Archive for the ‘Conservation & Supply’ Category

Early season turnaround bodes well for water supply

Despite a parched start to winter, snowpack levels are on track thanks to a snowy December and early 2017 storms.

Denver Water's Winter Park crew works around the clock to ensure facilities are accessible during snowstorms.

Denver Water’s Winter Park crew works around the clock to ensure facilities are accessible during snowstorms.

By Travis Thompson

Like carpenters, water supply managers use an assortment of tools to get the job done. But instead of tape measures and hammers, their tool boxes are filled with charts and graphs, computer models and good old-fashioned experience.

With 80 percent of Denver’s water supply coming from snowmelt, no tool is used more during the winter months than the charts showing snowpack levels in the mountains above Denver Water’s facilities.

And this year is proving to be one of the more interesting in recent memory.

With more than half of the snow season still ahead, water managers have already seen near historic lows and highs to kick off the winter.

“Our team was starting to sweat a little bit this fall — literally and figuratively — with the unseasonably warm and dry weather,” said Dave Bennett, water supply manager for Denver Water.

In late November, snowpack levels in areas feeding the streams and rivers that flow into Denver’s mountain reservoirs were only 10 percent to 20 percent of normal.

Denver Water’s reservoirs were still above average because of the good water years carried over from 2014 and 2015, as well as efficient water use in the Denver metro area.

But the dry start to winter had Denver Water planners on edge.

“I knew that a couple of good storms would have us back to normal,” said Bennett. “It was too early to panic — well, that’s what I kept telling myself at least.”

Thankfully, he was right.

On Jan. 5, water supply manager Dave Bennett talked to 9News reporter Colleen Ferreira about the improved snowpack levels in Denver Water's collection area.

On Jan. 5, water supply manager Dave Bennett talked to 9News reporter Colleen Ferreira about the improved snowpack levels in Denver Water’s collection area.

In December, Denver Water’s Colorado River basin collection area received almost double the amount of accumulation than normal, with approximately 60 inches, making it the sixth snowiest December for this area over the past four decades.

Similarly, the South Platte River basin collection area that feeds Denver’s reservoirs received approximately 40 inches of snow compared to the normal 20 inches, making it the fifth snowiest December in this location over the same 40-year time period.

Couple that with the early 2017 snowstorms, and snowpack levels are now 137 percent and 128 percent of normal in the Colorado River and South Platte River watersheds — and, it’s still snowing!

It was such a significant turn of events that Bennett was featured on 9News, talking about the importance of the recent snow, not only for water supply but also for Colorado’s greatest asset: outdoor recreation.

“I’ve never seen an early season turnaround like it,” said Bennett. “But we still have a long way to go. A lot can happen between now and spring — the months we rely on the most for snowpack are still ahead of us.”


4 water-related tips as you ‘fall back’ for winter

Nov. 6 marks the end of daylight saving time, giving you an extra hour of sleep — and a winter weather wake-up call.

By Tyler St. John

Ahh, the end of daylight saving time. That wonderful day when you get to set back your clocks and gain an hour of extra sleep — or productivity, if you’re the enterprising type.

And while many of you may be familiar with the call to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors this time of year, we’d like to add four water-related reminders to the list:

Forget the bags — mulch leaves right into the grass to provide nutrients for the lawn.

Forget the bagsmulch leaves right into the grass to provide nutrients for the lawn.

1. Empty your rain barrels. Now that it’s legal to capture rainwater in 55-gallon water barrels, it’s time to dump out any existing water for the winter. If the barrel is still full when the temperature drops below freezing, it will freeze and crack.

2. Take care of your landscape. To avoid a yard full of leaves and fungus over the next few months, follow these 5 DIY fall landscape tips to keep your yard alive through the cold, dark winter.

3. Winterize your sprinklers. You won’t need to water your lawn once it freezes over with ice and snow. Turn off and drain your sprinkler systems to avoid underground leaks in the spring, and turn off outdoor faucets and disconnect your hoses. Check out more tips on how to keep your irrigation system intact.

4. Check your indoor pipes. Once the weather gets colder, pipes in your house can freeze and expand, causing them to burst. Make sure you know the location of your water shut-off valve and insulate pipes close to exterior walls or in unheated basements. Get more details and more cold weather tips.

Disconnect your hose before it freezes.

Disconnect your hose before it freezes and cracks the pipes feeding the spigot.

Big drilling rigs in Denver: It’s not what you think

Fracking, new supply, noise? The truth about Denver Water’s effort to look deep underground for new places to store water.

By Jay Adams



For the past century, Denver Water has looked to our mountain reservoirs to store water. But there may be another way to save our most precious resource for future use — right under our feet.

This fall, Denver Water will drill boreholes at four locations in Denver to test a process known as Aquifer Storage and Recovery, or ASR. The technique involves pumping treated water underground into aquifers during wet years and pumping it back up to the surface in times of drought.

Denver Water drilled four boreholes in 2015, but engineers determined additional samples were needed to gather more information about the rock under Denver.

“There are years when our reservoirs fill and spill,” said Bob Peters, water resource engineer for Denver Water. “Those are the years when we would take water from our distribution system and store that water underground.”

Bob Peters, water resources engineer, at an ASR testing location in Denver.

Bob Peters, water resources engineer, visits an ASR drilling test site in Denver.

Storing water in underground aquifers may provide another option as part of Denver Water’s long-term strategy to prepare for future demand challenges including population growth and climate change.

“We might see very large gaps between our supply and demand as we look into the future, so we need to look at all possible water storage options,” said Peters.

Crews are drilling down into the Denver Basin, a collection of aquifers that can stretch more than 2,000 feet under the surface, to investigate the basin’s water-bearing and storage capacity. The basin covers an area of roughly the size of Connecticut, stretching from Greeley to Colorado Springs and from Golden to Limon.

The tests are necessary because few details are known about the rock formations under Denver.

Geologist Cortney Brand, vice president of strategic growth at Leonard Rice Engineers, is working with Denver Water on the project. He compares the rock underground to a sponge. “We know the rock can hold water. We want to know if it’s economically feasible to put water in and take it out,” Brand said.

Aquifer water storage is a more sophisticated version of what people have been doing for centuries. Projects are currently in use or under study by several communities along the Front Range, including Colorado Springs, Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock.

There are two misconceptions about the big rigs people in Denver may see this fall:

The drilling tests are needed to determine the feasibility of storing water in the Denver Basin.

The drilling tests are needed to determine the feasibility of storing water in the Denver Basin.

No. 1: This is not fracking. While rigs may look similar to oil and gas rigs in northern Colorado, Denver Water is not fracking. “All we’re doing is collecting data on the groundwater aquifers that are right below our feet,” Peters said.

No. 2: Denver Water has no plans to tap into the basin for additional water supply. This project is entirely about finding a place to store excess surface water for when we might need it, Peters said.

“There are a number of benefits to underground storage,” Peters added. “You don’t have to build a new dam, it’s comparatively less expensive, there’s minimal impact on the environment and there’s less evaporation.”

The additional findings will help determine if using the aquifer for storing and extracting water is economically feasible. If results of the new bore tests are promising, Denver Water will decide whether to build a pilot well facility to continue studying the feasibility of ASR. This facility could be operational by 2019.

“This is future water supply planning in action,” Peters said. “There are always uncertainties that we need to deal with. We have to leave no stone unturned. We’re just looking to make sure our customers always have water.”

5 DIY fall landscape tips that will save you money

Thwart costly repairs and upgrades next year with this prewinter checklist

By Travis Thompson

Remember when you were paid to do chores as a kid? Well, we found a way to make those jobs profitable again.

Follow this easy do-it-yourself checklist to avoid costly landscape and irrigation system repairs next spring, and put the money you saved back into the bank:

John Gebhart, Denver Water Conservation technician, showed 9News viewers how to protect exposed outdoor pipes and nozzles from freezing this winter.

John Gebhart, Denver Water Conservation specialist, showed 9News viewers how to protect exposed outdoor pipes and nozzles from freezing this winter.

Winterize: In 2015, Denver Water techs discovered about 80 homes with an irrigation system leak, and about half of those leaks occurred in September and October — when the nightly temperatures started to drop.

Don’t become a statistic. With freeze season underway, winterize your irrigation system now to prevent costly damage caused by frozen water left in pipes. Here are some tips from Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado on how to properly prepare your system for winter.

Don’t have a sprinkler system? You still should disconnect your hoses from the spigot before it gets too cold. If you don’t, you’re leaving your faucet and hose vulnerable to the winter conditions that could cause the pipes feeding the spigot to break.

Mow: Did you know that late-season mowing helps reduce the risk of mold and other diseases forming in your yard? There is no reason to trim your grass shorter than usual, but make sure to get in one last cut before the snow flies. This simple task may save you from having to apply a fungicide later.

Mulch: If you’re like me, raking and bagging is the fall chore I dread most. But with one easy step, you can make the job easier while benefiting your yard. Just keep the bag off your mower and mulch the leaves into the grass.

Why? According to ALCC’s tips for fall lawn care, “The mulched leaves will naturally compost into the soil, providing nutrients for the lawn.”

If you do need to collect and bag your leaves, take advantage of community leaf drop programs, like this one in Denver. (And if you have kids, don’t forget to rake the leaves into large piles to dive into first!)

Aerate: By opening up pathways for water and nutrients to move into the root zone, you’ll have a thicker and more drought-tolerant lawn without having to apply more water.

Transplant: Do you have an area that you are looking to transform into a more water-wise landscape? If so, now’s the perfect time to make the move. If you or a neighbor have established plants, splice off some sections and follow these simple steps to get your new garden off and running — for free!


Of course, you can always pay the kids in your neighborhood to do these chores for you and call it a wash. Either way, you’ll have a healthier landscape next spring while saving time, money and water.

A day without water? For many, no imagination required.

‘Imagine a Day Without Water’ reminds us of how lucky we are in this world of water worries.

By Jimmy Luthye

It’s time to dust the cobwebs off the ol’ imagination and think about what life would be like without its most critical compound (not beer).

Advertising graphic from Denver Water's "Nothing Replaces Water" campaign from 2001.

Advertising image from Denver Water’s 2001 “Nothing Replaces Water” campaign.

That’s right — time to “Imagine a Day Without Water,” as suggested by our friends at the Value of Water Coalition.

Over the years, we’ve definitely had our fun imagining life in Denver without the wet stuff. We’ve created advertising campaigns around the notion that “Nothing Replaces Water” (fun videos here, here and here), and I even sang a song about it.

For many people, however, the prospect of a day without water is less imagination, more harsh reality.

Consider the fact that nearly 700 million people in this world don’t have access to clean water, instead viewing activities like showering as luxuries existing only in dreams.

Since 1990, has worked to pioneer safe water and sanitation solutions around the globe.

Image credit to, an organization that pioneers safe water and sanitation solutions.

And reminds us that more people on Earth have a cell phone than have a toilet. Mind-boggling.

Even developed countries like India are, at this very second, dealing with outright war over what boils down to fear of running out of water.

Now, while we’re more than fortunate to live where we do, the U.S. is certainly not immune to water worries.

There are protests in North Dakota over a new oil pipeline that threatens the local water supply.

The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, triggered fears of a waterless reality for the town’s nearly 100,000 residents, but also sent cities across America to re-examine the lead pipes that could taint their water supplies.

And then there’s this other story out of East Porterville, California — a town that has been without running water for THREE YEARS.

Think about that. It’s 2016, we live in one of the most advanced countries on Earth, and yet, somehow, thousands of people in a small California town have been without running water since 2013.


Lake Success, near East Porterville, California, at 4 percent of its capacity in November 2014. Today it is filled to 8 percent of its capacity.

Lake Success, near East Porterville, California, at 4 percent of its capacity in November 2014. Today it is filled to 8 percent of its capacity. Photo credit to David Seibold, Flickr Creative Commons.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, California’s crippling drought of five years dried up the town’s wells, leaving the state responsible for delivering water bottles and large tanks of non-potable water to keep the town going.

East Porterville is finally on the road to recovery, with all 1,800 properties in town expected to be on a new water system by the end of 2017.

Still, this is a harrowing reminder that clean, safe running water is precious, and so many of us are guilty of taking it for granted every single day. I know I am.

As East Porterville resident Tania Ramirez put it, “It was kind of scary to know there was no water.”

Such a simple, powerful thought. Can you even imagine?

So, not just today — but especially today — take a second to remember just how valuable water is, how lucky we are to have it, and how crucial it is that we continue to protect, respect and invest in the most important substance in the universe.

“I love water because I love to 'drek' water!” Couldn't have said it better myself.

“I love water because I love to ‘drek’ water!” Truer words were never spoken.

A message in a bottle

History behind Perrier’s ad campaign feat highlights some of our favorite messages.

Perrier began advertising in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Photo credit: Erik Charlton, Flickr Creative Commons

Perrier began advertising in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Photo credit: Erik Charlton, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sabrina Hall

Perrier is often synonymous with bottled water, and understandably so — after launching an advertising campaign in the late 1970s, Perrier’s success kicked off a new beverage trend that has only grown since then. It’s projected that by the end of this year or early next year, Americans will drink more bottled water than soda.

So it piqued our interest when we saw a recent article about Perrier’s historic ad campaign, “The ad campaign that convinced Americans to pay for water.” This article highlights some of our favorite messages.

  1. As we’ve explained to Jay Z, and despite the article’s title, water isn’t free. Perrier and other bottled water companies sell bottled water that costs up to 2,000 times more than tap water. Denver Water customers pay an average of less than $3 for 1,000 gallons of water. While tap water is a bargain to say the least, utilities must operate vast collection, treatment and distribution systems to deliver this water. It’s not free.
  2. The bottled vs. tap debate usually includes a lot of misinformation, especially when it comes to water quality and price. Last year, an opinion piece in The Washington Post about the lack of trust in drinking fountains spurred a Twitter chat on the benefits that safe, affordable tap water provide to the community.
  3. Forty-five percent of all bottled water in the U.S. comes from the tap. Every so often a story comes along expressing shock that bottled water companies use tap water as the source. We don’t see this as a scandalous topic, as we proudly supply safe, high-quality drinking water to more than 1.4 million people.
  4. Ad campaigns can change behavior around water. Perrier’s campaign changed how people consume water, and created a massive new market. Denver Water’s Use Only What You Need campaign successfully achieved a goal on the other end of the spectrum — customers reduced their water use by more than 20 percent in the last 15 years.

In the early 1900s, Perrier supplied Buckingham Palace with “the champagne of waters.” At the same time, across the pond, Denver Water was planning and developing a complex water system to serve a growing population. Fast-forward 100 years, and we’d like to think we also are serving the champagne of water. Our source, after all, is champagne powder.

A hard act to follow: After tackling a toilet, now what?

‘Use Only What You Need’ campaign turned heads about conservation. Today’s water challenges demand more of the same.

Denver Water’s 2015 campaign, "You Can't Make This Stuff" won for Best Street Furniture/Transit/Alternative Campaign in the 2016 Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s OBIE awards.

Denver Water’s 2015 campaign, “You Can’t Make This Stuff” won for Best Street Furniture/Transit/Alternative Campaign in the 2016 Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s OBIE awards.

By Ann Baker

Maybe it was the time a giant toilet ran across Mile High Stadium to a stunned crowd, getting tackled by a security guard as the scoreboard blared: Stop Running Toilets.

Or maybe it was when professional landscapers and horticulture professors wrote disgruntled letters about billboards and radio spots that joked, “Grass is Dumb.”

At some point in the past decade, Denver Water’s signature orange box asking customers to Use Only What You Need became advertising legend in the metro area, winning countless awards, prompting dozens of requests to buy the rights for the campaign, and even eliciting interest for use on specialty license plates.

The campaign is coming to a close this year, making way for a more broad-range message that will go beyond conservation and focus on other issues, including water quality, recreation and long-range planning, among others. It’ll still be unexpected, clever and fun, but it’ll be more individualized and make better use of the digital world. Think less billboard, more hashtag.

Still, the Use Only What You Need catchphrase will remain one of a kind.

“It’s the best advertising campaign this city has ever seen, in my opinion,” said Trina McGuire-Collier, assistant director of Public Affairs, who oversaw the campaign since its inception. “You didn’t expect a government agency to do and say the things we did.”

The Use Only What You Need campaign began 10 years ago, just as the region was recovering from a debilitating drought. Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners challenged customers to reduce their use 22 percent by the end of 2016, a massive undertaking that required an attack on several fronts, through audits, rebates, rates and, of course, advertising.

“We had to cut through the clutter,” McGuire-Collier said. “The drought had gotten our customers’ attention, and we had to strike while they were watching.”

So every year, Use Only What You Need set out to shock Denver Water customers. (Almost) naked people walked through crowds with an orange sandwich board that read: Use Only What You Need. A taxi stripped down to just what was needed to be street legal — basically headlights, tires and a steering wheel — appeared at community events with the same simple, but prudent, message.

The Running Toilet, pictured here at the 2015 9News Parade of Lights, has been a staple of Denver Water’s Use Only What You Need campaign.

The Running Toilet, pictured here at the 2015 9News Parade of Lights, has been a staple of Denver Water’s Use Only What You Need campaign.

Soon Denver Water started pairing taglines with Use Only What You Need to help customers focus their conservation efforts with tangible actions. “Grass is Dumb. Water 2 minutes less. Your lawn won’t notice.” Or “Man’s Time of the Month: Pick a time every month when you do your man thing and adjust your sprinklers.”

“It created this legacy, that every year the industry and our customers were waiting to see what we’d do next,” McGuire-Collier said.

It was modern, often outrageous, and sparked a conversation throughout the city. It also worked.

Customers reduced their water use by more than 20 percent in the last 15 years, despite a 15 percent population increase. “It was the perfect timing for that message,” said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning, which tracks customer use patterns. “It was just the root of all success we’ve had in conservation.”

It’s impossible to quantify how much of that reduction came from advertising versus rates versus rebates versus the dozens of other methods that encouraged customers to use less. But the campaign certainly had an impact.

Use Only What You Need made people think twice about their water use, said Jeff Tejral, manager of conservation.

“The culture has since changed and water use has changed,” Tejral said. “We need to capture that success and move forward.”

Now the push will be to create a two-way dialogue with customers all year long, instead of only during irrigation season. It’ll help people see Denver Water as experts while teaching them about what their water utility has to offer, said Kathie Dudas, Denver Water’s marketing manager.

At the recent opening of the rail line to Denver International Airport, for example, Denver Water parked its water trailer at Union Station and handed out cups of cool tap water to incoming visitors. Several people cooed about its taste, asking where they could buy it.

“We can’t keep talking with one message, because now the portrait is bigger.” Dudas said. “But you can’t follow Use Only What You Need with corporate speak. We’ve raised the bar for ourselves, and we must set new heights with our future campaigns.”

Time to demystify your sprinkler system

Don’t just ‘set it and forget it.’ You may find yourself in The Twilight Zone.

By Jimmy Luthye

Sadly, I do not have a sprinkler system, nor a yard to call my own. So, you can imagine my confusion when I learned of a widespread problem among those far more sprinkler-savvy than myself; namely, people are often intimidated and, yes, even a bit nervous to go near their sprinkler control box.

Why? Frankly, sprinkler timers can seem complicated if you’re not familiar with them, but that’s no excuse to ignore them. Come with us as we uncover the mysteries of the sprinkler system and show you how to get cozy with your timer. It’ll save you money and water!


When it comes to watering your lawn, it’s critical you don’t just “set it and forget it” all summer. Be sure to check back and adjust often, depending on the month and the recent weather conditions. For example, you should water less in May than in July.

Diligence is key to saving water while keeping your lawn healthy.

And make sure you’re using the appropriate watering technique. Rick Alvarado, a water conservation technician at Denver Water, recommends the cycle-and-soak method.


Remember, use your irrigation controller to add multiple start times and reduce each zone’s watering time.

Leave up to an hour between start times to allow for the last cycle to soak into the soil.

Cycle and soak. Makes sense.

Learn more about the cycle-and-soak method from the Colorado State University Extension.

In case you missed it, check out our original Twilight Zone parody — a journey into an underground vault.


Contributing: Rick Alvarado, Jay Adams, Matt Bond and Big Foot the cat.

Watering rules when we’re drought-free? You betcha.

5 things you should know about Denver Water’s 2016 summer watering rules.

By Jimmy Luthye

Watering rules at Denver Water date back to at least 1922. They’ve transcended droughts, wet periods, “normal” weather times, wars, a plethora of presidents, disco and three (!!!) Broncos Super Bowl championships.

And they continue this year, despite the glorious precipitation we’ve received thus far.

“We’re fortunate we’ve had a wet year so far, which means our water supply is in good shape,” said Mike King, Denver Water’s director of planning. “But in Denver, conservation is in our DNA, and that can never change. You never know when the next dry stretch may hit, but we know it’s coming.”

Indeed, as we’ve seen in Colorado, droughts are as difficult to predict as wet stretches. At Denver Water, we have to prepare for both.

With that, here they are: five things you should know about the 2016 summer watering rules (from a grown man named Jimmy).


Contributing: Steve Snyder and Dave Gaylinn

Rules are made to be broken, except this one

Summer watering rules run from May 1 to Oct. 1 and promote healthy lawns            

By Kim Unger

I have always had a bit of a rebellious side. Tell me I can’t or shouldn’t do something? I just might test those boundaries and do it anyway.

When it comes to maintaining my lawn, however, there are some rules I just don’t mess with: Summer watering rules.

So why would I forego my urge to buck the system? It’s simple, really — I want a healthy, green lawn, and I want to save water too.

I don’t view the watering rules as a restriction, but merely a helpful guide to the best ways to water your lawn. This infographic breaks it all down.


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