Denver Water is funded by water rates, new tap fees and the sale of hydropower, not taxes. Your rates fund various projects that allow Denver Water to continue serving high-quality water to 1.4 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs.
Antero Dam getting rehabbed
As part of a major rehabilitation project to bring Antero Dam in line with current engineering standards, Denver Water began draining Antero Reservoir in June 2015.
The project, a $20 million undertaking that began in 2013, will ensure the century-old dam will operate safely for another 100 years. Denver Water had to close the reservoir to the public and drain it so this phase of construction could continue safely.
Denver Water has been working closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to establish a plan to salvage the fish in the reservoir. Water drained from Antero is either being recaptured in a downstream reservoir or sent directly to a treatment plant.
Major mountain canal being replaced
A Denver Water employee helps place a piece of concrete pipe as part of the Vasquez Canal replacement project near Winter Park.
A 75-year-old canal, filled with cracks and in danger of damage from the nearby rocky hillside, is being replaced with a massive enclosed pipe. The Vasquez Canal brings water from Grand County to the Moffat Tunnel and ultimately to Denver. Crews are installing a 114-inch-diameter concrete pipe in its place. The project will take several years, as crews have more than 20,000 feet left to replace.
The cost of the project is roughly $750,000 annually, depending on how many feet of pipe are installed. The project is part of the much larger North System Renewal project.
Downstream Reservoir program continues to expand
Crews are staying busy converting old gravel mines to water storage reservoirs.
Denver Water’s Downstream Reservoir Water Storage Program allows Denver Water to store and release reusable water in its system through the use of depleted gravel mines that have been converted to store and release water.
The South Complex, which includes two reservoirs, has been operational since spring 2009.
The North Complex, which includes five reservoirs, is under construction. Work includes a $5.8 million project to install piping to connect Tanabe Reservoir — one of the five reservoirs in the North Complex — to other reservoirs and to the outlet structure in the complex.
The reservoirs are all north of Denver, along the South Platte River, extending from Commerce City past Brighton.
Work also includes a $2.1 million project to build an outlet works from the North Complex to the South Platte River, which will allow water to flow from the reservoirs, down the river to the next user.
Dillon Dam gets a major upgrade
In early 2015 Denver Water completed a significant improvement project at Dillon Dam's outlet works facility.
The facility houses the gates that control the flow of water from Dillon Reservoir into the Blue River. As expected, the gates endured a lot of wear and tear during their 50 years in operation and were degrading.
Crews restored the gates to near-original condition, allowing the outlet works to reliably serve as a safe control point between the reservoir and the river downstream.
Thanks to a temporary siphon system that maintained steady outflows while the gates were out of service, the $3.8-million project did not require restrictions on recreational use of the reservoir and river.
Foothills Treatment Plant undergoes $16 million upgrades
Foothills Treatment Plant, near Waterton Canyon, recently underwent a $16 million upgrade to ensure it runs properly and lives up to Denver Water’s high standards.
The project fixed failing valves, an outdated electrical system and an old HVAC system, making it the most aggressive update in the plant’s history.
The plant, which can treat 280 million gallons of water in a day, is Denver Water’s largest.
Though situated on the south side of the system, Foothills can send water to anywhere in Denver’s distribution system. Fixing those major problems ensures the plant will be safer, more efficient and more reliable — especially important during the busy summer irrigation season.
Maintaining the High Line a million-dollar venture
The workers who built the High Line Canal more than a century ago didn’t envision that people would use their ambitious irrigation project as a recreational outlet in the midst of a busy urban area.
In fact, to the builders of the 71-mile High Line, the canal was solely a commercial idea to bring South Platte River water to settlers and farmers following a gold rush in 1859 near the confluence of the South Platte and Cherry Creek.
Although the canal has become an emerald strand of natural beauty through a bustling metropolitan area, its original intent was to entice settlers headed west to stop, grow crops and create communities on the high plains at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The High Line still supplies farmers and other users, but its adjacent service road has become a path for hikers, joggers, cyclists, equestrians, bird watchers and others who yearn for a slice of the outdoors in the middle of a city.
When it was completed in 1883, the canal was no more than a glorified ditch that connected the mountains to the dry prairie.
As time went on, the canal contributed, by design, to the fields, lawns, gardens and golf courses of those who had an official stake in the canal’s water and, by chance, to the verdant growth along its banks.
Denver Water spends roughly $1 million a year to operate and maintain the canal, which includes removing and trimming trees and brush; mowing; controlling weeds; maintaining the diversion dam, siphon pipes and other structures; and patrolling the property. More than 500,000 people annually use the path, designated as a National Landmark Trail. Surveys show that 199 species of birds, 28 mammals, 15 reptiles and all sorts of flora call the High Line home.
Denver Water leads research on climate change and water utilities
Denver Water is taking a very serious look at climate change — becoming one of the first water utilities in the nation to study potential vulnerabilities to our water supply.
This is the first step in preparing for climate change — understanding how our water system could change in the future. Because we can’t control how the region will change in the future, and we don’t know exactly how it will change, we need to understand how our system would respond to the range of possibilities.
Our goal is to prepare our system to best meet changes as they unfold. A full-time physicist leads this effort, figuring out how and when a changing climate would affect water utilities in the West. We budget $50,000 a year to research and investigate climate change with the goal of bringing awareness to decision-makers about how climate change could affect water supplies in the future.
Colorado is a hotbed for climate science, with one of the highest concentrations of people working on climate change. It’s a great opportunity for a water utility to harness the local horsepower of world-renowned scientists to help us plan for the future.
Major infrastructure renewal project underway
Denver Water is in the early stages of a major renewal project, one that will replace aging infrastructure and improve the safety and strength of the entire water system.
The North System Renewal Project, which will take several years to complete, includes replacing Conduits 16 and 22 with a single 84-inch-diameter conduit.
Conduit 16 was built in 1937 to deliver fresh water from Ralston Reservoir in Arvada to the Moffat Treatment Plant in Lakewood. Thirteen years later, Denver Water built Conduit 22 parallel to Conduit 16, also to deliver water to the treatment plant.
The 8.5-mile-long conduits were built with the best materials at the time, but they’re both nearing the end of their useful lives. Wear and tear put them at risk of leaks or rupture, compromising the entire water system.
Denver Water ramps up storage tank projects
In the next decade, Denver Water plans to spend about $120 million on treated water storage tank projects. These projects are so massive — and so important — that it often requires an impressive amount of coordination and skill just to install the concrete floor.
Treated water reservoirs provide emergency storage, equalize treatment plant production despite varying daily customer use patterns, provide water to fight fires, and reduce pressure surges through pipes.
Denver Water's plans include building new tanks in Lone Tree, Wheat Ridge, Centennial and Denver, as well as for our recycled water system and the Marston and Moffat treatment plants.
Water treatment an expensive but vital process
Last year Denver Water collected more than 16,600 samples and conducted more than 66,000 tests to ensure your water is as clean and safe as possible.
Treating water is an expensive but worthwhile process, accounting for about $15 million annually in operating costs, materials, supplies, routine maintenance and other expenses. Every dollar of that amount goes toward making sure the water that arrives at your house is perfectly safe to drink.
Our state-of-the-art treatment plants ensure your water meets or exceeds all regulatory mandates. Drinking water is regulated through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So next time you’re thirsty, turn on your tap and enjoy clean, filtered Rocky Mountain snowmelt!
Hydrant crew keeps vital service flowing
On a snowy winter weekend, it’s not unusual to see fire hydrants crushed by sliding cars. But, even in the summer, errant cars still ram into hydrants.
Denver Water owns and maintains more than 19,200 fire hydrants stretching from County Line Road to Green Valley Ranch. And the in-house hydrant mechanic crew is responsible for all of them, repairing or replacing problem hydrants as soon as possible, making sure the hydrants are in top-notch condition when they are needed.
Denver Water has hydrants that have been providing fire protection for the city well before Denver Water was ever established. Some of the oldest hydrants, from the 1880s, still work just fine.
In 1919, a year after Denver Water was formed, a Denver Water engineer designed the Denver Municipal Water Works model of hydrants, which was built in-house for the next 60 years. But replacement parts became too hard to find and the hydrants became too expensive to build, so Denver Water started buying modern models from outside vendors.
Because a new hydrant can cost upwards of $1,000, crews often reuse parts from their on-site storage, aptly dubbed the “hydrant bone yard.”
Still, hydrants wear out beyond repair, and cars often obliterate them. Each year, Denver Water replaces several hundred hydrants, ensuring vital fire protection is there when it’s needed.
Leak detection crew surveys hundreds of miles of pipe
One of the hardest things about finding a leak is listening for it. Was that hollow swooshing the sound of a sprinkler running? A washing machine filling? Or the sound of a leak that’s causing water waste and potential damage to surrounding infrastructure?
Each year, a four-member Denver Water crew surveys roughly 500 miles of pipe, searching for sneaky leaks that have yet to gurgle up from the ground.
Finding leaks is like solving a big audible puzzle. Sometimes, when they’re searching for leaks in busy urban areas, the crew will have to return late at night so they can concentrate on the sound of the leak without the interruption of car horns and diesel engines.
One of the goals of Denver Water’s leak detection program is to survey the entire distribution system — which has almost 3,000 miles of pipe — and pinpoint leaks to help Denver Water crews repair the problem spots.
Finding those nonsurfacing leaks cuts down on expensive emergency main breaks, identifies weak pipes, reduces excavation costs and curtails water waste. Each year, the crew surveys more hundreds of miles of pipe and pinpoints several dozen leaks.