Leading the way with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System opened in 2004

By Dave Noel, who recently retired from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science after serving for 10 years as vice president of facilities, capital projects and sustainability.

In 2009, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science initiated the design process for the Morgridge Family Exploration Center, a new addition designed with the primary goal of being a green facility to support the museum’s mission of being a leader in sustainability.

And, with water being the most valuable commodity in the West, the museum partnered with Denver Water to implement an innovative and efficient system using recycled water. The recycled water runs through pipes that are buried deep underground in a process known as geothermal exchange. The earth maintains consistent temperatures throughout the year, so the water in the pipe is cooled by the earth in the summer and warmed in the winter. This water is then used to heat and cool the new addition.

After the recycled water passes through the pipe to heat or cool the building, it returns to the recycled water line — meaning no water is actually lost in the process. And, this innovative implementation of geothermal exchange technology significantly reduces the energy required to heat and cool the new 126,000-square-foot addition by 60 percent — helping the museum meet its aggressive sustainability and energy efficiency goals.

The museum was awarded a $2.5 million grant by the Department of Energy to develop the system as a demonstration project and collect data on the system’s performance.

Denver Water has never put water back into its recycled water lines in the past, and according to our research at the museum, this technique to recirculate water back into the recycled water line has not been implemented anywhere in the country before. Typically, geothermal heat exchange projects have their own piping loops or wells underground, which come at a substantial cost.

From our installation of waterless urinals and low-flush toilets to our low-water landscape with native plants irrigated with recycled water, the museum is very excited to take our water conservation practices to the next level with this innovative pilot program and partnership.

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$40 million and counting: upgrading aging underground reservoirs

The concrete placement for the roof started at 5 a.m. in order to beat the heat of the day. Over an eight-hour span, roughly 25 concrete trucks per hour continuously delivered concrete to four concrete pumping trucks until the roof slab was complete.

The concrete placement for the roof started at 5 a.m. in order to beat the heat of the day. Over an eight-hour span, roughly 25 concrete trucks per hour continuously delivered concrete to four concrete pumping trucks until the roof slab was complete.

According to DenverUrbanism, there are about 5,900 single-family homes in Denver that were built in the 1890s still standing today. And now, there is only one underground water storage tank left in the Denver metro area built that same decade that continues to store treated water today — but not for long.

That’s because Denver Water is in the middle of a $40 million capital project to improve the safety and reliability of Ashland Reservoir. One of the two reservoirs at the Ashland site has already been demolished and the new tank is nearly complete. Once that tank is in service, the second reservoir will be demolished and another built in its place.

This project is a vital part of Denver Water’s work to upgrade its aging infrastructure. In fact, over a decade-long span, Denver Water — through customer water rates — plans to spend about $120 million on treated water storage tank projects.

There are 30 underground reservoirs, just like the two at Ashland, in various city locations that store treated water after it leaves one of Denver Water’s three treatment plants. These reservoirs ensure customers have a reliable water source, especially during times of the day when water use is at its highest, like mornings when people wake up and water use spikes as they all use the toilet, shower and sink at the same time. The tanks also provide a dependable source for the fire department so there never is a concern about having enough water to fight a fire in the community.

On Aug. 18, 2014, the Ashland project reached a significant milestone as the roof was placed on the new storage tank. This required hundreds of concrete truckloads and more than 60 laborers working continuously until the 1,500-cubic-yard roof slab was finished.

And, the local media was there to capture the massive undertaking.

Throughout its morning show, 9News highlighted the concrete placement and importance of the reservoir to the community. Here is one of the live shots:

 

 

7News used the helicopter to provide a visual of the work from the sky:

At the end of the day, CBS4 provided an update from overhead with another helicopter video showing the final product:

 

Denver Water customers not “that guy” in July

Matching CoupleBy Lindsay Weber, Denver Water demand planner

We would like to thank our customers for not being “that guy” this July.

Denver Water’s 2014 Use Only What You Need campaign, Don’t be that guy, focuses on smart watering practices, including not watering when it rains. And, this July customers did just that by watching the weather and adjusting accordingly.

At the end of July, the Denver metro area received more than 2 inches of rain along with record low temperatures in a two-day span, and customers took note.

Water use dropped 34 percent for the three days following the rain compared to the three days preceding the rain. And, nearly two weeks later, we are seeing water use remain below those pre-rain levels.

So, we thank you for shutting off the sprinklers, keeping the hose at bay and letting Mother Nature do the work. And, for heeding the advice of this year’s campaign by not being “that guy.”

Additional resources to help you save water this summer:

Check out Denver Water's Water Watch Report for weekly updates on current water supply and water use information.

Denver Water’s Water Watch Report provides weekly updates on current water supply and water use information.

More color, less water: How Lakewood is brightening up West Colfax

Looking for more inspiration? After taking a drive down West Colfax Avenue, check out the xeriscape demonstration gardens at Kendrick Lake in Lakewood.

Looking for more inspiration? After taking a drive down West Colfax Avenue, check out the xeriscape demonstration gardens at Kendrick Lake Park in Lakewood.

Take a drive down West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood and it’s hard to miss the collection of retro neon diner and motel signs illuminating the road.

But, have you ever noticed the aesthetically pleasing median strip? We have!

Following the drought of 2002, the city of Lakewood parks department evaluated the condition of more than 1.3 million square feet of landscaped medians. Many of the medians had overgrown plants and inefficient spray irrigation systems, more than 25 years old.

This led to a trial run of using drip irrigation systems and xeric plants, including native and adapted plants, in 2004. And, Lakewood hasn’t looked back. The city has upgraded nearly 8 miles of landscaped medians to eye-catching and efficient low-water landscapes, resulting in a 40 percent reduction in water use.

And, they are not done yet. The work has been done in stages along West Colfax Avenue with the goal of upgrading the entire corridor over the next couple of years, making this strip the poster child for medians throughout the city, state and region.

Follow the approach used by the city of Lakewood to become efficient in your own yard as well:

  • Identify areas where grass isn’t necessary or beneficial, and plan for a more efficient landscape alternative.
  • There are many options to help ensure this section of your landscape remains stunning. Check out our Transforming Landscape series for inspiration and ideas.
  • These transformations don’t have to take place overnight. Just like the improvements along Colfax, upgrading section-by-section is a wonderful strategy and will make the renovation more practical.

By following Lakewood’s lead, you too can have a colorful landscape — without needing to install retro neon signs.

Learn more about the water-saving practices used by the city of Lakewood in their video, Water Wise Gardening Tips:

How to tackle brown spots

Do you find yourself battling brown spots in your yard all summer long? If so, you’re not alone. Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado says brown spots and weeds are the two most common lawn problems. And more often than not, the underlying cause of both is a faulty sprinkler system.

So, what can you do? ALCC offers the following advice:

Brown spots are really the lawn’s call for help. The grass is stressed and you think it needs more water.

While you may be tempted to turn up the sprinkler system so it waters longer, that won’t solve the problem if the water isn’t getting to that brown spot to begin with.

Many brown spots stem from issues with the sprinkler heads. Here are three common problems with quick fixes to get your system back in order:

Irrigation audit, September 2013

Denver Water conservation technicians Jenelle Rhodes and Rick Alvarado demonstrate how to properly align a rotor head.

#1 – Clogged nozzle. Dirt and debris often get into the nozzle (the part in the sprinkler head where the water comes out) and once it is cleaned out, the head will spray water where it’s intended.

#2 – Misaligned rotor heads. If the rotor heads (the part that oscillates back and forth), are pointed in the wrong direction or stuck, you lawn isn’t getting the water it needs. A head that’s aimed at the street rather than your lawn is the culprit for the brown spot and is wasting water. Getting the head back into position will put the water where it needs to go.

#3 – Sprinkler heads aren’t popping up high enough. Equipment damage or soil build-up over the years may mean the sprinklers are no longer popping up high enough to clear the top of the grass blades. When that happens, water will hit the grass closest the head and be deflected. Raising the heads — or replacing them with sprinklers that pop up higher — will solve the problem.

More advice for brown spots  

If temps remain high for a few days, hand-water those brown spots to give them extra TLC. Avoid running the entire sprinkler system longer just to deal with problem areas because that wastes water and adds to your water bill.

 

 

Beyond brown spots — how to check your sprinkler system for problems

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When checking your sprinkler system for problems, look for mushy areas in the lawn. A very soggy area may be due to a break in the sprinkler pipe.

Because most of us run our sprinkler system overnight (which is a good thing!), we never really see whether the system is operating properly or not. With temps in the 90s, you may want to turn on your sprinklers for a quick run-through to look for problems.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Mushy areas in the lawn. A very soggy area may be due to a break in the sprinkler pipe. Go to the timer and stop watering that section of the sprinkler system until you can rule out a break or repair the broken pipe.
  • Very dry grass and/or part of the sprinkler system won’t run. This can indicate an underground electrical problem. Some diagnostic work will be required and you probably will need to call a pro.
  • Check your timer:

o    Make sure the timer is plugged in, and replace the battery so you don’t lose your schedule from a power outage.

o    Set the timer to run based on the kinds of sprinkler heads in each area of your yard. Rotor heads that shoot water back and forth across the lawn should run no more than about 20 minutes per cycle. Pop-up heads that spray continually over one area should never run more than 8-10 minutes per cycle. Longer run times will cause water to run off the lawn and that’s literally money down the drain.

o    Watering in smaller increments (cycle and soak) gives soil adequate time to soak up water. Once the water from the first round of watering is absorbed, water again about an hour or more later. The moist soil will allow additional water to travel even deeper to the roots and, in turn, create a healthier lawn.

Use Denver Water’s run-time scheduler to create a zone-by-zone schedule, and learn more about how to cycle and soak your lawn and suggested minutes to water per zone based on the month and your sprinkler system.

Other tips to help your lawn survive a heat wave:

  • Wait to fertilize the lawn until temps cool down.
  • Cut the lawn to a height of about 3 inches. Cutting too short adds to heat stress, while longer blades provide shade over the soil to help it retain moisture. Mulching grass clippings and leaving them on top of the lawn will also help keep the grass cool.

Congratulations, you’ve won the battle against brown spots, but there is more work to do. From properly installing and upgrading your irrigation system to keeping up with the routine maintenance, having a lawn is a responsibility that requires constant attention and adjustments. Have no fear! There are tools in place to help you maintain a healthy landscape, while being water-efficient. Visit denverwater.org/conservation for more tips, including rebate information.

Pop quiz — perceptions of water use

By Lindsay Weber, Denver Water demand planner

promolabel_blue_lookPop quiz: Why is it important to know how much water different activities use — like flushing a toilet or taking a shower?

Answer: Because knowledge is power, and if you know how much water you are using, you can also figure out how much water you can save.

So, are you up for the challenge? Below are questions about common household indoor uses of water. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or if you don’t think that they have a major impact on your daily water use, you’re not alone. A recent national study shows that Americans are likely to underestimate the amount of water used by various activities by a factor of two, and are likely to greatly underestimate activities that use a lot of water — such as filling a swimming pool.

Take the challenge:

 Answers:

1) B

In 2011, Denver Water conducted a residential water use study and found that the toilets in our service area have a median volume of 2.4 gallons of water per flush. To save water, you can flush less, but you can also use Denver Water’s rebate program to offset the purchase of a WaterSense-labeled toilet that uses as little as 1.28 or even 1.0 gallons per flush. This is especially important if you have an old, water-guzzling toilet from before 1996 that can use three or more gallons per flush.

In 2012, Denver Water conducted a residential end use study and found that the toilets in our service area have a median volume of 2.4 gallons of water per flush. To save water, you can flush less, but you also can use Denver Water’s rebate program to offset the purchase of a WaterSense-labeled toilet that uses as little as 1.28 or even 1.0 gallons per flush. This is especially important if you have an old, water-guzzling toilet from before 1996 that uses three or more gallons per flush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) B

Denver Water customers use about 16 gallons of water to take a shower. Obviously, shortening the time spent in the shower will save water, but efficient showerheads will also help. A WaterSense-labeled showerhead saves 20 percent more water than a conventional showerhead, and it will save energy too.

Denver Water customers use about 16 gallons of water to take a shower. Obviously, shortening the time spent in the shower will save water, but efficient showerheads also will help. A WaterSense-labeled showerhead saves 20 percent more water than a conventional showerhead, and it will save energy too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) B

Clothes washers in the Denver Water service area use an average of 30 gallons per load. Considering Denver Water households do about a load of laundry each day, that can add up over a year. To save water, you can reduce the number of loads you do, but you also can look into getting a more efficient clothes washer. An ENERGY STAR clothes washer uses only 15 gallons of water per load — and will save you money on your energy bill too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations, you’ve completed the first step of figuring out how much water you are using. Now that you have the power, it’s time to figure out how much water you can save.

Further info:

Water wisely during Smart Irrigation Month

Smart_Irrigation_Month_logoThe hot month of July typically is when people use the most water. In honor of this busy lawn-watering month, the Irrigation Association created Smart Irrigation Month to remind people about the importance of appropriate irrigation technology and wise watering habits to reduce water use, create healthy lawns and achieve greater agricultural yields.

You can take part in Smart Irrigation Month with these simple tips:

Abide by the watering rules

To help eliminate outdoor water waste, Denver Water implements annual summer water use rules, which help facilitate smart irrigation. The rules include:

  • Water during cooler times of the day — lawn watering is NOT allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Water no more than three days per week.
  • Do not allow water to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
  • Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete or asphalt.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Do not irrigate while it is raining or during high winds.
  • Use a hose nozzle with a shut-off valve when washing your car.

Chart your water consumption and get conservation tips — all online

Everything you need to save water, pay your bill and learn about Denver Water is at your fingertips. Denver Water has several ways for customers to stay connected online:

  • Chart your monthly water consumption.
  • Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for instant updates and conservation tips.
  • Subscribe to this blog for regular tips, updates and guest posts about conservation (on the right-hand side of this page).
  • Sign up to receive E-Tap or CNSRV, e-newsletters with news related to Denver Water and monthly conservation tips.
Alicia Geary, Water Saver, helps a customer program their smart controller. Denver Water has a team of nine Water Savers out in the community to provide customers with tips and tools for water-saving practices this summer.

Valerie Beyer, Water Saver, helps a customer program their smart controller. Denver Water has a team of nine Water Savers out in the community this summer.

Don’t lose water — and money — while on vacation

Going out of town for vacation? Make sure someone is keeping an eye on your irrigation system. Summer power failures can reset your sprinklers and cost you money!

It’s also important to replace your irrigation system’s backup battery each year so your sprinklers won’t go haywire in a power failure.

And install a smart irrigation controller with a rain sensor to prevent your system from running in the rain. Earn a rebate for WaterSense certified controllers.

Maintain a green lawn with less water 

A simple way to use less water while maintaining a green lawn is to use the cycle-and-soak method. Instead of setting your sprinklers for one 14-minute period, for example, set your irrigation system to run for seven minutes, rest for several minutes, then run for the remaining seven minutes to achieve the total 14-minute run-time. Doing so will reduce wasteful runoff.

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