Water supply, Front Range development, and tap fees

From The Denver Post (Aldo Svaldi):

Embedded in the price of every new home and apartment built along the northern Front Range are some of the highest water infrastructure costs in the country.

Some factors behind those high costs are intractable: a scarcity of available water and the fact that most Coloradans live on one side of the Rocky Mountains and obtain their water from the other.

But another contributor is the upfront fees local utilities charge to connect water and sewer lines to homes and other buildings. In and around Denver, a chorus of developers, water-efficiency advocates and others say, those charges can add thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs to houses, apartments and condominiums.

Those higher costs, known as impact or tap fees, quietly get passed on to consumers in the form of heftier new-home prices and apartment rents…

“Developers want least cost, and we want the most adequate supply,” said Cindy Marshall, manager of treated water planning at Denver Water. “There is a place we can meet in the middle.”

Denver Water, the largest water provider along the northern Front Range, uses these long-standing models, which require a water connection to be big enough to handle every water-related appliance simultaneously without a critical loss in pressure…

The Metro Wastewater District, which is separate from Denver Water, charges $92,600 to connect a building with a 2-inch tap versus $22,240 for a building with a 1-inch tap…

Colorado has a complex system of water rights, which adds to costs. Also, the bulk of residents in the state live east of the Continental Divide, while the bulk of the water supply is to the west, necessitating expensive diversion projects.

Metro Wastewater Reclamation District Opens New $417 Million Facility

Photo credit Kuck Mechanical Contractors, L.L.C.

Here’s the release from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District:

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District today celebrated the grand opening of its Northern Treatment Plant. Planned since 1982, the new $417 million facility is one of the most advanced in the western United States.

Designed to protect the South Platte River and support rapid community growth, the facility is capable of cleaning 24 million gallons per day and will eventually serve up to 750,000 customers across Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Thornton, unincorporated Adams County and Denver.

“By investing in critical infrastructure, we are investing in the future of the communities where we live and work,” said Catherine Gerali, District Manager of the Metro District. “Completion of the Northern Treatment Plant ensures safe, reliable and cost-effective water reclamation for the 1.8 million Coloradans who rely on the essential public service we provide.”

Under Budget and on Schedule
Construction of the Northern Treatment Plant was completed on schedule and the $417 million total program cost was nearly $60 million less than original budget estimates. This includes design and construction of the treatment facilities and a nearly seven-mile pipeline that uses gravity – not pump stations – to transport flow to the plant.

“This is one of the largest progressive design-build municipal water projects ever delivered in the U.S.,” says CH2M Chairman and CEO Jacqueline Hinman. “The innovative delivery process allowed for the greatest level of collaboration with all project stakeholders, while maintaining a keen focus on safety. We applaud the Metro District’s foresight in delivering a technologically advanced treatment facility that will make a great difference in our community, protect our environment and preserve critical water supplies for our growing region.”

A Legacy of Environmental Stewardship
The Northern Treatment Plant strengthens the Metro District’s more than 50-year track record of environmental stewardship. The new facility features the latest proven water reclamation technologies to protect the South Platte River, alongside onsite resource recovery for energy generation and agricultural applications.

“Protecting the environment is the very reason for the Metro District’s existence,” Gerali added. “We were formed in 1961 to clean up the South Platte River and the Northern Treatment Plant strengthens our more than 50-year legacy of environmental stewardship.”

A Community Resource
The Northern Treatment Plant provides community amenities with opportunities for public recreation and education. The facility includes more than a mile of riverside trails and seating around a wetland area. Ultimately, these trails are designed to serve as a connection with a regional trail system that is envisioned to extend from Wyoming to New Mexico. The new facility’s Administration Building includes educational exhibits to inform visitors about how water reclamation protects the South Platte River and benefits the environment.

Facts & Figures

  • The Metro District is the largest water reclamation provider in the Rocky Mountain West, serving about 1.8 million people in a 715 square-mile area.
  • The Northern Treatment Plant is one of the most advanced facilities in the western United States and will eventually serve up to 750,000 customers
  • Every day the District collects and reclaims about 130 million gallons of wastewater – enough to fill nearly 200 Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • For nine months out of the year, roughly 90% of the water in the South Platte River comes from the outfalls of the District’s Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility.
  • The District makes enough energy onsite to power approximately 40% of its Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility using gas produced during the treatment process – that is enough energy to power roughly 5,000 homes.
  • The District owns and operates a 52,000 acre farm in northeast Colorado. We pioneered wastewater resource recovery for agriculture and have grown crops at our METROGRO Farm for 30 years.
  • For more information, please visit the Metro District’s website at http://www.MetroWastewater.com.

    Castle Rock Water recognized as industry leader for the second year in a row

    Castle Rock and Pikes Peak. Photo credit VisitCastleRock.org

    Here’s the release from Castle Rock:

    Whether it’s paving the way with a long-term water plan, rising to the challenge of having the best tasting water in Colorado, or setting an example for conservation – Castle Rock Water is a leader in the water industry. For the second year in a row, the department is being recognized for its efforts.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment awarded Castle Rock Water the Gold Award in the Pursing Excellence Program for the department’s push to go above and beyond regulatory compliance. In 2015, Castle Rock Water was the first water provider in Colorado to receive the Gold Tier.

    The award noted the Town’s steps to be a leader in the industry and share best practices with other organizations. The department was also recognized for its operational procedures for source water protection measures, treatment goals and distribution components.

    Additionally, the department was recognized for four other actions:

  • Large meter audit – this audit examined the 5 percent of customers that make up 30 percent of consumption
  • Lateral arm well placement – this plan involves the innovative use of horizontal arms for vertical well production; horizontal arms doubles the production of vertical wells
  • Valve and hydrant maintenance program – with this program in place, repair and emergency budgets are easier to estimate; additionally, customers are better informed of outages
  • Chemical optimization – continually analyzing the chemical solutions used for water treatment to ensure the highest quality water and lowest treatment costs
  • “Castle Rock Water’s faithful commitment to the environment extends to our staff, our customers and to the community in which we operate,” said Castle Rock Water Director Mark Marlowe. “We take our motto, be water wise, to heart, and are committed to being a leader among the water industry.”

    To find out more about everything happening with Castle Rock Water, head to http://CRgov.com/water, or check out the new conservation website http://CRconserve.com.

    @DenverWater is running water in the @COHighlineCanal after headgate replacement

    Highline Canal Denver

    From TheDenverChannel.com (Connor Wist):

    Water is flowing through parts of the 71-mile High Line Canal for the first time since May 2015. Denver Water is sending water down the canal from the South Platte River after replacing a 130-year-old diversion dam in Waterton Canyon.

    In 2015, Colorado experienced a high spring runoff that destroyed the dam sitting 1.5 miles up the canyon. The wooden structure built between 1880 and 1883 washed away in the runoff. Denver Water successfully replaced the High Line Canal diversion structure in 2016.

    Denver Water typically only runs water to the canal, with an 1879 water right, periodically from April to October. The water runs depend on the availability of South Platte River water and demand from irrigation customers. With the new dam complete, Denver Water is able to send water to the canal once again with the current conditions…

    The High Line Canal starts in Douglas County at Waterton Canyon and runs to Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver. The path of the canal falls within one mile of hundreds of thousands of residents.

    After improvements Berthoud Reservoir is filling

    Berthoud Auto Storage back in the day

    From The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor (Shelley Widhalm):

    The Town of Berthoud started filling Berthoud Reservoir on Wednesday after significant improvements have been made…

    “This project was to deepen the reservoir, dredge it out, increase storage, and provide better water quality for the raw water treatment plant,” said Stephanie Brothers, public works director for the Town of Berthoud.

    Prior to the Berthoud Reservoir Improvement Project, the water in the reservoir was safe for public consumption but carried an unpleasant taste and odor and had accumulated sediments, minerals, weeds and goose droppings, along with a problem of blue algae. Several municipalities along the Front Range struggle with blue algae resulting from shallow water usage, she said.

    “It looks a little deeper, and there’s less vegetation. Hopefully with the vegetation gone, we got rid of the algae in there, and any future algae issues will be easier to control,” she added.

    The sediment, which took up five to six feet of the bottom level of the reservoir, caused a loss of overall capacity. The sediment resulted from the town not dredging or cleaning out the reservoir since it took over ownership of it in 1890, according to Brothers.

    The town hired Western States Reclamation, Inc., in Frederick, to dredge and improve the reservoir, spending $1.2 million on the entire project, using funds from the town’s raw water impact fee. Work began in October 2016, with the remaining work of filling the reservoir to be completed in early May.

    The improvements expanded the reservoir’s capacity from 450-acre-feet to 574-acre-feet – prior to the improvements, the sediment had reduced what could be used to less than 400 acre feet.

    The improvements included reconfiguring the structure of the reservoir, dividing it into two cells, with the east cell deeper than the west cell, and adding an internal dam. Once the reservoir is filled, the water in the east cell will be piped to the treatment plant and both cells will be used for storage, she said.

    “The east cell allows us to have better water quality for the water plant because it’s deeper, and it makes it easier to manage,” said Mike Hart, town administrator.

    Aspen City Council reviews report about using network of tunnels and adits as storage

    Smuggler Mine back in the day via GregRulon.com

    From The Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

    Building concrete bulkheads in 130-year-old mine tunnels and stopes that connect Aspen and Smuggler mountains underneath town could form storage vaults capable of holding between 1,000 and 2,000 acre feet of water, according to a report from Deere and Ault Consultants of Longmont, presented in a work session to Aspen City Council last week.

    The report listed pros and cons of using underground mines, which are an alternative approach to water storage the city is investigating as it looks for options other than 150-plus-foot tall dams creating reservoirs on upper Castle and Maroon creeks. Council also heard a presentation on Monday from Deere and Ault about a preliminary review of “in situ” storage — meaning in lined storage vaults underground where water mixes with gravel and is then covered. The golf course was identified as a site that could lend itself to such a reservoir, the consultants told council.

    Deere and Ault’s review of underground mine storage, resulting in a 20-page report, found that the pros of using Aspen’s underground mines for storage — such as proximity to water rights and infrastructure, usefulness as drought hedging and good baseline water quality — to be outweighed by the potential cons.

    “Maintaining dominion and control” of stored underground water is first among those concerns, according to consultants. Even with a complex system of bulkheads at virtually every level in the mines, “water could still potentially leak out through the natural faults, shear zones and fracture zones,” the report says.

    Constructing the vaults would be hazardous, since water that collects naturally in the tunnels would have to be pumped out. When water is pumped out of old mines, “that’s when collapses occur,” Victor deWolfe, with Deere and Ault, told the council.

    Raising the water table — hard to avoid with underground storage — also carries risk. It could create more surface landslides and exacerbates flooding issues. And while water occurring in the limestone layers has tested for good quality overall, raising it and lowering it above the water table could “exacerbate metal leeching and acidification.” That contaminated water could then leak into neighboring freshwater streams.

    The city would also have to build an expensive pumping and pipeline system to connect the vaults to the water treatment plant near the hospital. New treatment techniques and infrastructure may also be needed to deal with alternative water storage method.

    “We noted that there is no real precedence in Colorado for storing raw water in underground hard rock mines for municipal use,” the report says.

    The consultants did envision a possible system, however, where water from the Salvation Ditch is used to fill the Molly Gibson Shaft. Or, bulkheads could be installed to raise water levels beneath Aspen Mountain, and the city could tap water flows coming out of the Durant Tunnel at the base of the mountain, where it owns a 3 cubic feet per second water right.

    Aspen’s complex geology is well understood, the consultants note, and their study drew on maps showing the many rock layers and mine tunnels. The pond at the current Glory Hole Park, off Ute Avenue, formed in the mining era when alluvial soils were swallowed by a sinkhole, taking a locomotive and two boxcars with it.

    Council members thanked the consultants for the report — the study, which included site visits, cost the city $15,000 — but showed little appetitive for pursuing the issue further. Councilman Bert Myrin said it’s crucial for the city to determine how much water it needs to store before it can make sense of options.

    Deere and Ault will continue looking into the “in-situ” reservoir concept, which also could yield 1,000 or more acre feet of storage.

    Salida receives loan forgiveness from #Colorado

    Salida water park

    From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

    Salida will receive $666,069.72 in loan forgiveness for its $1,505,000 loan from the [Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority] for the city’s ultraviolet disinfection compliance project, City Administrator Guy Patterson announced in the Tuesday city council meeting.

    “The [CWRPDA] had a unique situation last year where a sizable amount of design and engineering grant money was not utilized,” Patterson wrote in a report to the council.

    “The fact that Salida was the first community to execute the loan in 2017 and the disadvantaged community status made us eligible for disbursement of the funds, along with several other communities.”

    “This is very fortunate for the community to be recognized like this and get the grants,” Mayor Jim LiVecchi said. “We were trying to do what we could to get this project paid for without having to raise water rates or spend taxpayer money.”

    LiVecchi said the city also received $755,000 in an Energy/Mineral Impact Assistance Fund grant from the Department of Local Affairs.

    Emails from The Mountain Mail to Patterson, Public Works Director David Lady and Finance Director Jana Loomey about the project went unanswered.

    The Mountain Mail asked city officials the following questions:

    •The loan from the [CWRPDA] was for $1,505,000, the loan forgiveness was $666,069.72, leaving the remaining loan amount at $838,903.28, which knocks off about 44 percent of the loan. How much of this loan has been paid off thus far? Also, there was another loan listed for $120,000. Does that mean the total cost of the UV project was $1,625,000, or was it more?

    •It was stated that because the loan was passed under an emergency measure to keep construction costs within a single fiscal year, the water and wastewater funds will lose their enterprise fund status for 2018. Does this still apply with the loan forgiveness taken into account?

    •Patterson said in his report to council that Salida’s “disadvantaged community status” made the city eligible for the disbursement of the funds “along with several other communities.” What is “disadvantaged community status” and how did Salida qualify? Also, do we know which other communities received funds?

    •What is the status of the UV project? Is it finished? If not, what is the basic timeline for completion?

    Deputy City Clerk Christian Samora said Wednesday the city will send out a press release in the next day or two.