Archive for May, 2015

Rapping about water, Part 2

Rapping about water, Part 2

Our letter to Jay Z drew a crowd, but the value of water is what’s worth discussing

By Denver Water staff

We never imagined that our open letter to Jay Z would attract that kind of coverage. It was meant to be a light-hearted story with a serious subject at its core — the value of water.

We don’t want that message to be lost, so we’re taking our own advice: We’re sticking to our own business, man. As water resource managers, we want people to understand our most precious — and valuable — resource.

This is not about whether Jay Z thinks water is free. In fact, we commend him for speaking out about the water crisis in other countries. We understood his reference to water and music. He was talking about the value of the very thing that provides his livelihood.

So were we.

Everywhere you look, water leads the news. From flooding to droughts, water affects our communities, our economy and our ecosystem. At Denver Water, our job is to manage this vital resource, whether we have too much or too little.

Today, our Cheesman and Strontia Spring reservoirs are full from the extremely wet spring (see video below). We’ve seen spilling like this before, but not in a decade or more.

In some spots there is more water than manageable, like Texas.  And yet California longs for more, suffering one of the worst droughts in its history — at least for now.

So whether you are Jay Z or Joe Blow, we all need to understand that water is a precious commodity indeed, and that we have to use every drop efficiently. After all, you can’t make this stuff.

And let’s not forget: Jay Z also said that water from the tap — clean, fresh water that we can use without worry — is a beautiful thing.

We agree. Let’s keep talking. Water is worth a broad discussion, and we intend to be a big part of it.


Green with envy: The one step to help your yard look good all year.

Green with envy: The one step to help your yard look good all year.

By Kim Unger

Spring is in the air! Thanks to the recent rain, flowers are blooming, trees are swaying in the breeze and the grass is a fantastic shade of forest green. This gift from Mother Nature won’t last, but with one simple step, you can make sure your new sod and flowers do. Soil may not be first on your mind, but it holds the key to a good-looking, healthy yard.

Denver’s native soils are clay-like or sandy, meaning they don’t hold water well. The best thing you can do before planting or adding new sod is to amend your soil by adding compost. Incorporating plant-based compost into your soil before you start those landscape changes will have long-term benefits, including healthy plants and lower water use.

Need a little help getting started? This video will have you amending soil in no time.


An open letter to Jay Z

An open letter to Jay Z

Denver Water weighs in on the rap mogul’s recent comments about the price of water and how it relates to music

By Steve Snyder

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22:  Rapper Jay-Z performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jay-Z

Rapper Jay Z performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards on Nov. 22, 2009, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Dear Jay Z,

First of all: Big fan! I’ve listened to your music for years; I’ve admired how you’ve become much more than an entertainer, and you have perhaps the coolest line I’ve ever heard, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”

But recently, you made a comparison about water and music.  And since water is my business, I have to say, “Stick to your own business, man!”

I get what you are saying. Artists should be paid for the music they create. But to say that “water is free while music is $6” isn’t exactly true.

This isn’t meant to state the obvious fact that some people can’t pay their water bills, so water must not be free. But your comments bring up the issue of how people value water — an issue our industry struggles with all the time.

Right now, Denver Water customers pay an average of less than $3 for 1,000 gallons of water. When you think about how much a gallon of milk or a liter of soda costs, water is a pretty good value. And if you compare your monthly water bill to your other bills like electricity and phone, the value is even better. Then, think about the vast collection, treatment and distribution systems that most utilities operate and maintain, and now that value is off the charts!

Of course, we have to use some different math for a man of your financial stature. To put it in perspective, here are some examples of how much water you could buy with the money you have:

  • Your last album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” sold 528,000 copies in its first week on the market. At $6 each, that’s more than $3 million. You could buy 1 billion gallons of water for that, enough to fill 1,600 olympic-sized swimming pools. Your summer home has enough room for those, right?
  • You once sold a clothing line you created, Rocawear, for $200 million. You could have bought more than 66 billion gallons of water for that, enough to make 44 million barrels of beer. And if each barrel holds 31 gallons of beer, you could throw one heck of a party — for most of America!
  • At one point, you were reported to have a net worth of $510 million. When trying to calculate how much water you could buy with that, my calculator short circuited. But I think we are getting into ocean territory with that figure. Or at least a good-sized gulf.

Of course, that light-hearted analogy overlooks a very real problem. All the money in the world can’t help when water becomes scarce. Just look at these impacts of California’s current drought. Californians would no doubt pay good money for Mother Nature to turn on her faucet a little more frequently.

So perhaps we have something in common. You will continue your quest to help people understand the value of music, while people in my industry will do the same with water. Of course, I’ve heard you actually have a whole list of problems to address — 99 to be exact?

Yours in rap,

Steve Snyder

Water Fest soaks students with knowledge

Water Fest soaks students with knowledge

Teaming up for a day of hands-on learning

By Jay Adams

On May 19, Denver Water and its suburban distributors teamed up with Metro State University’s One World One Water Center for the second annual Denver Metro Water Festival on the Auraria Campus. Despite the rainy weather, more than 1,200 sixth-grade students from Denver Public Schools and other metro-area schools attended the event.

The festival offered unique lessons and activities to create a greater awareness of the importance of water in our daily lives. Denver Water’s Youth Education team worked with organizers to create a fun, hands-on experience for students to learn about the impact of the environment, industry, population growth, agriculture and more on water in Colorado.

We’re off to see the wizard, the Water Wizard of Oz

Strontia Springs Reservoir started spilling on May 2. Between 1,200 and 1,700 cubic feet per second has been flowing out of the spillway since that time.

Strontia Springs Reservoir started spilling on May 2. Between 1,200 and 1,700 cubic feet per second has been flowing out of the spillway since that time.

We’re off to see the wizard, the Water Wizard of Oz

Pulling back the curtain on how we move Denver’s water

By Travis Thompson

In middle school, I wrote a paper on the symbolism of “The Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy represented American values, the Tin Man was a metaphor for industrial workers and Oz signified the American dream.

Today, I think of that classic film in more local terms. Colorado, with all its beauty and majesty, is the wonderful Land of Oz, threatened only by our own Wicked Witch of the West: drought.

We all know it takes a bucket of water to stop the witch, but those buckets aren’t filled and poured without some helping hands. Enter the man behind the curtain, or in this case, the men and women who serve as Denver Water’s supply managers.

Led by Bob Steger, manager of raw water supply, the team analyzes conditions and projections to strategically position water throughout our system.

Because Denver Water’s reservoirs are connected by rivers, canals and pipes, our water managers are able to strategically move water throughout the system every day. Their efforts ensure that the water supply is appropriately distributed among our reservoirs or released into the river to benefit aquatic habitats.

So, let’s pull back the curtain to see how the water managers handled May’s heavy rains.

Currently, Cheesman and Strontia Springs reservoirs have water flowing over their spillways — an area on each dam designed to release water back into the river when it is full. The connotation of spilling may lead some to believe that these reservoirs are flooding. But, that’s not the case.

Our water management team is using the spillway instead of the large valves in the dam that are typically used to release water from a reservoir back into the river below.

It's not abnormal for Cheesman Reservoir to spill, but it doesn't happen every year. Before 2014, the last time the reservoir spilled was 2009.

It’s not abnormal for Cheesman Reservoir to spill, but it doesn’t happen every year. Before 2014, the last time the reservoir spilled was 2009.

Why? Because operating the valves in a dam requires a lot of work from the Denver Water caretakers stationed at our reservoirs. Morning or night, in good weather and bad, each time the water levels in a reservoir need to be adjusted, these employees have to go inside the dam and electronically or manually turn oversized valves the size of a wheel on a semi-truck until the precise flow is released.

With runoff season underway, above-average reservoir levels and rainstorms delaying the start of watering season, Steger said spilling is a good option right now — especially considering the impact on the employees having to manually regulate the valves.

The duration that each reservoir will spill depends on conditions and variables calculated by the team. In addition to weather, this year our supply managers will be monitoring the Antero Dam construction project and water temperature.

In June, Denver Water will drain Antero Reservoir to clear the way for significant repairs to the dam. That may cause Cheesman Reservoir to spill most of the summer, as managers send the Antero water back into the South Platte River, feeding other reservoirs within our system downstream. (Read Draining Antero Reservoir: Where will all that water go? to learn more about rehabbing a 100-year-old dam.)

But it isn’t necessarily that simple. Our water managers also have to keep an eye on river temperature, which can affect aquatic life. If the water temperature below the dam gets too warm, they will send more water through the valves to cool the river and maintain a healthy fish habitat downstream.

It’s hardly wizardry, Steger says, though on some days it may feel that way.

“Whether we are experiencing drought years or wet years, we have to make sure the water we have available is in the right spot at the right time,” he said.


Denver Water launches Strike Team for wildfire season

Denver Water's emergency Strike Team. Front row: James Gordon(left), William George (right). Back row: Heath Stuerke, Jay Joslyn, Jeff Rybolt and Rick Geise.

Denver Water’s emergency Strike Team. Front row: James Gordon (left) and William George. Back row (left to right): Heath Stuerke, Jay Joslyn, Jeff Rybolt and Rick Geise.

Denver Water launches Strike Team for wildfire season

Specialized team can respond to 12 counties in a moment’s notice

By Jay Adams, Communications and Marketing

Heath Stuerke and James Gordon know the risks of their jobs. As caretakers at two of Denver Water’s mountain reservoirs, they live and work in the middle of a fire zone and know the best defense against wildfire is preparedness.

So when the two were offered the opportunity to head up Denver Water’s first emergency Strike Team — a group of six specially trained caretakers who are able to respond to wildfires that impact Denver Water in a moment’s notice — they jumped at the chance.

Caretakers are responsible for a wide variety of critical duties at Denver Water reservoirs and dams. Their primary function is maintaining operations at the dams and releasing water downstream. “We basically get the water to town,” Gordon said.

Denver Water operates a vast system, with facilities in 12 counties and more than 10 reservoirs on both sides of the Continental Divide — surrounded by forest or grassland. The Strike Team is trained to respond anywhere in Denver Water’s system.

Strike team members evaluate evacuation routes in Eleven Mile Canyon.

Strike team members evaluate evacuation routes in Eleven Mile Canyon.

Over the past 15 years, several large fires have burned on or near Denver Water dams, reservoirs and property, including the Hayman, Lime Gulch, Lower North Fork and Springer fires.

“It’s just a matter of time before we get hit again,” Gordon said. “It’s not just about protecting the dams. We live up here in the community, and so do our families.”

Wildland fire training

To establish the Strike Team, members took firefighting and leadership training this past winter in Colorado Springs, Colo., to learn about fire safety, fuels and the weather’s impact on fire behavior. The training prepared them to work with local and federal officials during emergencies, and use heavy equipment, such as bulldozers and graders, to build fire lines around key facilities.

Many dams are located in remote canyons with only one road as an escape route. The fire training also taught them what to do if they become trapped. “Wildfire, it’s no joke and has to be taken seriously,” Gordon said.

Dedication and duty

While the caretakers left the training equipped with firefighting gear and knowledge of basic firefighting tactics, the primary goal was to receive the federal government’s Incident Qualification Card, better known as a “Red Card.” The cards are critical during emergencies and allow caretakers access inside an evacuation zone where only firefighters are allowed.

“Our dams and reservoirs are extremely critical infrastructure that need to be manned 24/7 to ensure reliable water supply to our customers,” Stuerke said. “That’s why we put together this team. We now have the training and credentials to get into an incident perimeter and operate Denver Water’s facilities under extreme conditions.”

Heath Stuerke (left) and James Gordon walk the Pack Test in Waterton Canyon.

Heath Stuerke (left) and James Gordon take the grueling Pack Test in Waterton Canyon.

Part of the ongoing Red Card certification process is an annual physically demanding exercise called the Work Capacity Test or Pack Test. It’s a 3-mile hike carrying 45 pounds — and must be completed in 45 minutes. The team took the test in Waterton Canyon this past April.

“It’s an arduous test, the pace is intense,” said Stuerke. “Going through this training shows the dedication of the guys on this team. We’re committed to making sure we can get water to the people, even in an emergency.”

With wildfire season upon them, Stuerke said the Strike Team is ready. “Every guy is proud to be on this team,” said Stuerke. “They have duty, respect and integrity instilled in them, and that’s all part of working at Denver Water.

Mountain treks and tests: What’s in your water?

Water Quality Investigators John Feldhauser (left) and James Berrier (right) sample water from a creek in Summit County. Denver Water’s Water Quality team takes yearly hikes, weekly backcountry rides, and snowshoe treks into the mountains to sample water straight from the source.

Water Quality Investigators John Feldhauser (left) and James Berrier sample water from a creek in Summit County. Denver Water’s Water Quality team takes yearly hikes, weekly backcountry rides, and snowshoe treks into the mountains to sample water straight from the source.

Mountain treks and tests: What’s in your water? 

Highlighting Denver Water’s work to provide clean, safe drinking water every day 

By Dana Strongin

Denver Water’s water quality experts frequently strap on hiking boots, snowshoes and ATV helmets to trek into the mountains and sample your water straight from the source.

“We check the temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, clarity, heavy metals, nutrients and more,” says James Berrier, water quality investigator.

Their vigilance is part of Denver Water’s annual program of exhaustive tests, based around U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment guidelines. The 2015 Water Quality Report shows that your drinking water is safe and meets or exceeds all federal and state requirements.

The report contains important information about the source and quality of your drinking water, including data informed by the more than 70 sites we monitor.

One of the sites’ frequent visitors is John Feldhauser, a third-generation Denver Water employee who takes pride in ensuring your water is safe to drink.

“We need to know what’s in the watershed to make sure the water quality lives up to our standards,” Feldhauser says.

To request a mailed copy of the report, call Customer Care at 303-893-2444 or email your name and mailing address to


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