New @DenverWater rates start Feb. 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roman lead pipe — Photo via the Science Museum

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@USBR selects 16 projects to receive $3.5 million for desalination and water purification research

Desalination plant, Aruba

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The projects will help develop innovative, cost-effective and efficient desalination technologies

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that 16 entities will receive $3.5 million for laboratory and pilot-scale research projects as part of the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program. The DWPR Program works with Reclamation researchers and partners to develop more innovative, cost-effective and technologically efficient ways to desalinate water.

“Desalination is an increasingly important source of water for Western communities” Commissioner Burman said. “Investing in innovative technologies to make desalination more affordable and energy-efficient will help many communities across the United States.”

Nine laboratory projects and seven pilot-scale projects were selected for funding. A laboratory-scale study is typically a bench scale study involving small flow rates. They are used to determine the viability of a novel process, new materials, or process modifications. Research at this stage often involves a high degree of risk and uncertainty.

A pilot-scale project tests a novel process at a sufficiently large scale to determine the technical, practical, and economic viability of the process and are generally preceded by laboratory studies that demonstrate if that the technology works. The $3.5 million will be matched with $4.8 million in non-federal funding.

The nine laboratory projects are:

  • Argonne National Laboratory – Compressible foam supercapacitor electrodes for energy-efficient and low-cost desalination. $150,000
  • Colorado State University – Developing relationships between mineral scaling and membrane scaling and membrane surface chemistry to improve water recovery of inland brackish water desalination. $133,634
  • Fraunhofer USA, Inc – Plasma activated biochar for high-efficiency capacitive desalination. $72,173
  • New Mexico State University – Portable wind turbines for potable water through electrodialysis treatment. $150,000
  • Trussel Technologies, Inc. – Novel online surrogates to monitor reverse osmosis performance in reuse applications. $150,000
  • University of Arizona – Near zero-liquid discharge water reuse with a closed-circuit ozone-membrane distillation process. $146,361
  • University of California, Davis – Flow cytometric monitoring of waterborne pathogens to facilitate water treatment and direct potable water reuse. $149,178
  • University of Notre Dame – High performance biocatalytic membranes with cell surface display enzymes for improved concentrate management. $149,995
  • Vanderbilt University – Polyelectrolyte/Micelle multiplayer nanofiltration membranes with drastically enhanced performance. $150,000
  • The seven pilot-scale projects are:

  • Carollo Engineers, Inc – Pilot testing a two-stage, fixed bed biotreatment system for selenium removal. $279,246
  • Gradiant Osmotics, LLC – Counter flow RO – Innovative desalination technology for cost-effective concentrate management and reduced energy use. $400,000
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Pilot testing dynamic optimized, photovoltaic-powered, time-variant electrodialysis reversal desalination system. $400,000
  • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology – Geothermal membrane distillation for large-scale use. $200,000
  • New Mexico State University – Assessment and implementation framework for transboundary brackish groundwater desalination in south-central New Mexico. $399,353
  • The City of Daytona Beach – Tracking the occurrence and removal of microbial and toxic hazards during potable reuse through online monitoring and advanced analytics. $400,000
  • University of California, Riverside – Innovative water reuse systems harnessing chloramine photochemistry for potable water reuse. $200,000
  • The DWPR program is supporting the Department of the Interior’s priorities, including: creating a conservation stewardship legacy second only to Teddy Roosevelt, utilizing our natural resources, and restoring trust with local communities, among others.

    To learn more about Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program and see complete descriptions of the research projects please visit http://www.usbr.gov/research/dwpr.

    Good chance for the North American #Monsoon to show up in coming weeks #ColoradoRiver #COriver #drought

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Southwest Colorado and some of the higher elevations in the region have seen increased moisture recently that has allowed for lifting of fire restrictions, including by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, the Bureau of Land Management’s Montrose-based Uncompahgre Field Office, and Montrose County, all on Friday.

    But the picture has been different, as in drier, in the Grand Valley. Through Friday, Grand Junction was experiencing its driest July in a decade, with just 0.08 inches for the month, according to National Weather Service data. It hasn’t been drier since just 0.02 inches fell during all of July 2008.

    Charnick said that by this time in an average July Grand Junction has received about a half-inch of rain for the month.

    The summer monsoon season typically brings moisture up from the south into much of western Colorado. But Charnick said high pressure to the south “is sort of directing the monsoonal moisture more to our west.”

    A clockwise circulation forms around that high pressure, so what’s needed is for the high pressure to move a bit east so moisture from the south is brought up into the area, he said.

    Still, Charnick said the area isn’t necessarily running behind in getting monsoonal rains.

    “Usually August is a better month for that monsoonal moisture” in Grand Junction, Charnick said. “So while we are a little bit below average right now we’re still very early on in this whole monsoon pattern, so things can shift in the month of August.”

    He noted that average precipitation in August in Grand Junction is 0.95 inches, compared to 0.61 inches in July. The monsoon can extend into September.

    “Actually September is usually our wettest month of the year,” Charnick said, averaging 1.19 inches.

    Peter Goble, climatologist and drought specialist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center, said Grand Junction is heading into its wettest time of year. He said that’s all relative, given that a month with 1.19 inches of precipitation would be considered a dry month in a lot of places. Still, any time an area is heading into its wettest season climatologically, it brings hope of getting precipitation to reduce moisture deficits, Goble said.

    On the down side, Goble said if an area misses out on getting much moisture during what is supposed to be its wettest time of year, it can be stuck with a deficit for quite a while.

    Goble noted that the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is saying there’s an above-average chance of getting above-average precipitation over the next three months in western Colorado…

    He said the Grand Junction area’s monsoon season typically peaks later than for a lot of the state, in late August or early September, but it’s still a bit disconcerting that it hasn’t started yet.

    Essentially all of Mesa County is now in the extreme drought category — the second-worst category. Charnick said that reclassification occurred in early July.

    A tiny sliver of the far southern part of the county is in the exceptional category, which is the driest. Much of the Four Corners area also is in exceptional drought.

    Goble said the last time the entire county was in extreme drought was the summer of 2012. He said the county got out of the extreme drought category by the middle of the snow season in 2013.

    The county reached the exceptional drought category in the summer of 2002.

    Joe Burtard, spokesman for the Ute Water Conservancy District, one of the Grand Valley’s major water providers, said the current drought is one of the worst on record for his agency, one of four major episodes that also include the 2002 and 2012 droughts and one in 1977.

    “This year has been a really abnormal year for us in all aspects,” he said.

    He said it’s when the area moves into the extreme and exceptional drought categories that area water providers start seriously considering mandatory water restrictions, rather than the voluntary ones now in place.

    “We’re really waiting to see what these monsoon rains do for the valley,” he said.

    Ironically, though, those rains are expected to pose a challenge to local water providers rather than just simply benefits. The Lake Christine Fire near Basalt has charred more than 12,000 acres, and the rains are expected to bring flooding that will result in ash reaching local rivers, and ultimately the Colorado River.

    Burtard said that will affect the Clifton Water District, which gets water out of the river. As a result it will impact Ute Water, which would serve as a backup water source for Clifton Water as part of an agreement among local providers to help each other in emergency situations.

    That will further tax Ute Water, which already has been pulling from limited resources this summer, Burtard said.

    “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, because when we get that monsoon rain that ash is coming our way,” he said.

    Ute Water also recently purchased water rights from the Ruedi Reservoir in the Fryingpan River Valley above Basalt to help in drought years and in planning for population growth in its service area. That water also could help in a situation such as a fire on Grand Mesa that could impact watersheds serving Ute Water.

    But for Ute Water to tap the Ruedi supply for any reason, the water would have to run through Basalt and down the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

    @WaterEdCO “Fresh Water News’: Aurora’s recycled water plant running at full-tilt

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Aurora’s futuristic recycled water project — Prairie Waters— is running at full-tilt for the first time in its eight-year history, a move designed to make the city’s water supplies last longer in the face of severe drought conditions.

    “We’re pushing it as hard as we can,” said Greg Baker, a spokesman for Aurora Water.

    In February, as mountain snows failed to accumulate, Baker said the city began mobilizing to ramp up plant operations, knowing its reservoirs would likely not fill this summer. “We were very worried.”

    By April, Prairie Waters was running at full speed, generating 9.7 million gallons a day (MGD), up from 5.1 MGD last summer, a 90 percent increase in production.

    “We could possibly push it to 10 MGD,” said Ann Malinaro, a chemist and treatment specialist with Prairie Waters, “but we consider 9.7 MGD full capacity.”

    […]

    “Prairie Waters was huge, not just in terms of volume, but also because it’s really helped us advance as a state in accepting potable [drinkable] reused water,” Belanger said. “Historically, there has been a yuck factor. But Prairie Waters has helped folks understand how systems can be designed so they are safe and effective.” [Laura Belanger]

    Twenty-five Colorado cities, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Louisville, operate recycled water facilities, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but that water is used primarily to water parks, golf courses and to help cool power plants, among other nonpotable, or non-drinkable, uses.

    But Aurora, faced with fast-growth and a shortage of water, realized more than a decade ago that reusing its existing supplies and treating them to drinking water standards was the only way to ensure it could provide enough water for its citizens.

    Completed in 2010, the Prairie Waters Project recaptures treated wastewater from the South Platte River and transports it back to Aurora through a series of underground wells and pipelines. As the water makes its 34-mile journey from a point near Brighton back to the metro area through subsurface sand and gravel formations, it undergoes several rounds of natural cleansing.

    Once it reaches the Prairie Waters treatment facility near Aurora Reservoir, it runs through a series of high-tech purification processes using carbon filters, UV light and chlorine, among other chemicals. Then, before it is delivered to homes, the reused water is mixed with the city’s other supplies, which derive from relatively clean mountain snowmelt that is carried down from the mountains.

    Water treatment operators are in high demand across #Colorado

    Filter beds at a Denver Water treatment plant. Fluoride is added after filtration, prior to disinfection. Learn more about the treatment process: denverwater.org/WaterQuality/TreatmentProcess

    From KOAA.com (Caiti Blase):

    David Stanford, a water treatment operator in charge of Beulah’s water systems, says there’s a lot of opening in different parts of the state because older operators are retiring. However, between the years of training and sometimes small wages, replacing those people isn’t just a simple hire.

    Russell Chambers, an operator in training, said, “There’s a lot to learn. It’s a pretty challenging job if you like a challenge.”

    Chambers has been working at the water districts in Beulah for about four months and it’s just the beginning of his journey to get a Level B certification in order to become a qualified water treatment operator in the valley.

    Stanford said, “It does take a lot of learning, a lot of certification, a lot of on the job training.”

    The training can take several years.

    Stanford said, “You have to know and understand every facet of how to get the water here, get it through the plant, and get it to the customer.”

    Which is why it’s time to start training the next generation.

    “In the state of Colorado the operators from the 70’s and 80’s, that team is retiring for the most part so there’s a lot of openings in many, many places for training operators.”

    Stanford knows just how important this position is.

    “I’m responsible for the lives of nearly 600 people that live in this valley. On a daily basis it is my responsibility to deliver to them drinking water that is safe to drink.”

    Until Chambers is fully-certified, Stanford is “the guy that has to call the shots and is ultimately responsible for everything that happens with the water.”

    It’s why bringing in and training newcomers is an important facet for towns like Beulah.

    Eagle turns dirt on second water treatment plant

    The water treatment process

    From The Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

    A groundbreaking ceremony saw the first shovels of dirt turned Tuesday, July 10. Excavation should continue through the summer, and concrete should follow in the fall.

    Water is scheduled to begin flowing in the fall of 2020…

    The town’s current and only water treatment plant runs at 90 percent capacity during peak demand, and some days it’s higher, said Brandy Reitter, Eagle town manager. The new plant will generate as much as 2.5 million gallons of water per day and can be expanded to 5 million gallons per day. It should fulfill the town’s projected growth needs for the next 20 years.

    “The town must accommodate its existing users. We also want to accommodate new customers and growth. We cannot consider new development unless we have the water to serve,” Reitter said. “Now is the time. The demands have increased significantly and we cannot wait any longer.”

    This new water plant will be on the Eagle River. The current plant is on Brush Creek and is the town’s only source of water.

    The town has good water rights on the Eagle River, thanks to tireless work by former town manager Willy Powell, Reitter said.

    Bryon McGinnis, Eagle’s public works director, said the second water plant will help the town preserve those hard-won water rights…

    A second water plant is also a public safety issue, McGinnis said, pointing out the many wildfires burning around Western Colorado.

    The Lake Christine fire near Basalt hit that town’s watershed and strained its system. However, Basalt has a system of wells near the Roaring Fork River, and that second water source kept the water flowing, McGinnis said.

    The town of Eagle saved $10 million and used it as a down payment on the new plant.

    “Development has, for many years, paid its own way. The town has collected and saved fees to help pay for this,” Reitter said.

    The remaining cost will be covered by a low-interest, 20-year loan from a state revolving fund.

    Broomfield-based MWH Constructors will build the plant.