stuffed with high-tech equipment to fly over Colorado’s mountains and measure the snowpack below.

    Denver Water used Airborne Snow Observatory, or ASO, flights in 2019 and 2021 to gather data on the snowpack above Dillon Reservoir, the utility’s largest reservoir.

    The information helps forecast how much water is expected to come tumbling down the mountain during the spring runoff — a critical time for collecting and storing water for the utility’s 1.5 million water users across metro Denver.

    “Getting more and better information about the snowpack improves the accuracy of our spring runoff forecasts, and that helps us in many ways,” said Nathan Elder, water supply manager for Denver Water.

    “With better information, we have a better idea of how the spring runoff could impact the environment and recreation, and whether we might have to go on watering restrictions during the summer. It also helps inform us on how we should manage all of water resources,” he said.

    This year, in addition to getting ASO data about the snow in the Blue River Basin above Dillon, Denver Water also will get information about the snowpack in the Fraser, Granby and Willow Creek watersheds. Flights are scheduled for April and May, weather permitting.

    The blue areas in the map above are where the Airborne Snow Observatory flights are scheduled to collect information about the snowpack in 2022. The light tan areas will be flown this summer and fall to collect baseline information about the ground when it is free of snow. Image credit: Lynker.

    Based on NASA-developed technology, LiDAR equipment carried by the ASO planes use beams of light to measure the depth of the snow across entire watersheds and capture reflections from the frozen surface. Data from the flights over the snow-covered watersheds is compared to data collected when the same watershed is free of snow.

    The resulting information from comparing the two sets of data tells water managers how much snow is on the ground and how much water it holds, augmenting data collected from SNOTEL sites, which also measure snowpack at selected sites, and decades of historical statistics.

    The path of an ASO flight over the Blue River Basin, which flows into Dillon Reservoir, on Monday, April 18, 2022. Image credit: FlightAware.

    “We see these ASO flights as a climate adaptation strategy,” said Taylor Winchell, a water resource engineer at Denver Water who works on climate change adaptation and water supply planning issues.

    “As our snowpack changes with the changing climate, being better able to measure that snowpack becomes more important as more snow falls as rain, as the timing of the spring melt changes and as snow falls at ever-higher elevations because of warming. We can’t rely as much on historical snowpack datasets to understand the new snowpack reality.”

    Winchell worked with water managers throughout Colorado to develop support for the state grant and create a collective known as CASM, short for the Colorado Airborne Snow Measurement group, that grew to include members from federal, state and local government levels, academia, the recreation industry and agriculture industries, as well as local nonprofits and environmental advocacy organizations.

    The ASO flight path over the Fraser River, Willow Creek and Granby watersheds on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Due to a state grant, this is the first year that airborne data from these watersheds will be available for water managers to study. Image credit: FlightAware.

    “We had 37 letters of support for the initiative. To have that many groups supporting a water project, that’s unprecedented for a water project in Colorado. It’s rare to see so many people agree on something — but more accurate data helps everyone,” Winchell said.

    In addition to flights over snow-covered mountain watersheds, the grant also will help pay for flights over snow-free ground — collecting essential baseline information that can be used to expand the snow-on flight areas even more next year and beyond, Winchell said.

    In this digitized image of the April 2021 snowpack above Dillon Reservoir, red splashes of color show where the snow was the deepest. The line of dots down the mountain is a ski run at Breckenridge Ski Resort where snow-making machines have added snow to the ground. Image credit: Airborne Snow Observatory Inc.

    Work also will be underway this year to figure out how to continue the CASM program in the future, as the state’s grant is a one-year grant, Winchell said.

    Denver Water managers are looking forward to seeing more ASO information about its watersheds, and also those throughout the state.

    “How much snow falls outside our watersheds can affect Denver Water’s supply and operations just like the amount of snow that falls inside our watersheds,” Elder said.

    “With this starting to become a statewide program, with data collected from more areas and that data being shared among the partners, it will help everyone better manage Colorado’s water supply.”

    With snow leaving the spring stage, a look ahead at water supply: #Denver Water’s collection system approaching ‘peak’ #snowpack, kicking off planning for spring and summer — News on Tap #SouthPlatteRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the News on Tap website (Todd Hartman):

    With the 2021-22 snow season winding down, Denver Water is getting a clearer look at water supplies approaching the irrigation, gardening and summer recreation season.

    In fact, as 9News meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen has pointed out, much of Colorado likely hit its peak snowpack in late March, meaning we’ve started the process of spring runoff, when the snowpack begins to melt and flow into streams, rivers and reservoirs.

    (Caption: Watch Denver Water crews weigh the snow to find out how much water it contains.)

    In Denver Water’s collection system, which includes parts of the South Platte River and Colorado River basins, it’s not fully certain we’ve hit our peak — the point when snowpack reaches its highest point before melting off.

    Denver Water’s entire collection system. Image credit: Denver Water.

    But we’re surely close, as snowpack in Denver Water’s collection system typically peaks around April 20.

    What’s it all mean for our water supply? It’s a mixed picture.

    Snowpack is a bit below average, but soil moisture has improved compared to last year, meaning more melting snow will find its way to reservoirs and less will disappear into thirsty ground.

    Denver Water’s reservoirs are 79% full, on average, which is normal for this period. And runoff is likely to push that number north of 90% when storage peaks midsummer.

    A mid-April snowstorm delivered several inches of snow to Colorado’s high country. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    “Overall, we’d like the numbers to be higher, but with better soil moisture we expect better runoff than in recent years with similar snowpack,” said Nathan Elder, manager of water supply for Denver Water.

    “We have good carry-over storage going into the runoff season because of low winter water use,” he added. “That’s a reflection of good work from our customers in continuing to improve indoor efficiency and water use habits.”

    It’s important those good habits extend into the watering season; customers with spring fever should try not to get ahead of things with outdoor irrigation.

    Learn how Denver Water works with ski areas through the winter.

    Warning! April is too early to turn on hoses, sprinklers and irrigation systems.

    A string of snowstorms this year has improved soil moisture in the Denver region. And more storms could still head our way in late April and early May. This time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, and you might think spring has sprung — only to have winter sweep back in for a last goodbye.

    And planting ahead of Mother’s Day (May 8 this year) is always a gamble, as the potential overnight freezes still lurk into the early days of the month. Cold temperatures can put an early end to spring seedlings and damage irrigation systems if water inside the piping freezes.

    As it stands in mid-April, snowpack is at 88% of average in Denver Water’s Colorado River collection system, and at 74% of average in its South Platte system, though that South Platte figure is affected by a single tracking location with poor snow that has pulled down the broader average; in the wider South Platte River basin, snowpack is currently 90% of normal.

    Don’t turn on your sprinklers yet. Late spring snowstorms can easily damage irrigation systems. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    And a big wet storm or two, still possible this time of year, would improve the outlook.

    Additionally, planned Airborne Snow Observatories (ASO) flights, which measure high elevation snowpack with great precision, will bring additional insight into the snowpack, as well as adjustment to the runoff outlook.

    In 2019, flights in the Blue River Basin above Dillon Reservoir revealed more snow than expected at elevations above traditional snow telemetry sites that provide most snowpack data.

    “The ASO data gives us the most detailed and accurate insight into snowpack,” said Taylor Winchell, a climate change specialist at Denver Water. “We look forward to seeing what new information that tells us this spring and how it narrows the uncertainty of water supply forecasts.”

    A sliver of good news on the #water front: Soil moisture, a key indicator for spring #runoff, has improved in Denver Water’s collection area — News on Tap

    Denver Water field crews measure how much water is frozen in the snow near Winter Park on March 29. The utility’s teams take these kind of measurements at 13 sites every month during the winter and early spring. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Todd Hartman):

    Water news seems dreadful these days, with a megadrought in the Colorado River Basin, hydropower at risk in a fast-draining Lake Powell and a warming climate assuring these issues will only get worse.

    So, amid these calamities, Denver Water wants to cite a small measure of good news: Soil moisture levels in parts of Colorado have improved.

    Yes, this may only be a temporary blip on a downhill slide, but let’s celebrate what we can.

    Soil moisture is a key indicator of drought conditions and has a big impact on water supplies. That’s because dry, thirsty soils can drink up a lot of the snowmelt that otherwise would flow into rivers and reservoirs.

    Know your snowpack: 9 facts about Colorado’s snowpack.

    Here’s an example from Denver Water’s own system: In 2021, snowpack above Dillon Reservoir peaked at 88% of normal. It wasn’t a banner year for snowpack, but it wasn’t terrible either. But dry soils made the lower snowpack levels far worse — runoff was only 57% of normal.

    “The low soil moisture soaked up a lot of the melting snow before it reached rivers and reservoirs,” explained Nathan Elder, water supply manager for Denver Water.

    The 2019-20 water year told a similar story, when snowpack peaked at 124% in the South Platte Basin but runoff came in at just 54% of average at one key measuring point.

    Low soil moisture can soak up snow runoff, leaving less for rivers and reservoirs. Image credit: Denver Water.

    A similar pattern also cut into runoff in 2018.

    This year, water forecasters expect a better scenario. That’s because a big monsoon season on the West Slope and in the mountains last summer brought soil moisture levels up. Snowstorms on the Front Range throughout the winter helped soils here, too.

    “This year, with soil moisture better, we are expecting more runoff from the snowpack,” Elder said.

    Nathan Elder, water supply manager for Denver Water, in April 2019, standing in a snowpit dug to gauge the snow’s temperature, depth,

    Currently, snowpack above Dillon is 87% of normal and, because of greater moisture within the soil, streamflow forecasts are higher too — 82% of normal, a big improvement from last year.

    Evidence of the improvement in soil moisture comes thanks to data from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that closely tracks such matters.

    The numbers can be complicated, but one way to understand the impact of the soil moisture is in what Denver Water’s water supply managers call “runoff efficiency.”

    Learn how Denver Water is leaning into the challenges around climate change.

    In a year when soil moisture numbers are just slightly below normal — such as this year — you can expect runoff volumes to be 10% to 15% less than the peak snowpack number.

    In a year when soil moisture conditions are worse, as we’ve seen in several recent cases, the dry soils can reduce runoff efficiency by 15% to 20%. That can translate to a big cut in water supply.

    Colorado Drought Monitor map April 5, 2022.

    Another key measure comes from the U.S. Drought Monitor map. That map shows the Denver metro area — as well as much of Denver Water’s collection area — in “abnormally dry” conditions. That may sound bad, but it is actually a marked improvement from recent months when much of the state was in various stages of drought.

    A year ago, the region’s drought levels ranged from “moderate” to “extreme” drought.

    Things can still change, of course.

    Should we get a long spell of warm, dry weather this spring, the situation could become worse. But, at this point in early spring, things look a bit better than in recent years.

    “We’ll obviously be watching our watersheds and the weather closely,” Elder said. “But we take the good news where we can get it and, at least for the moment, we’re happy to see these conditions.”

    New milestones at the Northwater Treatment Plant: @DenverWater’s newest water treatment plant continues to take shape

    Click the link to read the article on the News on Tap website (Steve Snyder):

    The construction of Denver Water’s new Northwater Treatment Plant is on budget and on track to open in 2024, having overcome challenges during 2021 stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that affected everything from staffing to the supply chain.

    This aerial photo from late 2021 shows construction progress on several buildings at the Northwater Treatment Plant. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The Northwater plant, on Highway 93 north of Golden, will be the fourth drinking water treatment plant in Denver Water’s system.

    When finished, the new plant will be capable of producing up to 75 million gallons of clean drinking water per day using state-of-the-art technology. The new plant, part of Denver Water’s North System Renewal work, supplements the utility’s aging Moffat Treatment Plant on West 20th Avenue in Lakewood, which was built in the 1930s.

    The new plant is being built on 100 acres of Denver Water land next to the utility’s Ralston Reservoir. The site will include seven primary buildings and multiple auxiliary facilities including tanks, clearwells, pump stations and vaults.

    Here are some of the highlights from the work done during 2021:

  • Passed 50% construction completion.
  • Passed 1 million hours worked.
  • Completed all the remaining excavation needed to build the structures that will be part of the plant.
  • Placed concrete base slabs for the two underground storage tanks. Called “clearwells,” these 10-million-gallon storage tanks will hold clean, treated drinking water from the plant until it is released into Denver Water’s distribution system.
  • The concrete base of a large, treated water storage tank, or “clearwell,” was placed during one night in June 2021, marking a major milestone for the project. Photo credit: Denver Water.
  • Dried in” the first building on-site, meaning the work was done to make the exterior surfaces of the Clearwell Influent Valve Vault building impermeable to rain and weather.
  • Installed the roof and windows and applied a stone veneer on the plant’s Operations Building and started installation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing works.
  • Completed most of the necessary connections with the Moffat Treatment Plant to enable Moffat to eventually store treated water piped from the Northwater Treatment Plant once the new facility is operational.
  • Earned the Envision Gold Award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. Envision Awards recognize leadership in building sustainable infrastructure around the world and encourage those involved to consider sustainable choices throughout the life of the project.
  • An artist’s rendering of what the site of the Northwater Treatment Plant will look like when completed in 2024, along with locations of the buildings on-site. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Don’t blame the upper basin states — Writers on the Range #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the Writers on the Range website (George Sibley):

    Kyle Roerink’s recent “Writers on the Range” opinion (“A dangerous game of chicken on the Colorado River”) reminds one of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1983 caution in a Washington Post op-ed: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

    Roerink, who heads the Great Basin Water Network, claims that the Upper Colorado River Basin states are shirking their responsibilities while the Lower Basin states valiantly work to grapple with the ongoing basin-wide drought. “With (reservoir) water savings gone,” he says, “the Lower Basin has been trying to cope, though the Upper Basin carries on business as usual.”

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
    @GreatLakesPeck.

    “Business as usual” in the Upper Basin has always been dealing with the realities of an erratic river, the annual flows of which can go from 5.8 million acre-feet in 1977 to 24.8 million acre-feet in 1984. The Upper Basin lives with that reality, dry years and wet. [ed. emphasis mine]

    But the Bureau of Reclamation has regularly and faithfully released to the Lower Basin, from Powell Reservoir, the Colorado River Compact and Mexican Treaty allotments –- 8.23 million acre-feet only dropping a little below those allotments half a dozen times since Powell began to fill in the 1960s. Dry year or wet, the Lower Basin always gets its full allotment.

    Usually, more than that designated quantity is sent to the Lower Basin (as much as 12 million acre-feet above in 1984). The Compact and Mexican Treaty require that the Upper Basin send downriver 82.5 million acre-feet over a 10-year period; as of 2020, the 10-year running total was 92.5 million acre-feet.
    So the Lower Basin never bears the brunt of low flows, as Roerink claims; it has always received its Compact and Treaty allocations since Powell Reservoir filled, usually with some extra, regardless of what was happening in the “real river” the Upper Basin states live with.

    It is true that the Lower Basin states are currently “’trying to cope” with river shortages by making some difficult cutbacks in their uses. But what they are trying to cope with is their own excessive use of the water stored in Mead Reservoir.

    For decades the three downstream states –- primarily California –- have been using considerably more than their Compact allotment of 7.5 million acre-feet; they have also not been subtracting from their allotment the significant losses to evaporation in desert storage and transit (automatically figured into Upper Basin use through the Powell releases).

    The structural deficit refers to the consumption by Lower Basin states of more water than enters Lake Mead each year. The deficit, which includes losses from evaporation, is estimated at 1.2 million acre-feet a year. (Image: Central Arizona Project)

    This has resulted in what is euphemistically called a “structural deficit,” but is just the Lower Basin using more water than its entitlement. That was more or less okay before the Upper Basin use was fully developed, and before the Central Arizona Project came online; the Bureau’s extra releases, above Compact requirements, covered the overuse. No more.

    So now the Lower Basin states, which have been drawing an annual average of 1.2 million acre-feet more out of Mead Reservoir than has flowed into it, are trying to bring their usage down to the actual Compact allotment. Drought might exacerbate that challenge, but it doesn’t cause it, nor does Upper Basin lollygagging.

    The Upper Basin has not even used its full Compact allocation because it became obvious that the river could not supply that on a dependable basis. The Upper Colorado River Compact divides the Upper Basin states’ permissible consumptive uses by percentages rather than a set amount like the Lower Basin gets, but exactly what that allows each state is obviously ambiguous, depending on what “average flow” is used.

    Are the Upper Basin states doing their part to ensure prudent uses of the river? They are developing “demand management” programs to pay farmers and ranchers to fallow some of their land to increase flows to Powell Reservoir. Last summer, Blue Mesa Reservoir’s recreation season was cut short to send most of the Reservoir’s water down to bolster Powell.

    Denver Water is also working hard to re-plumb its city for reuse, as well as running an ongoing conservation program that has reduced their deliveries to a 1970 level with half a million more people.

    Could the Upper Basin states be doing more? Probably, and they probably will be. But they are less to blame for the Lower Basin state’s dilemmas than are the Lower Basin states themselves.

    George Sibley

    George Sibley is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively discussion about Western issues. He has written extensively about the Colorado River.

    Graphic via Holly McClelland/High Country News.

    Counting every drop: #Colorado approves $1.9M for high-tech snow, #water measuring program — @WaterEdCO #snowpack

    Colorado and othehr Western states are hoping to increase the use of Aerial Snowborne Observatories to better measure the water content in moutain snowpacks. Credit: NASA Hydrological Services

    Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Jerd Smith):

    Colorado has approved a $1.9 million snow measuring initiative based on NASA technology that will help communities across the state better measure and forecast how much water each winter’s mountain snowpack is likely to generate, using planes equipped with sophisticated measuring devices.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been testing the accuracy of the flight-based data measuring work since 2015, according to Erik Skeie, who oversees the program for the CWCB. The board approved funding for the new $1.9 million initiative at its March 16 board meeting.

    The new collective, known as Colorado Airborne Snow Measurement group, includes utilities, irrigation districts and environmental groups, including Northern Water, Denver Water and the Dolores Water Conservancy District, among others. In all, 37 water-related groups wrote letters in support of the grant and the measuring program, Skeie said.

    Northern Water, which supplies more than 1 million residential, commercial and farm customers on the Northern Front Range, is hopeful the grant will help create an annual monitoring and measurement effort.

    ”I think it’s a really good program if we can make it sustainable into the future,” said Emily Carbone, water resources specialist at Northern Water.

    This map shows the snowpack depth of the Maroon Bells in spring 2019. The map was created with information from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which will help water managers make more accurate streamflow predictions. Jeffrey Deems/ASO, National Snow and Ice Data Center

    Airborne Snow Observatory technology uses planes equipped with LiDAR, a pulsing radar, to develop a grid that contains a deeply detailed picture of the ground when it isn’t covered by snow. Then, during the winter months, those planes fly the same terrain once or more each month when it is covered with snow. In this way, the instruments are able to measure snow depth and snow reflectivity. These data, combined with computer-based models, allow the ASO to generate precise readings on when the snow will actually melt and how much water the snowpack in different regions actually contains.

    Traditional forecasts can be off by as much as 40%, and sometimes more. But ASO forecasts have been shown to have accuracy rates of 98%.

    As the megadrought in the Colorado River Basin has intensified, and climate change has altered snowfall and traditional patterns of snowmelt, finding better ways to measure the water content of snow has become critical, said Taylor Winchell, a climate adaptation specialist at Denver Water who is overseeing the utility’s flight data program.

    A flight from NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory gathers data about the snowpack above Dillon Reservoir on a flight. Information gathered from the flight helped Denver Water manage reservoir operations. Photo courtesy of Quantum Spatial

    Denver Water began using the technology in 2019.

    “As the snowpack is changing, the more accurate measurements that we can have help us adapt our operations to a new water future and it helps us make the most of every drop in the system,” Winchell said.

    Since the early 1930s, snowpacks have been measured manually and via remote ground-sensing by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. Colorado and other Western states use a network of dozens of snotel sites to collect on-the-ground data, but forecasts can change dramatically if the weather becomes volatile, as has been the case more often in recent years.

    That volatility and the ongoing drought have made water forecasting even more critical for water agencies. If water supplies come in lower than forecasts indicated, cities and irrigation districts can come up short of water, causing disruptions in deliveries, among other problems.

    But ASO technology is expensive. Denver Water spends about $145,000 for two flights, a cost that includes subsequent modeling as well. But the forecasts have proved to be so accurate that the utility is committed to its ongoing use.

    California is spending roughly $7 million annually and that cost could grow to more than $20 million if the golden state opts to expand the geographic reach of its ASO program, according to Tom Painter, a former NASA scientist who helped develop the ASO technology and who is now the CEO of Airborne Snow Observatories Inc., the NASA spinoff that is commercializing the technology.

    A similar program in Colorado, one expansive enough to cover all the critical mountain watersheds, could cost as much as $15 million annually, Painter said.

    The work would include flying some 10 flights per year per river basin during January, February, March and April, with additional flights in late spring as the snow begins to melt. Then flight data would be incorporated into forecast models.

    Predicting snowmelt and its water content as warm weather arrives has been a tricky issue for researchers and water utilities because it becomes highly variable.

    “That’s when traditional models start to fall apart,” Painter said. “They can’t hold onto the snowpack well enough. So having the data from ASO is nice to keep the forecast accurate. It’s like looking at your checking account balance a couple of times a month.”

    Skeie, of the CWCB, said the new approach to measuring what’s known as snow water equivalent, or the amount of water contained in the snow, will take much of the guess work out of annual water forecasts.

    And he’s hopeful that the multi-million price tag can be covered by an array of agencies, including the water utilities, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and state governments, among others.

    “It’s going to take all of that to make it sustainable,” Skeie said. And with the backing of the Colorado Airborne Snow Measurement group, it’s more likely to occur than it has been before.

    Using ASO, in combination with snotel data, “is the difference between having someone describe a picture to you, and being able to see it in 4D,” he said. “It’s incredibly useful.”

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

    First steps on Gross Reservoir expansion: After 20 years of preparation, first signs of construction work emerging in vicinity of dam — News on Tap

    Expanding the reservoir requires raising the dam 131 feet by placing new concrete on the existing structure. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Click the link to read the article from Denver Water (Todd Hartman):

    After nearly two decades of planning and permitting, Denver Water’s work to expand Gross Reservoir northwest of Denver is set to kick off.

    Over the coming weeks, residents living near the reservoir may notice early signs of construction activity, including limited tree removal, more heavy equipment on roadways and shifts in recreation access to the reservoir.

    “We want residents and visitors to the area to be aware and informed; we are taking the initial steps on the project, including mobilization of equipment, in the weeks to come,” said Jeff Martin, the program manager for the expansion project.

    “We want to be transparent about the work underway and we want to share information proactively while continuing to address questions and respond to concerns our neighbors have shared. Most importantly, we want to ensure everyone’s safety on the roadways.”

    A consistent place to get up-to-date information on the expansion project will be through the project website http://grossreservoir.org as well as via a Google My Map.

    The public also can contact Denver Water through email, a phone hotline and virtual office hours, as well as by signing up for email updates and following the utility’s social media channels. Those contact details also are available on the project website and at http://denverwater.org.

    Denver Water also held public outreach sessions in February for residents living in the vicinity of the project. About 80 neighbors attended to learn more about what to expect as construction ramps up.

    Raising the existing Gross Dam and expanding the reservoir will improve water reliability for more than 1.5 million people. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Here are some key things to expect in the coming weeks and months. In many cases, specific start dates for work are still being developed. Those will be shared at http://grossreservoir.org as details are finalized.

  • Improvements to Gross Dam Road. To protect the safety of all drivers, Denver Water is widening the road in various sections to address tight curves as well as improving the intersection at State Highway 72 and Gross Dam Road. Signage and traffic control will be in place to help drivers safely navigate the affected areas.
  • Improving the intersection of State Highway 72 and Gross Dam Road will improve safety for all drivers. Image credit: Denver Water.
  • Limited tree removal. Some trees will be removed in areas planned for site development on the south side of the dam, at the future quarry location, in areas along Gross Dam Road and other areas where various construction activities are planned.
  • Equipment mobilization. Trucks and other heavy equipment will be spotted more frequently on Highway 72 and nearby roads as contractors position materials for upcoming work on roads and near the base of the dam.
  • Denver Water is committed to ensuring materials are delivered safely to the project site. Image credit: Denver Water.
  • Recreation changes. Access to recreation areas on the south side of the dam, including Windy Point, Osprey Point and Miramonte Picnic Area, will be closed in mid-March. Public boat launch access will be relocated from Osprey Point to the North Shore peninsula. This Google My Map is a good place to check for up-to-date information on recreation and access.
  • Access to the North Shore of the reservoir will also be limited temporarily this spring for construction of a temporary parking lot to help accommodate recreation shifts during the expansion project.

    Recreation access will change during the expansion project, this Google My Map is a good place to check for up-to-date information. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Construction activities will increase as the weather warms.

    By this summer, truck trips in the canyon are expected to increase to nearly 20 trips per day and the workforce will grow to roughly 300 people, though a ridesharing program will help reduce traffic impacts. That intensity will drop off again as the weather cools.

    “We recognize this project will have disruptions to the community near the project and within Coal Creek Canyon,” Martin said. “We are committed to clear, two-way communication with the public and keeping people fully informed as we move forward on this critical project.”

    New partnership ready to lead historic canal into the future: Canal Collaborative will formalize roles, responsibilities along the High Line Canal News on Tap

    Highline Canal trail map. Credit: Google maps via Water Education Colorado

    Click the link to read the article from Denver Water (Jay Adams and Steve Snyder):

    The High Line Canal Conservancy has formalized a public-private partnership with Denver Water and 11 jurisdictions to preserve, protect and enhance the 71-mile High Line Canal.

    Members of the new Canal Collaborative will work together to support the canal corridor as it evolves from its role as an irrigation channel owned by Denver Water and expands into a new linear park and emerging stormwater management system.

    enver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead takes part in a signing ceremony held Jan. 26 to officially launch the Canal Collaborative, a public-private partnership aimed at guiding the future of the High Line Canal. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The agreement creating the collaborative formalizes roles and responsibilities for the long-term management, funding and governance of the canal.

    “This partnership was built on the premise that together we can do more for the canal than any one entity can do alone. The deep respect for varied local perspectives, combined with the power of the community’s vision and commitment has been a winning strategy that has resulted in a common vision and new governance structure to ensure the canal is cared for as a vital backbone of our region’s open space system for generations to come,” said Harriet Crittenden LaMair, executive director of the High Line Canal Conservancy.

    “Denver Water has a century-old canal that has outlived its usefulness,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager at Denver Water. “We wanted to transform the canal into a recreational and environmental crown jewel for the region and with the help of a dozen partners who shared the vision, we have come together to realize that vision through the Canal Collaborative.”

    Watch the High Line Canal Conservancy’s State of the Canal news conference and learn about new projects along the canal in this TAP story.

    Several members of the newly formed Canal Collaborative gathered along the High Line Canal on Jan. 26, to celebrate the signing of the landmark partnership. Left to right in the picture above are: Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/Manager; Paula Herzmark, HLCC board chair; Harriet Crittenden LaMair, HLCC executive director; Nancy Sharpe, Arapahoe County Commissioner; Shannon Carter, Arapahoe County Open Spaces director; Tom Roode, head of Denver Water operations and maintenance; Kendra Black, Denver City Councilwoman; Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation. Photo credit: Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Digging into #water savings: Video tour highlights Arapahoe County’s #sustainability in action — News on Tap

    Mrs. Gulch’s Blue gramma “Eyelash” patch August 28, 2021.

    Click the link to read the article from Denver Water:

    Arapahoe County is embarking on a water conservation project this winter at its Administration Building in Littleton to improve the county’s water efficiency.

    The project will transform a 3-acre field of Kentucky bluegrass into a native, prairie grass field capable of surviving on the water Mother Nature provides in the semi-arid climate of Colorado’s eastern plains. The change will save the county 1.5 million gallons of water each year.

    A 3-acre expanse of Kentucky bluegrass on the west side of the Arapahoe County Administration Building in Littleton will be converted into a field of prairie grass in 2022. Photo credit: Arapahoe County.

    Learn more about the roots of Arapahoe County’s water-saving project.

    Tour the project, in the video below, as work began in January.

    Behind the scenes at the Northwater Treatment Plant: Take a tour of one of #Denver Water’s largest construction projects — News on Tap

    From News on Tap (Steve Snyder):

    Denver Water’s new, state-of-the-art drinking water facility is rapidly taking shape on a 183-acre site next to Ralston Reservoir north of Golden in Jefferson County.

    Watch this video to catch up on the progress of one of Denver Water’s largest construction projects.

    When complete and operational in 2024, the new Northwater Treatment Plant will be capable of cleaning up to 75 million gallons of water a day. Construction of the plant remains on time and on budget.

    The new plant is part of Denver Water’s North System Renewal effort, which includes the construction of a new pipeline (completed in September 2021) to carry water from the new plant and upgrades at the old Moffat Treatment Plant built in Lakewood in the 1930s.

    Learn about new case studies in water utility greenhouse gas mitigation from the Water Utility Climate Alliance, including Denver Water’s sustainable Northwater Treatment Plant. Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for Denver Water, and projects like these help get us to our goal of reducing emissions 50% from a 2015 baseline by 2025.

    The North System Renewal work brings critical updates to an aging 80-year-old system that was reaching the end of its lifespan.

    A rendering of what the Northwater Treatment Plant site will look like when complete and operational in 2024. Most of the two round storage tanks will be buried underground. Image credit: Denver Water.

    The advanced new technology that is part of new Northwater Treatment Plant will provide:

    Sustainability: Hydropower generation equipment at site of the Northwater plant will produce enough energy to operate the treatment plant, significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

    Reliability: Advanced treatment processes will improve resiliency in times of potentially challenging treatment issues, such as those created by drought or wildfires.

    Flexibility: The Northwater plant was designed to be expanded if needed to meet future water demands and changing regulatory standards.

    When Denver Water is finished building the new water treatment plant, redeveloping the Moffat Treatment Plant, and installing a new pipeline, the utility’s northern system will be more resilient and adaptable to changing demands for water now and into the future.

    New Public-Private Management Model for the High Line Canal — The High Line Canal Conservancy

    From email from the High Line Canal Conservancy (Suzanna Fry Jones):

    The Canal Collaborative officially launches to formalize the new governance model, making permanent the powerful public-private partnership between 13 regional partners, including the High Line Canal Conservancy and Denver Water

    Denver, CO (January 26, 2022) – The High Line Canal Conservancy today announces the public-private partnership known as the Canal Collaborative that formalizes a new partnership between 13 regional entities to preserve, protect and enhance the 71-mile High Line Canal. This powerful collaborative brings partners together in a collective impact model – working together to support the Canal’s transition from a part of Denver Water’s historic irrigation system to its new role as a 71-mile linear park and emerging stormwater management system. The newly formed Canal Collaborative formalizes roles and responsibilities for the long-term management, funding and governance of the Canal

    “This Partnership was built on the premise that together we can do more for the Canal than any one entity can do alone. The deep respect for varied local perspectives, combined with the power of the community’s vision and commitment has been a winning strategy that has resulted in a common vision and new governance structure to ensure the Canal is cared for as a vital backbone of our region’s open space system for generations to come,” said Harriet Crittenden LaMair, High Line Canal Conservancy Executive Director.

    To formalize the launch of the Canal Collaborative, key leaders from across the region, joined together to witness Jim Lochhead, CEO and Manager of Denver Water, owner of the Canal, sign the long-awaited Memorandum of Understanding at the first annual State of the Canal. To a virtual audience of nearly 100, key leaders presented on Canal preservation and enhancement progress achieved to date and what’s to come in the next phase of improvements and implementation of The Plan for the High Line Canal (The Plan), including $130M dedicated for improvements over the next 15 years.

    “Denver Water had a century old canal that had outlived its usefulness” said Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO. “We wanted to transform the canal into a recreational and environmental crown jewel for the region. And with the help of a dozen partners who shared the vision, we have come together to realize that vision through the Canal Collaborative.”

    This model of regional collaboration started to take shape in 2010 when, for the first time in the 140-year history of the Canal, governments, agencies and a nonprofit partner from across the region stepped forward, committing to deep collaboration that resulted in a powerful regional community driven vision plan, a framework plan and new governance structure to guide the future of our regional legacy. These successful collaborations culminated in agreements to create the Canal Collaborative, memorializing collaboration in a collective impact model for long-term sustainability ensuring The Plan becomes a reality for the people of the region to enjoy for generations to come.

    “Arapahoe County has committed tremendous resources to the Canal since 2010. We’re thrilled that this new entity will bring together the various jurisdictions so we can hear from each partner and the public about the best ways to preserve and protect the High Line Canal for the future,” said Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe.

    Over the next 15 years, the collaborative will work together to implement over $130 million of trail improvements, including improved access and safety, enhanced environmental health for the region and improved quality of experience.

    Canal leaders (left to right): Chief Executive Officer Jim Lochhead, Denver Water; Board Chair Paula Herzmark, High Line Canal Conservancy; Executive Director Harriet Crittenden LaMair, High Line Canal Conservancy; Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, Arapahoe County; Open Spaces Director Shannon Carter, Arapahoe County; Chief Operations and Maintenance Officer Tom Roode, Denver Water; Council Member Kendra Black, City and County of Denver; and Deputy Executive Director of Parks & Recreation Scott Gilmore, City and County of Denver. Photos by Evan Semón Photography
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    CEO Jim Lochhead of Denver Water signing the Memorandum of Understanding to officially launch the Canal Collaborative. Photos by Evan Semón Photography
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    Canal Collaborative Memorandum of Understanding. Photos by Evan Semón Photography
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    Why we love juicy flakes (and you should, too!): Not all snowflakes are created equal; some have more love to give — News on Tap #snowpack #runoff

    Photo via Snowflakes Bentley (Wilson A. Bentley)

    When the snowflakes begin to fall, we’re guessing the last thing on your mind is moisture content.

    Isn’t all snow created equal? Turns out, there is a big difference between the type of snowflake and how much moisture it will produce — which makes a difference in filling our mountain reservoirs.

    Check out our infographic to see why juicy flakes are best.

    Graphic credit: Denver Water. Click to enlarge.

    Hundreds ignore, refuse #Denver’s efforts to remove dangerous lead #water pipes — @WaterEdCO

    Denver Water crews replacing a lead service line at 1657 Vine Street. Jan. 12, 2021. Credit: Jerd Smith

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Hundreds of Denver property owners have failed to respond to requests or have directly refused to allow Denver Water to replace lead service lines leading to homes and businesses, a situation that jeopardizes the city’s efforts to keep lead out of drinking water.

    The pipe replacement program, one of the largest in the country, is being done to help the agency comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which sharply limits lead in drinking water.

    Since the program’s approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2020, Denver Water has replaced some 10,000 service lines out of 68,000 targeted in the program.

    But the agency has yet to decide how to bring reluctant property owners into the fold, according to Alexis Woodrow, Denver Water’s lead reduction program manager.

    “Of course we would like to get 100% consent or compliance and we’re continuing to come up with communications to make sure homeowners understand the why behind this work,” Woodrow said.

    According to data obtained by Fresh Water News through an Open Records Act request, 534 property owners, roughly 5% of those targeted by the program to date, have either failed to respond to the agency’s request to replace the service lines or have specifically refused to allow the work to be done.

    Top reasons for refusing, according to Woodrow, are that homeowners don’t want their landscapes disturbed or they believe their lead service lines have already been replaced.

    Denver, which is Colorado’s largest municipal water utility, has known lead was present at the tap in some of its customers’ homes since it appeared in routine sampling in 2013. The levels exceeded the benchmarks set under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    For several years, the utility ran pilot tests and negotiated with CDPHE and EPA over how best to eradicate the harmful metal. Though the amounts of lead found in Denver’s tap water samples varied, no amount of lead is considered safe to ingest, especially for young children.

    Though lead isn’t present in the city’s treated water, it shows up at customers’ taps if it is delivered through aging lead service lines, where corrosion allows it to seep into the supply.

    Cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, Penn., Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C., have been dogged by an increase in lead contamination as service lines age and corrode, allowing the lead to comingle with water supplies, eventually reaching taps.

    The CDPHE issued an order in 2018 requiring Denver to begin adding phosphorous to its water, one of the most effective ways to reduce corrosion in pipes. But phosphorous is also a pollutant and causes problematic algae blooms in lakes and rivers. Adding it to the municipal drinking water supply would also make it harder for wastewater treatment operators to meet their own obligations to keep phosphorous out of rivers and streams.

    Due to those concerns, Aurora, Metro Water Recovery, The Greenway Foundation, and eventually Denver, sued the CDPHE in 2018 to stop the order from taking effect.

    The dispute was settled after Denver was able to obtain a rare variance under the Safe Drinking Water Act in exchange for agreeing to invest some $68 million over 15 years to replace lead service lines, offer free water filters to residents as they wait for the new lines to be installed, conduct community education programs, and increase the pH of the water supply to also help reduce corrosion in pipes.

    In earlier negotiations the utility had proposed replacing the lines at a much slower rate that would have taken decades to complete.

    MaryAnn Nason, CDPHE spokesperson, said the agency is happy that Denver Water has been able to replace so many lines so quickly.

    “While we are pleased, our goal is to have everyone participate or use a filter to keep themselves safe,” Nason said via email.

    “When Denver Water’s program was approved, a strong outreach component was included. We wanted Denver Water to reach out to the community and provide educational materials about why this is important to do and how it protects public health. We understand the disruption to their lives is significant, but the outreach program is intended to help customers understand the safety and health benefits of replacing their service line,” she said.

    Citing state privacy laws, Denver Water declined to identify addresses of properties that had not complied with the replacement requests. But an analysis of the zip codes where the agency has been shut out shows that the largest number, 124, are in 80205, which encompasses an area north and west of City Park and which includes Five Points and the Whittier neighborhoods.

    The zip code with the second largest number of non-compliant property owners, 72, is 80220, an area that includes South Park Hill, Montclair and Hilltop.

    Though no large apartment complexes have refused to replace lead lines, according to Denver Water, dozens of small multi-family units have yet to agree to have the work done, according to Fresh Water News’ analysis.

    Tom Romero, an associate professor of law at the University of Denver and an expert on water equity issues, said the replacement program is critical to providing safe drinking water to everyone in the city.

    “I definitely am concerned for all of those residents where you have recalcitrant property owners that are refusing to have these lead pipes replaced,” Romero said.

    “This is definitely a public health issue,” he said. “It’s pretty remarkable that they have been able to get a 95% response, but any lead level is putting people at risk. It goes to the duty of Denver Water to provide safe drinking water to us all.”

    This year is the third year of program, and is a critical benchmark with the EPA, which will decide later this year whether to allow Denver to continue the work, or use a different strategy.

    Denver Water’s Woodrow said the agency is still trying to decide how aggressive to be with reluctant property owners because legally it could access the properties without the owner’s consent.

    “We have discussed internally if we could compel the customer,” she said. “But we haven’t gotten there yet in terms of making a decision.”

    But that may change.

    “When you’re looking at the long-term strategy, we’re going to have to come up with additional tactics to get these lines replaced,” she said.

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

    #Water rates to rise slightly in 2022: Supporting the large, complex system that provides water to 1.5 million people across the #Denver metro area — News on Tap

    From Denver Water (Cathy Proctor and Kim Unger Jay):

    Lea este artículo en español.

    Since its formation more than 100 years ago, Denver Water has always planned ahead when investing in the system that today supplies clean, safe drinking water every day to a quarter of Colorado’s population.

    And with a variety of changes — from regulations to weather patterns — expected in the future, the utility and its 1,000 employees are continuing the work needed to maintain, repair, protect and upgrade its 4,000 square miles of watershed and 3,000 miles of pipe, plus its dams, pump stations and underground storage tanks and more.

    Denver Water delivers safe, clean water to 1.5 million people every day, 25% of Colorado’s population. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    While the global COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of complexity, Denver Water has worked to keep rate increases for customers as small as possible.

    On Oct. 27, the Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted new water rates that will effective Jan. 1, 2022, to help pay for critical upgrades and projects to keep this system operating efficiently. How that rate increase will affect individual customer bills will vary depending on where the customer lives in Denver Water’s service area and how much water they use.

    For typical single-family residential customers who receive a bill from Denver Water, if they use 104,000 gallons of water in 2022 as they did in 2021, the new rates will increase their monthly bill by a range of about 47 cents to $1.34 depending on where they live.

    “Denver Water’s mission is to ensure that we deliver safe, clean water to the people who rely on us every day,” said CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead. “Over the next 10 years, we are forecasting an estimated investment of $2.6 billion into our system to increase its resiliency, reliability and sustainability in the face of changes we are anticipating. From more frequent droughts and wildfires to additional regulations we expect we will be asked to meet — we will be prepared.”

    A helicopter collects water from Dillon Reservoir during efforts to contain the Ptarmigan Fire near Silverthorne, Colorado, in late September. Photo credit: John Baker, safety specialist at Denver Water.

    A customer’s monthly bill is comprised of a fixed charge, which helps ensure Denver Water has a more stable revenue stream to continue the necessary water system upgrades to ensure reliable water service, and a volume rate for the amount of water used.

    The fixed monthly charge — which is tied to the size of the meter — is increasing by 74 cents in 2022 for most single-family residential customers to ensure Denver Water is recovering 20% of its needed revenue from fixed charges.

    After the fixed monthly charge, Denver Water’s rate structure has three tiers based on the amount of water used.

    “Even with such large efforts in our future, it’s our goal to have slow and steady rate increases with even, annual adjustments that allow our customers to plan ahead and avoid rate shocks,” said Fletcher Davis, rates manager for Denver Water.

    To keep water affordable, the first tier, which covers essential indoor water use for bathing, cooking and flushing toilets, is charged at the lowest rate.

    The amount of water in this first tier is determined for each customer by averaging their monthly water use as listed on bills dated January through March each year. This is called their average winter consumption.

    Water use above the average winter consumption — typically used for outdoor watering — is charged at a higher price. Efficient outdoor water use is charged in the second tier (middle rate), followed by additional outdoor water use in the third tier (highest rate).

    Meet customers who used Garden In A Box, a Resource Central program supported by Denver Water, to beautify their landscapes with water-wise plants.

    The difference in volume rates for customers who live inside Denver compared to those who live in the suburbs is due to the Denver City Charter, which was changed in 1959 to allow permanent leases of water to suburban water districts based on two conditions: 1) there always would be an adequate supply for the citizens of Denver, and 2) suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount.

    Denver Water encourages customers to be efficient with their water use.

    Using less water means more water can be kept in the mountain reservoirs, rivers and streams that fish live in, and Coloradans enjoy. And using less water also can lower your monthly water bills, saving money.

    “We are continuing our work maintaining and replacing water mains in the street, building a new state-of-the-art treatment plant and water quality laboratory, preparing for the needed expansion of Gross Reservoir and replacing old, customer-owned lead service lines to protect our customers from the risk of lead in drinking water,” Lochhead said.

    “At the same time, we use the tools available to us to help pay for the necessary investment in our system and keep our rates as low as possible.”

    In addition to rates paid by customers, Denver Water relies on bond sales, cash reserves, hydropower sales and the fees paid when new homes and buildings are connected to the system.

    The utility does not make a profit or receive tax dollars. It reinvests money from customer water bills to maintain and upgrade the water system.

    Infographic credit: Kim Unger, Denver Water.

    Prepping for mountain snowmelt today and tomorrow: Learn how #ClimateChange complicates the spring #runoff season and what @DenverWater is doing about it — News on Tap

    From Denver Water (Jay Adams):

    Managing water collected from the mountain snow’s spring runoff has plenty of challenges — and will become more complex in the future due to climate change.

    “As water planners, we prefer to see predictable weather patterns,” said Nathan Elder, water supply manager at Denver Water. “Unfortunately, every year is different and with climate change we’re seeing more variability and that makes it tougher to manage our water supply.”

    That challenge may be most acute during runoff season, that critical — and brief — window of time when snow melts, flows into streams and fills reservoirs. Climate change may lead to changes in runoff timing that, in turn, require more nimble reservoir operations.

    What’s happening?

    Since the 1960s, average temperatures in Colorado have increased 2.5 degrees, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. That change is manifesting in significant ways.

    “We’re seeing more swings between wet and dry years, more variation in year-to-year stream runoff and earlier runoff,” said Laurna Kaatz, climate program manager at Denver Water. “We’re also expecting to see more extreme weather events like extreme heat and enhanced drought, but we could also see more intense rainstorms and flooding especially if heavy rain falls on top of a lot of snow.”

    Timing is everything

    The timing of the snow runoff in Summit County, which is home to Dillon Reservoir, provides an example of how climate change impacts not only water collection but also recreation and flooding.

    Rapid snowmelts caused by rain falling on snow could lead to a greater risk of flooding below Dillon Dam.

    During a gradual runoff, Denver Water can take steps to minimize the risk of flooding below the dam, however, if there are more instances of warm weather combined with rain falling on snow, large amounts of water can fill Dillon quickly and send water through the dam’s overflow spillway. This scenario can lead to high water levels on the Blue River through Silverthorne.

    “We do our best to minimize high flows out of our reservoirs, but if there is a fast runoff, we can only do so much and there’s a greater chance for flooding downstream if there’s a major rain-on-snow event,” Elder said.

    Changes in runoff and precipitation also impact when Dillon Reservoir fills — or doesn’t fill — which plays a role in boating season and water levels for the Dillon and Frisco marinas.

    The timing of the runoff also impacts Denver Water’s ability to make the most of its water rights.

    “Later runoff allows us to use our water rights to match higher customer demand during the summer watering season,” Elder said. “Early runoff means we have to let some water go downstream before we can put it to use on the Front Range. This also impacts how much water we can store for times of drought.”

    When Dillon Reservoir is full, water flows down its overflow spillway into the Blue River. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Extreme weather events

    Colorado has seen several big swings in weather over the last 20 years, suggesting the kind of uncertainty that may be more pronounced as climate change intensifies and the resulting complexity in managing the snow runoff.

    Most recently, the winter of 2017-2018 was exceptionally dry across the state but was followed by above average snow in 2018-2019.

    The years 2012 through mid-2013 were another period of drought, followed by record flooding in September 2013. Two wet years followed in 2014 and 2015.

    The dramatic weather turnaround in 2002 and 2003 is another example of how extreme weather impacts Denver Water’s water supply and planning.

    Those years marked a major period of drought. In 2003, Denver Water was preparing to have water restrictions and Dillon Reservoir was more than half empty and critically low. But in March 2003, the Front Range and central mountains got hit with a major snowstorm that filled Denver Water’s reservoirs.

    “A drought could last one year or several and then be followed by big snow years,” Elder said.

    “We could get most of our water for the year from one or two big storms, so we have to be prepared for these situations.”

    Swings in weather patterns and extreme events could have Denver Water planning for drought conditions with watering restrictions for customers and end up with a surplus of water after a big storm.

    Cheesman Reservoir during the 2002 drought. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Planning for climate uncertainty

    Denver Water has relied primarily on historical weather patterns and data to plan for how much water it will collect from mountain streams. Now the utility is incorporating climate change into its long-range preparation through scenario planning.

    “One component of scenario planning involves creating a variety of potential climate scenarios instead of simply assuming patterns will stay the same over the next 50 to 100 years,” said Jeff Bandy, a water resource manager at Denver Water. “This approach helps us plan for potential changes in climate and evaluate our system’s reliability.”

    Denver Water takes data from global climate models and uses the information to create various outcomes on streamflow and precipitation in its water collection system.

    The planning team develops scenarios that include variables such as warmer temperatures, more precipitation and shifts in timing of precipitation, all of which result in changes to volume and timing of runoff in Denver Water’s watersheds.

    “We evaluate the scenarios and determine if future infrastructure projects or operational changes are needed,” Bandy said.

    Denver Water’s entire collection system. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Enhancing data collection

    Denver Water collects water from 4,000 square miles in Colorado’s central mountains and foothills. With such a large area, getting accurate and timely information about weather and streamflow conditions is critical to water supply management.

    “We use a lot of different data sources to manage and forecast water supply and a lot of these data sources are based off historical climate data,” Elder said. “With a changing climate, the current data sources are no longer as reliable as they used to be. This makes it more difficult to manage our reservoirs.”

    In preparation for more weather extremes and variability, Denver Water has begun investing in new technology to get a more accurate picture of the snowpack above Dillon.

    Looking to the south from a plane above Dillon Reservoir in June 2019, during an Airborne Snow Observatory flight to gather data on the snowpack above the reservoir for Denver Water. Photo credit: Quantum Spatial.

    “In April 2019 we used NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory, which uses a plane, to measure snowpack over the mountains in our watershed,” Elder said. “The more we know about the snow, water content and runoff, the better decisions we can make when it comes to managing our water supply for our customers and the communities where our reservoirs are located.”

    Nathan Elder, Denver Water’s manager of water supply, tracks a variety of factors to keep tabs on the snowpack and water supply. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    What can customers do?

    The best way communities can be prepared for the impacts of climate change is to use water wisely.

    “Our water supply is vulnerable to climate and our customers play a major role in how we manage our system,” Elder said. “That’s why we always ask our customers to be efficient with their water all year long and even in wet years.”

    Water is a limited resource in Colorado so climate change will impact communities on both sides of the Continental Divide.

    “Climate change means water change and that’s important to us all,” Kaatz said. “So, it’s our goal at Denver Water to make sure we’re thinking about it and actively preparing for the changes we’re going to experience.”

    New projects take shape along High Line Canal: @DenverWater pledges $10M to long-term care of the historic canal — News on Tap

    From News on Tap (Jay Adams):

    When Denver’s early settlers built the High Line Canal back in the 1880s, little did they know what the future would hold for the 71-mile man-made waterway that stretches from Waterton Canyon southwest of Littleton all the way to Aurora.

    The High Line Canal was originally designed to deliver irrigation water to farmers on the dry plains of Denver. While Denver Water still owns and uses the canal to deliver irrigation water to customers, the canal corridor also has grown into a recreational asset and an ecological resource for the metro area.

    On the recreational side, each year around 500,000 people walk, run and ride the canal’s 71-mile maintenance road that also serves as a popular trail. As an ecological resource, some sections of the canal structure itself are now being used for stormwater management.

    The High Line Canal is an irrigation ditch built in the 1880s. Denver Water still uses the canal to deliver irrigation water to customers when conditions allow. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    The evolution of the public’s use of the canal for recreation and stormwater management, along with its original role as a water delivery method, is one of the reasons why Denver Water and regional partners, including cities, counties, park and flood districts and stormwater management entities, have partnered with the High Line Canal Conservancy. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the 71-mile canal in partnership with the public.

    Denver Water plays an active role in the ongoing discussions about the canal’s future as it continues to serve its High Line customers. Because the canal has a junior water right and experiences high seepage and evaporation losses over large distances, Denver Water is looking for more reliable and efficient ways to deliver water to some of the High Line customers.