Posts Tagged ‘water main break’

All in a day’s — or night’s — work

On the shortest day of the year, the sun sets early, but you still need water. We’ll be there.

By Kristi Delynko

Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day — and longest night — of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. And while many of us use an early sunset as an excuse to curl up on the couch with a good book or movie, some Denver Water employees will be hard at work — no matter how short the daylight hours.

Ensuring 1.4 million people receive high-quality drinking water is a 24/7 operation. Here’s a glimpse at what some of our employees will be doing long after the sun sets.

Emergency services conducts night work to repair a leak

A customer calls the emergency services dispatcher to report water bubbling up in the middle of a busy intersection. Even in the dark, members of the Emergency Services team are Denver Water’s first responders. They handle anything from shutting off water so crews can repair pipe breaks, to supporting Denver firefighters during multi-alarm blazes, to assisting customers with water quality complaints.


Daniel Ruvalcaba, senior utility technician, works on repairing an underground leak

Water mains burst when they want to, and usually at inopportune times, like when it’s dark and chilly. After Emergency Services responds to a call, a Water Distribution crew — including senior utility technician Daniel Ruvalcaba — fix the problem so customers can have water service restored as soon as possible.


Water treatment plant supervisor David Brancio

Long after many of us have gone to bed, staff at our four water treatment plants are hard at work. They gear up overnight when water use is low, to ensure the plants can meet customers’ needs during the day, when demand is higher. Our three drinking water plants and recycling plant are staffed around-the-clock by operators and maintenance personnel like water treatment plant supervisor David Brancio, who monitor the treatment processes and run lab tests to ensure the water we deliver (sometimes at the rate of 350,000 gallons a minute) meets all the federal and state regulations, and even tighter Denver Water standards.


Distribution operator Albert Geist monitors our complex water system

Coffee percolates and the dark room glows from monitors that cover entire walls in Systems Operations (also known as Load Control). Distribution operators like Albert Geist work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, scanning various computer screens to make sure our 30 treated water reservoirs, more than 3,000 miles of pipe, 160 pressure zones and 22 pump stations are ready for the morning load as our customers wake and prepare for their day. With a water system as large and complex as ours, pumps, facilities, even entire pipelines occasionally go down for service, maintenance or repair. Operators must constantly respond to alarms that signal potential real-time problems with everything from equipment and instrumentation to water quality and pressure.

We provide customers an average of 64 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water and 2 billion gallons of treated recycled water every year. No small task, but it’s all in a day’s — or night’s — work at Denver Water.

Looking for ‘hot spots’ — in all the right places

New analysis pinpoints water mains at risk, allowing crews to upgrade whole neighborhoods at once. 

By Travis Thompson

Denver Water crew installs a new 12-inch-diameter pipe as part of 2015 pipe replacement program in southeast Denver neighborhood.

A Denver Water crew installs a new 12-inch-diameter pipe as part of the 2015 pipe replacement program in a southeast Denver neighborhood.

When a water pipe breaks under the road, there’s no telling what it’s going to do. Some shoot geysers into the air large enough to make Old Faithful jealous. Others turn neighborhood streets into muddy rivers, and some barely send a trickle of water up through the cracks in the pavement.

But even if there isn’t major disruption when the pipe breaks, there will be when it’s time for the repairs. Work crews can’t fix a pipe buried eight feet underneath the street without creating some commotion, from traffic disruptions to noisy equipment and temporary water outages.

Knowing emergency repairs can be a headache — especially when they happen in front of your home — Denver Water is always looking for ways to improve the repair process.

Enter Peter Kraft. As Denver Water’s asset manager, his job is to track and examine infrastructure conditions and needs throughout the water distribution system. Kraft recently analyzed about 630 breaks in Denver Water’s service area since 2013, using locations, type of pipes, installation years and other data to identify areas that he calls “hot spots.”

The research led him to neighborhoods on the west end of Centennial that have experienced 18 breaks in two years, over a 12-mile span. That’s more than three times the number of breaks as the rest of Denver Water’s service area.

Sensing an opportunity, Kraft and Mike Mercier, supervisor for the crews who replace sections of pipe each year, devised a new scheme. Instead of only upgrading pieces of “bad” pipe speckled throughout the water distribution system, the pipe replacement team will concentrate its efforts on one area.

This map shows the locations of 18 breaks across 65,000 feet of pipe in west Centennial since 2013.

This map shows the locations of 18 breaks across 65,000 feet of pipe in west Centennial since 2013.

This new approached kicked off in March, and crews will replace about 60,000 feet of pipe throughout the targeted 12-mile zone east of South Broadway along Arapahoe Road over the next two years.

“Though we’ve mapped out additional work in this area, it will be more prudent for us to see how the first couple of years go and adapt, if needed,” said Kraft. “As we learn from doing work in that area and also advance our analysis techniques, we may find there is a different ‘hot spot’ that boasts even higher value for us to concentrate on.”

Even though the work is cumbersome, the crews are coordinating their efforts and communicating with residents before the disruptions occur.

Kraft said he hopes this new strategy will help reduce issues like one seen in early March, when a 12-inch-diameter pipe broke in an east Denver intersection — just feet from where a new piece of pipe was upgraded less than a year earlier.

“There is no exact science when trying to guess the condition of a pipe underneath the road,” he said. “But by identifying these hot spots across the system, we can concentrate our resources on larger areas so we don’t have to return to deal with a main break in a community where we recently worked.”

So while Denver Water trucks will be common sight over the next few years in west Centennial, the upgrade will rid the community of its “hot spot” moniker, leaving the geyser shows for vacations in Yellowstone National Park.



9 reasons we’re giving thanks this Thanksgiving

Water you thankful for?

By Jimmy Luthye

With Thanksgiving upon us, we didn’t feel right stuffing our faces without first sharing some of the things that made us most thankful this year.


1. Bountiful fills and spills.


We had a lot of water this year, especially early. Three of our reservoirs set record highs in May, with a fourth recording its second highest total in history. Wetter is better.


2. Our water system looks like this.

Dillon_August_2010 005

Dillon Reservoir. ’Nuff said.


3. Turns out, it’s easy to do Thanksgiving without wasting water.

Turkey photo iStock cropped

[Photo credit:]

We’re thankful to have so many tips to enjoy the holiday while saving water. For instance, thaw your frozen turkey in the refrigerator — not under running water. Read and learn, as I have.


4. Nature.

close up

We’re thankful we live in a place where we balance human needs and those of the animal world. And we’re thankful the public remained patient and safe during the recent extended closure of Waterton Canyon due to increased bear activity.


5. Mmm … Brisk, mineral and grassy.

kelly and michael

In a bizarrely worded taste test in Rodale’s Organic Life magazine, we’re certainly thankful our water was named among the top 10 tastiest in the nation. To top it off, Michael Strahan and Busy Philipps tasted our water on Live with Kelly and Michael! Not too shabby.


6. We have some insanely dedicated employees.

water main guy

[GIF credit to Greg Dutra, FOX 31 Denver]

He’s not just showing off for the cameras, folks. Our employees are constantly out busting their tails to make sure the water keeps flowing, and everyone can be thankful for that. It was never more evident than at about 3 a.m. on Oct. 22, when three water main breaks happened almost simultaneously around the Denver area. And we’re especially grateful to the employees who will be working this Thanksgiving Day to keep the water flowing for all of our holiday celebrations.


7. The Great Divide … Have you seen it yet?


This film came at a critical juncture for water in the West. It’s one of the most important films of the year, and we’re thankful for Havey Productions for their tireless efforts in creating it. Seriously. See it. Here are some ways to do so. Also, check out our film review here and watch our employee reactions here.


8. These moose.


What’s better than a moose on your porch? A bunch of moose on your porch, of course! Thank you, moose. And a huge thank you to our mountain caretakers (and their families) — like Per Olsson at Jones Pass near Winter Park who took this photo — for their dedication to keeping the water flowing in the heart of the Colorado wilderness.


9. You, our customers.

thank you dog

[Image powered by]

Most important, we are thankful for you, our customers, who continue to trust us to deliver you high-quality water. We’re committed to continue doing so and thank you for your commitment to continue using it wisely. It is, after all, our most precious resource.



turkey day

[Image credit: Ethan Barnowsky, powered by]


Related story: Our party starts now by Dana Strongin.

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