Archive for the ‘Construction Projects’ Category

Your water bill is going up (slightly). Here’s why

That small increase helps us make big system upgrades, ensure water reliability and plan for future needs.

By Steve Snyder


Nobody likes to pay a bill.

No matter how much you like a service or how essential it may be, handing over your hard-earned money to somebody else — particularly if that bill often increases from year to year — is never fun.

But when it comes to your water bill, the simple fact is the cost of running a complex water system continues to rise. Your bill helps to maintain and upgrade a vast infrastructure that allows us to collect, treat and deliver safe, reliable water, while also providing for essential fire protection services.

You’ll see some slight increases in your water bill starting April 1, 2017. Here are the answers to three questions you may be asking:

  1. Why are you raising my rates?
crews placing concrete for storage tank at Hillcrest

Crews work to place the concrete floor of one of the new Hillcrest treated water storage tanks on Dec. 10. Denver Water is in the middle of a $100 million project to improve the safety and reliability of its Hillcrest facility by replacing two 15-million-gallon underground water storage tanks with three 15-million-gallon tanks, and a pump station.

We have a large, intricate system with a lot of aging infrastructure. With a 5-year, $1.3 billion capital plan, we’re staying on top of the upgrades and new projects needed to keep this system running.

(Watch the video at the top of the page to see the kinds of projects, like replacing failing underground storage tanks and aging pipes.)

To keep up with this necessary work, we are increasing the monthly fixed charge on your bill to help us even out our revenues over the year so we can repair and upgrade our system. This means less reliance on revenues from how much water customers use, which has become increasingly difficult to predict in recent years given the more frequent and extreme weather fluctuations.

  1. How much is my water bill going up?

That depends on the type of customer you are and how you use water. Your bill is comprised of a fixed monthly charge and charges for how much water you use.

Every customer will see an increase to their monthly fixed charge. If you’re like most residential customers who have a 3/4-inch meter, that charge will increase from $8.79 to $11.86 per month.

To help offset the fixed monthly charge, the charge per 1,000 gallons for many customers will see a small decrease in 2017.

Adding up those two elements, if you live in Denver and use 115,000 gallons of water a year in the same way you did in 2016, you can expect to see an annual increase of about $29, which averages out to a monthly increase of about $2.40 a month. (Summer bills are typically higher because of outdoor water use.)

If you live in the suburbs and get your water from one of our 66 distributors, your bill will be higher than Denver resident’s. That’s because the Denver City Charter requires that suburban customers pay the full cost of service, plus an additional amount.

  1. You ask me to use less water and then raise my rates. Am I being penalized for conservation?

We always encourage conservation and the efficient use of water. In fact, rates would be higher without our customers’ conservation efforts; we’d have to build more treatment and distribution facilities to keep up with the demand for water.

For example, your conservation efforts are saving Denver Water an estimated $155 million on a new treatment plant and storage facilities because it doesn’t have to be as big as we originally estimated. That’s $155 million we don’t have to recover through rates and charges.

No one likes paying higher bills, but consider the overall value of water. Most Denver Water customers will still pay about $3 for 1,000 gallons of water.

And while rates are going up, Denver Water is committed to keeping water affordable, particularly for the essential indoor water use that is vital for drinking, cooking and sanitation. In 2017, customers will continue to pay the lowest rate for what they use indoors.


If you’d like to talk over your bill with someone, contact Denver Water’s Customer Care team at 303-893-2444, and a representative will help you calculate your individual bill impacts, based on your personal water-use information.

Hidden underground, and ready to go with the flow

Whatever the demand, 30 storage tanks ensure reliable water delivery. Here’s how we keep them ready.

By Kim Unger

How many times do you turn on the faucet or flush the toilet every day? Is it the same amount, at the same time, every time? Probably not. No matter when or how often you need safe, clean water from your tap, it’s right there waiting. But how?

Underground storage tanks.

Inside a water storage tank

A peek inside one of Ashland’s new storage tanks. Construction is expected to wrap up in June 2017.

You may not realize it, but Denver Water has 30 tanks across our service area. They provide a buffer to allow our treatment plants to operate at consistent flows, while the tanks handle the highs and lows of water demands. This reduces energy costs and strain at the treatment plants, and it means that you never have to wait for treated water.

Just like pipes, dams and treatment plant equipment within our water system, storage tanks need maintenance and repairs to ensure reliability. Over the past few years, Denver Water has been replacing and upgrading the tanks, making sure we can provide water well into the future.

Take a look at this animated video to see how storage tanks work — and preview an upcoming project in southeast Denver.

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.”

Gross Reservoir Expansion Project takes a giant step forward

State certification moves this critical project closer to reality, and cooperation is the key.

By Matt Wittern


As a native Coloradan and lifelong flyfisherman, I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to sell trout a line. I’ve encountered many frustrated fisherman in my day, and remember too many days when I’ve counted myself among them.

No matter what you hear or read about how to be successful in the sport — tippet size, line length, fly pattern, cast placement — success all comes down to one word: approach.

Gross Reservoir has a surface area of 418 acres. Once the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is completed an additional 424 acres will be added to the reservoir’s surface area.

Gross Reservoir, pictured here, has a surface area of 418 acres. Once the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is completed an additional 424 acres will be added to the reservoir’s surface area.

And that same word, as It turns out, applies to how Denver Water recently secured Gov. John Hickenlooper’s endorsement and a state water quality certification for the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir that found the project will result in a net environmental benefit for the state.

Here are the technical details: The Section 401 certification under the Federal Clean Water Act, or more succinctly, a 401 certification, comes from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The certification is one big step forward for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project.

Without diving too much into the weeds (where personal experience teaches that you’re just going to get snagged and lose a couple flies), this is a REALLY big deal, and not just for Denver Water, but for the environment and interests on the West Slope, too.

“I think there are benefits on both sides of the Divide on this project,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates, one of Colorado’s most respected and influential environmental groups. “Denver Water has guaranteed that when there are temperature fluctuations that threaten the health of the river, there will be additional releases. In the driest years, Denver Water can release additional water downstream, and that helps rivers across the West Slope.”

Let’s face it: In the past, Denver Water’s approach to these issues has been flawed, and like a fisherman using a DuPont lure, shockwaves and damage were left in its wake. But today’s Denver Water is much more like a successful flyfisherman who takes into account the environment, notices nuances in the currents, and observes and reacts to changes in the hatch.

Denver Water changed its approach to one of cooperation and relationship building, and in so doing found solutions to this challenging project.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead (left), accepts the 2016 River Stewardship Award from Colorado Trout Unlimited executive director David Nickum.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead (left) accepts the 2016 River Stewardship Award from David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

“We were involved in a very lengthy battle with Denver Water over the Two Forks project some 25 years ago,” remembers David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “At that time, the idea of Trout Unlimited and Denver Water working together would have been difficult to imagine. I think that we’ve seen just a sea-change in Denver’s attitude toward really trying to work with partners in those basins, to understand that those are legitimate concerns and considerations – that we can actually achieve win wins by all working together, listening to each other, understanding our various concerns and looking at the fact that we do have a common interest in watersheds like the Fraser.”

The conditions included in the 401 certification provide for long-term monitoring of stream temperature, nutrients, metals and aquatic life with an adaptive management strategy for responding to water quality impairments, if detected. The certification builds upon the cooperative process that helped get us here and the manner in which fishermen hone their skills in the sport. It’s called Learning By Doing. CDPHE describes Learning By Doing as:

… a cooperative process that has a goal of maintaining or improving the “stream environment” in the project area. An adaptive management strategy is employed to make decisions about allocating resources to meet the goal. The management committee includes representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, the Colorado River Conservation District, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Municipal Subdistrict), Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited.

Beyond working collaboratively, Denver Water has made additional commitments and earmarked millions of dollars in funding to enhance the environment as part of our broader approach to secure approval for the project. These include committing additional funds to multiple water improvement and stream restoration efforts in collaboration with West Slope county officials, Trout Unlimited and other interested parties.

Kind of like when you hook a magnificent trout with a perfect cast, this approach is instructive, rewarding and encourages us to do it more.

5 questions about getting the lead out of Denver

No amount of lead in our water is safe. But replacing potentially hazardous lead service lines is no small task.

By Travis Thompson

Lead service lines, like the one pictured here, were initially installed by builders most likely before or during the mid-1950s and are owned by customers.

Lead service lines, like the one pictured here, were initially installed by builders most likely before or during the mid-1950s and are owned by customers.

You’ve read about Flint, Michigan, a community in crisis after lead levels spiked following a series of water supply and operational changes.

This tragic failure has sparked a national dialogue on the safety of our drinking water and a positive movement to eliminate the risk of lead.

Many communities across the country are now re-examining their approaches and fixing the problem where they find it, including Denver.

Here are five questions – and answers – about getting the lead out of Denver homes:

  1. Is our drinking water safe?

First, no amount of lead in drinking water is safe.

Last year, Denver Water collected more than 35,000 samples and conducted more than 68,000 water quality tests.

Lead isn’t present in the mountain streams and reservoirs that supply our water, or in water when it leaves our treatment plants and travels through our system’s water mains.

Yet, lead can still show up in the water coming out of your home faucet. That’s because, for some homes, the service lines that bring water from the water main in the street to your home are made of lead. Household plumbing fixtures like faucets may also contain lead.

Just because a home has a lead service line, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is leaching lead into the water.

  1. So how can I find out?

The only way to know for certain if you have lead in your drinking water is to have it tested.

Call Denver Water at 303-893-2444 or use this online form and we’ll send you a sampling kit to collect the water. Then we’ll test the samples so you’ll know if you’re at risk. The sampling kit and the test are free.

You also may choose to have your water tested by an independent lab. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides a list of labs and fees.

If your water tests positive for lead, you can protect yourself by using a filter certified for lead removal. A list of filters can be found on The National Sanitation Foundation’s website. Make sure the filter is NSF Standard 53.

You may also have your service line tested to see if it is made of lead. If it is, we encourage you to replace the line. We recommend using an experienced, licensed plumber for service line testing and replacement work.

The most common source of lead in treated drinking water is a customer’s plumbing.

The most common source of lead in treated drinking water is a customer’s plumbing.

  1. Where are the lead service lines?

Pinpointing how many Denver-area properties have lead service lines and where they are is not easy.

In Denver Water’s experience, homes and buildings most likely to have lead service lines are those built before or during the mid-1950s, but we simply don’t have enough information to know exactly when and where lead was used by plumbers and builders in our service area.

We are researching regulations, plumbing codes and policies from prior decades when lead was a commonly used material for a better understanding on where lead service lines may exist in the Denver metro area.

Because Denver Water doesn’t own the service lines, we don’t have records of where the original lead service lines have been replaced with a non-lead material, such as copper.

We’re working with our available data to see if we can glean enough information to better identify homes at risk. You can help us narrow the scope of our research by calling 303-893-2444 to report if you know you have a lead service line.

  1. What’s Denver Water doing?

Long before the Flint crisis thrust lead into the national spotlight, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was already working on regulatory changes and rules to guide communities and water utilities on removing lead from private service lines. But those changes are not likely for a few more years.

“We’re not waiting for the new regulations,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “The Flint situation lays bare this simple fact: Our communities will be safer in the long run with no lead service lines in the ground.”

Until new policies are developed, Denver Water has enacted an interim lead replacement plan:

When our construction crews encounter a lead service line during main breaks, pipe rehabilitation or pipe replacement, we will replace that line entirely with copper. We also will provide homeowners with detailed information regarding their water quality.

In addition, we will provide homeowners with a filter and offer to test the water at no cost after we replace the service line, because lead can still be present in internal plumbing fixtures.

  1. Who will pay to replace all those lead service lines?

That’s the toughest question of all. The American Water Works Association estimates there are 6.1 million lead service lines still in the U.S., and the estimated cost to remove them is $30 billion.

“Replacing lead lines involves shared responsibility among utilities, customers, government and other stakeholders,” said Lochhead. “As a community and as a broader society, we need to have a serious discussion on how we get the lead out.”

Those conversations have already started at local, state and federal levels. All options are on the table: changes to plumbing codes, property disclosure requirements and potential sources of funding the cost of service line replacement.

Until those policies are clear, Denver Water will continue to provide sampling kits, offer testing and other resources, and replace lead service lines when we find them as part of our regular construction efforts, Lochhead said.


Go to the Denver Water website to learn where water meets lead, how to know if your home is at risk and ways to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.

So nice, we use it twice

Recycled water plays a critical role in getting the most from our limited water supply.

By Jay Adams


Construction crews install a 20-foot section of purple pipe in Denver's Northfield/Stapleton neighborhood.

Construction crews install a 20-foot section of purple recycled water pipe in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood.

Hidden below the street in a 10-foot trench, surrounded by the whirring, clanking and beeping of an excavator, is an operation that looks like a typical road construction project. But this project in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood is different, it’s aimed at protecting Colorado’s most important resource by recycling water.

Recycled water is critical to Colorado’s future, according to the Colorado Water Plan — a first-ever comprehensive strategy to balance Colorado’s growing population with the state’s limited supply of water.

The source of recycled water is the water from faucets, showers and toilets inside homes and businesses. From the drain, the water is purified and given a second life at Metro Wastewater’s Robert W. Hite Treatment Facility and then again at Denver Water’s Recycling Plant.

Denver Water's Recycling Plant purifies water from homes and businesses for irrigation and industrial uses.

Denver Water’s Recycling Plant purifies water from homes and businesses for irrigation and industrial uses.

“It’s all about using the right water for the right use,” said Russ Plakke, Recycling Plant supervisor. “Recycled water isn’t treated to drinking water standards, but we have other uses within our community that we can use it for.”

The recycled water flows through purple-colored pipes to more than 80 locations in Denver and Adams County for irrigation and industrial uses. The Stapleton project will connect businesses and a new school with recycled water for irrigation. Purple pipes are used so recycled water is not confused with the drinking water system.

Currently, nine Denver schools, 34 Denver parks, five golf courses, the Denver Zoo, HOAs and commercial property owners use recycled water to keep their landscapes healthy. It’s also used to heat and cool the Museum of Nature and Science and run the cooling towers at Xcel Energy’s Cherokee Generating Station in Adams County.

“We live in a semi-arid climate, and there’s only so much water available to us,” said Brenley McKenna, Denver Water Reusable Water Program manager. “That’s why we built our Recycling Plant. It helps us stretch every drop we have.”

Xcel Energy uses recycled water for its cooling towers at the Cherokee Power Plant in Commerce City.

Xcel Energy uses recycled water for its cooling towers at the Cherokee Generating Station in Adams County.

Colorado’s population is expected to nearly double by 2050 and water providers will have to prepare to meet the future demands of their customers. Meeting these needs in a sustainable approach is one of the reasons Denver Water has made recycling water a priority.

Planning to meet future water needs isn’t just about preparing for a growing population. Planners must also consider the impacts of climate change, swings in the economy, changes in government regulations and other factors.

“Our job is to prepare for whatever happens and make sure we have an adequate and reliable supply of water for our customers,” McKenna said. “In 2015, our customers used nearly 2 billion gallons of recycled water. Reuse helps keep more water in our reservoirs and reduces the stress on mountain streams where our drinking water comes from.”

Denver uses recycled water for irrigation at City Park Golf Course and 34 other parks.

Denver Water provides recycled water for irrigation at five golf courses.

Using recycled water has won support across Colorado, said Laura Belanger, environmental engineer at Western Resource Advocates and president of WateReuse Colorado. “It’s an efficient way, it’s a green way to help us plan for the future so we’re not being wasteful,” Belanger said.

Her organization is pushing for education, legislation and regulations to promote safe and effective recycled water systems across the state.

“The Colorado Water Plan aims to provide a long-term water supply while protecting the environment and quality of life we all enjoy,” Belanger said. “Recycling water plays an important role in that balance.”

Denver Water recycles about 2 billion gallons of water each year.

Denver Water recycles about 2 billion gallons of water each year.

Recycling water is being done around the world and in 25 Colorado communities. The next step for Denver Water is to explore other locations where recycled water could be a good fit. Possible customers include car washes, commercial laundry facilities and Denver International Airport.

“I think Denver is looking to be a more environmentally friendly city,” McKenna said. “Having recycled water is one of the key components to building sustainable neighborhoods, not just here in Denver, but across the state and the West.”

Say it ain’t so! Another Waterton blow

The canyon is closing (again) for repairs. To ease the pain, check out all the other places you can play.   

By Travis Thompson and Jamie Reddig

Most of the wood on the High Line Canal diversion structure had already washed away by June 2015.

Most of the wood on the High Line Canal diversion structure had already washed away by June 2015.

This stinks!

One month into 2016 and we’re already picking up right where we left off in 2015: Waterton Canyon is closing again.

Early last year, we closed the canyon for four days to monitor the condition of the High Line Canal diversion dam, located about 1.5 miles up the canyon and spanning the width of the South Platte River. The deteriorating wooden structure, built between 1880 and 1883, threatened to send large pieces of debris down the river.

We knew the repairs would mean another closing, but that doesn’t make this announcement any easier.

Nevertheless, here we go. Beginning Feb. 2, the canyon will only be open one day a week while crews replace the damaged structure. Here’s the detailed release, Waterton Canyon closure.

So, what’s the silver lining?

  • The canyon will be open to the public on Sundays! (As long as visitors promise to stay clear of the worksite.)
  • Technically, during the project the canyon will only be closed from the main entrance to mile marker 2. That means the upper portion of the canyon will be accessible from the Colorado Trail, above Strontia Springs Reservoir.
  • Once the structure is fixed, we’ll have the ability to send water down the High Line Canal again, depending on the availability of water from the South Platte River and irrigation demand by more than 30 users along the canal.

For those who can’t wait until May 15, 2016, when the canyon is expected to fully reopen, don’t fret, we provide lots of recreational opportunities at many different locations. Here are a few of our seasonal faves:



A behind-the-scenes look at powering a dam

Electrical upgrade improves reliability and safety at Strontia Springs Reservoir

By Jay Adams



From the outside, Strontia Springs Dam looks like giant wall tucked away inside Waterton Canyon, but on the inside, the dam is a working machine.

A group of Denver Water electricians are wrapping up a major upgrade to the dam’s electrical system to make it safer for employees who operate the facility. They’re building three new distribution panels to improve the reliability of the dam’s valves, which regulate the amount of water that flows out of the dam. Because electricity powers the valves, the new panels include modern circuit breakers to reduce the potential for hazardous electrical flashes.

The electrical work — which began in August and is expected to wrap up by the end of December — will prepare the dam for any future upgrades to its aging hydropower plant.

Good for drivers, bad for the Fraser River

Sand keeps cars safe but clogs river; Denver Water and state crews team up to scoop 2,000 tons of sediment.

By Jay Adams



The Fraser River is showing signs of recovery, thanks to an ongoing project that has removed nearly 2,000 tons of sand and sediment from the water in the past three years.

CDOT crews scooped 520 tons of sediment out of Denver Water's settling pond near Winter Park Ski Resort.

CDOT scooped 520 tons of sediment out of Denver Water’s settling pond near Winter Park in October.

It has become an annual routine for Colorado Department of Transportation crews in Grand County. In the winter, they spread traction sand on Berthoud Pass to keep the winding highway safe for cars. In the fall, the same crews scoop out sand that migrates into the river.

Keeping both drivers and water safe has been a high-country dilemma for decades.

“We see 300 to 400 inches of snow a year, so traction sand is a must,” said Andy Hugley, CDOT maintenance superintendent.

There is one major consequence of keeping the road safe. “Sanding the pass is good for cars, but it’s bad for the river,” added Kevin Urie, Denver Water environmental scientist.

Urie said traction sand collects on the side of the highway and washes down the mountain during the spring runoff, harming the aquatic habitat while clogging pipes and filters at downstream water treatment facilities.

The Fraser River is critical to Grand County’s water supply and tourism, especially fly-fishing. That’s why removing traction sand is so important according to Kirk Klancke, Trout Unlimited Colorado River headwaters chapter president and former president of the East Grand Water Quality Board.

“When it comes to traction sand, fish don’t like it, bugs don’t like it,” Klancke said. “When you cover up the rocks where the bugs live, the bugs die, and the trout disappear because their food source is gone.”

Denver Water's diversion pond before sediment was removed in October. The diversion pond was redesigned to capture traction sand.

Denver Water’s diversion pond before excavation in October, 2015. The pond was redesigned to capture traction sand.

This fall, CDOT removed about 520 tons of sediment from a Denver Water diversion pond located on the river across from the Mary Jane entrance to the Winter Park Ski Resort. The pond was originally built as part of Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System to help bring water to the Front Range. In 2011, it was redesigned to trap the traction sand.

The project got its first test in 2013 and has been a big success. Water treatment operators have noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the water, and trout populations are showing signs of recovery.

Redesigning the pond took years of collaboration and money from multiple partners, including Denver Water, CDOT, East Grand Water Quality Board, Grand County and the Town of Winter Park. Federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, also collaborated on the project.

Denver Water provided an additional $50,000 as part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement — a pact signed by 18 organizations, including Denver Water, on how to manage the Colorado River.

The pond after 520 tons of sediment was removed in October.

The pond after 520 tons of sediment was removed in October.

The pond is the first project completed with funding from the agreement. “This is a great sign that collaboration does work. It’s exciting for me to see this project operating and improving the aquatic environment for Grand County,” Urie said.

Project partners evaluate the sediment levels each year to determine if there’s enough sediment to remove in the fall. “We live up here too, so we’re doing our part to be good stewards of the land,” Hugley said.

Klancke hopes the spirit of cooperation will continue for years to come. “When I look at this river now I smile,” he said. “This is good for the whole state, good for Grand County, good for the fish. I’m happy with this project.”


Contributing: Kim Unger

Under the river and through the woods

Denver Water tunnels under the South Platte River to install a new water pipe.

By Katie Knoll

Water main connecting the water distribution system across the South Platte River at Eighth Avenue.

The deteriorating water pipe, installed in the 1890s, connecting the water distribution system across the South Platte River at Eighth Avenue.


When the forefathers of Denver Water were installing our water distribution system in the 1890s, they ran into a problem: How can we get water to the people living on the other side of the South Platte River?

Their solution: Hang the pipe from a bridge. As technology advanced, Denver Water engineers improved on that approach, protecting the pipe with fiberglass insulation and a casing of asphalt paper (similar to the shingles on your roof) to protect it from freezing.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Those exposed pipes have seen their share of hard times, despite regular repairs and maintenance.

“Finger-sized” pinhole leaks. Discovered and repaired in 2013.

Finger-sized “pinhole” leaks. Discovered and repaired in 2013.

One pipe in particular, at West Eighth Avenue, was damaged and repaired after the 1965 South Platte River flood. But constant exposure to the elements has caused the pipe to steadily deteriorate: The asphalt casing has flaked off, causing corrosion, and several “pinhole” leaks (about the size of a finger) have recently appeared.

Our new solution: Thanks to advances in horizontal directional drilling technology, Denver Water can now make the formerly impossible task possible. We’re burying the pipe underneath the river.

“Exposed water mains aren’t ideal — their life expectancy is only 50 to 75 percent that of a buried main,” said Laura Dennis, Denver Water design engineer for the project. “Moving the pipe under the river was a great solution to protect it from the elements and extend its lifespan.”

To relocate the pipe, a specialized drilling crew tunneled beneath the river with a drill similar to those used in oil and gas drilling, injecting a mud-and-water mixture into the ground to help break it up as they moved along. In less than a week, they completed the hole.

Next, crews on the west side of the river fused together 650 feet of pipe lined up along the south side of West Barberry Place, then fed it through a 6-foot trench to connect the east and west sides of the river, connecting the water distribution system from Zuni Street to West Barberry Place.

And what about the old pipe? It’s still there, but we’ll get rid of it when the City of Denver completes its Eighth Avenue bridge replacement project in the next five or six years.

Denver Water’s field crew will head out to connect the new pipeline to the system this fall so it will be up and running by the end of the year. Dennis said the project serves as a model to repair and replace 30 other similarly exposed mains around the city. “This is a great way for us to increase the longevity of our infrastructure,” she said.

For a closer look at photos from the project, check out this short video:


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