Denver Water saved my life

Jodi and her 3-year-old German Shepard, Abby, plan on bringing some relief and joy to patients at Saint Joseph Hospital as a pet therapy team.

Jodi and her 3-year-old German Shepard, Abby, plan on bringing some relief and joy to patients at Saint Joseph Hospital as a pet therapy team.

One employee’s personal account of battling breast cancer.

By Travis Thompson

This could have been a tale of tragedy. Instead, Denver Water’s Jodi Johnson is sharing her encouraging story, with a simple message: Get your health screenings. It could save your life.

Johnson’s tale begins in spring of 2014, when she was instructed by her doctor to get her annual mammography. As a strong, healthy woman in her 50s, with no indication of medical concerns, it was not something that she ran out to schedule.

Later that year, Denver Water hosted its annual visit from the Saint Joseph mobile mammography van, offering a convenient way for Jodi to check this task off the list.

“I spent the day joking with my co-workers about getting this type of exam while at work,” Johnson said laughing.

In less than 30 minutes she was back in the office with hardly a blip in her schedule. The screening quickly became such a distant memory that she ignored several calls from an unknown number, never thinking it could be the radiologist.

“Finally I gave in and answered,” Johnson recalled. “They wanted me to come in for some more tests, but I figured no biggie, test results always come back OK. Right?”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Jodi was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, commonly referred to as DCIS, a very early-stage cancer that is highly treatable.

In the blink of an eye, she was working with surgeons and counselors on a plan to become cancer-free.  It was an emotional time for Johnson, but strangely, her test results brought her anxiety level down and her reassurance up.

“Everyone I dealt with through this process was so positive. They would say how excited they were for me that we found it so early,” said Johnson. “Not what you would expect when dealing with cancer.”

To schedule a mobile mammography van event, click here. Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph Hospital.

To schedule a mobile mammography van event, click here. (Courtesy Saint Joseph Hospital)

On Feb. 4, 2015 — coincidentally, World Cancer Day — Johnson had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. The surgeon joked that it was the smallest cancer in history.

Thanks to the early detection and treatment, Jodi is now cancer-free.

The experience has Johnson feeling indebted. “I’m forever grateful of Denver Water’s wellness program, which made early detection possible, Saint Joseph’s for the great care and all of those who supported me through this difficult time — especially my kids.”

So, as a way to “pay it back,” Johnson has been working with Human-Animal Bond in Colorado to train her beloved German Shepard, Abby, as a service dog to visit hospitals and help people in similar situations.

“I can bring Abby to the same area I was in and say I was once in that same chair,” Johnson said with a smile. “If my story can help others, I’m happy.”

Saint Joseph Hospital stresses the importance of early detection, stating, “mammograms detect changes in a woman’s breast health well before an abnormal mass can be felt, but the average five-year survival rate for women who are diagnosed and treated early is 98 percent (where breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages).”

As a happy 98-percenter, Johnson wants to remind us that without the simple step of getting her health screening, she would be telling a very different story right now.

Water scores big for one Denver football team

George Washington High School football players say H2O is A-OK, better than sports drinks.

By Steve Snyder

George Washington High School requested water bottles for the football team because the players prefer drinking water to sports drinks.

George Washington High School’s football team requested water bottles because the players prefer drinking water to sports drinks.

When we got the call, we were happy to help — and not at all surprised.

The George Washington High School football coaches called us, looking for a donation of water bottles for the team. The main reason: Their players prefer drinking water instead of sports drinks.

Clearly the Denver Public Schools system is producing some outstanding scholar-athletes!

Of course, the core subject here is serious. Proper hydration for young athletes is critically important, and sports drinks can play a key, supplementary role. But given that water is our business, we are happy to hear when a team like the George Washington Patriots prefers our product to others on the market.

And that got us thinking about the ways that water is simply better than any sports drink. Here are a few:

Cost. This is the big one. If the GW football players drink 1,000 gallons of tap water this year, it would only cost the school about $3! Compare that to any name-brand sports drink. Just 1 gallon of a sports drink powder costs more than $2, while a gallon of sports drink concentrate costs $14. And you still have to add water to both! So for 1,000 gallons of the traditional, bottled, sports drink, you’re looking at about $4,000!!

The George Washington Patriots enjoy a water break during a timeout.

The George Washington Patriots enjoy a water break during a timeout.

Nutrition. This is pretty clear-cut, too. Water has zero calories, zero sugar and very low sodium. Sports drinks have more, particularly sugar.

Stickiness. If we are talking about football, getting a bucket of water dumped on you after a victory is much easier on your clothes, hair and skin than something like this.

Wagering. And speaking of sports drink baths, imagine how easy your friendly wager on the color of the winning Super Bowl coach’s post-game shower would be if water was the liquid of choice.

So drink up GW! Water is healthy, affordable and won’t stain your uniforms (although we hear it helps clean them pretty well).

And best of luck this season. Water can’t guarantee victory, but win or lose, we can guarantee you will look and feel better. Water is undefeated in that regard!

Time flies when you’re having fun

Adults and children contributed their passion for water to help us create Post-it art this summer.

Adults and children contributed their passion for water to help us create Post-it art this summer.

A look back at a Denver Water summer

By Jessica Mahaffey

Each year, we get dozens of requests to bring our water trailer — a 9,800-pound beast that carries 200 gallons of ice-cold drinking water — to events around the city.

This summer, we took our water-dispenser-on-wheels to 15 community events and served nearly 2,000 gallons of fresh tap water to more than 22,000 thirsty people.

We love the chance to attend these events and connect personally with our customers.

Because our conservation theme this year was “you can’t make this stuff, so please use only what you need,” we asked people visiting our booth to write about their personal connection to water on sticky notes, which we used to create Post-it art demonstrating the value of water.

Visitors responded with passion. We learned that while people value water differently (from drinking it to be healthy to being grateful it’s an essential ingredient of beer), each of us understands the vital role it plays in our daily lives.

Without futher ado, here’s the highlight reel from our summer events:



Learn about scheduling the water trailer for your next community event.

See ya next summer!

Our message to Martians: Use only what you need!

Scientists find more proof of water on Mars, and we hope our intergalactic neighbors use it wisely.

By Steve Snyder

Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps, Flickr Creative Commons. Photo has been altered.

This is another reason we love the water business!

You never know how our favorite life-sustaining substance is going to make the news. One day it’s the complete lack of water in California, the next it’s the discovery of more water on Mars. (And of course, the folks in Hollywood are already snarky about it.)

Earlier this week, scientists at NASA announced the strongest evidence yet of liquid water on Mars. There is even a Colorado connection to the story.

NASA scientists say this discovery lends further credence to the belief that Mars could possibly harbor some type of life form.

If that’s the case, we at Denver Water feel an extraterrestrial responsibility to provide the little green men on the red planet (or at the very least, Matt Damon) with a few tips and lessons learned about how to efficiently use water in a dry climate. (We figure Mars qualifies, since water vapor is present in the Martian atmosphere at a level 30 times less than on Earth.)


Tip #1: Educate customers about efficient water use. If they haven’t already, Martians may first want to establish a water utility. Next, that utility should make sure its customers understand how precious water is on the planet and why they should use it efficiently. Because Mars’ surface is a dry, barren wasteland marked by old volcanoes and impact craters and its average daily temperature is -81 degrees Fahrenheit, outdoor irrigation rules should not be an issue. Indoor use, however, is another matter, as apparently toilets in space have their own unique challenges.


Tip #2: Negotiate intergalactic compacts carefully. Since water in space seems to be as scarce as it is here in the Western U.S., Mars should be very careful about negotiating water-use compacts with its neighbors. You might have heard about our difficulties with the Colorado River Compact and how the river’s flows were over-allocated from the start. That has come back to bite us all. If Jupiter and Saturn come looking to share Mars’ new found water supply, Mars should be very wary. Just sayin’.


Tip #3: Manage growth effectively. Currently there is a lot of buzz about Mars. Sure, it’s just Matt Damon hanging out there now, but what if his buddy George Clooney comes up for a sequel? The next thing you know, Matthew McConaughey is making awful commercials up there. Then all bets are off! Point being, Mars has to handle growth in a smart, sustainable way so it can manage the extremely limited water resources effectively.


Tip #4: Account for all variables. At Denver Water, one variable we are currently dealing with is the recent phenomenon of dust accumulating on our mountain snowpack. This affects the way we plan for future water supplies. And since Mars has a bit more of an issue with dust than we do, perhaps they could help us out with that, if they are ever in our neck of the universe.


In summary, we are all in this together. It’s a great big universe, and there is only so much water to go around. If there are Martians, they are clearly at the beginning of a very long and difficult journey with the management of water on their planet. We hope some of these tips will help them avoid the mistakes we’ve made, so they can create a thriving, healthy planet that someday earthlings will want to visit — and dare we suggest, eventually take over!

Who had a worse water season, Denver or Vancouver?

The answer just might surprise you.

stanley park pano

Vancouver’s Stanley Park still captivates, even with dormant grasses.

By Kim Unger

One of the things I love about visiting the Pacific Northwest is the endless sea of green. The trees, plants, grasses, moss … everything is green.

Except this summer. On a trip to Vancouver, where I looked forward to cooler, rainy weather, what I learned instead was a new mantra. Brown is the new green.

I work for Denver Water, so I got curious. This year, it was as if Denver and Vancouver had traded places. While Denver’s spring and early summer saw extremely wet conditions, Vancouverites have been dealing with hot, dry weather.

To make matters worse, the spring rainfall in Vancouver was abnormally low. In May, the city typically receives about 2.43 inches of rainfall. This year? A mere 0.20 inches.

“We’ve had the perfect storm of conditions,” said Bill Morrell, spokesman for Metro Vancouver, the government agency that works with municipalities to provide core services, including drinking water. “We had an almost nonexistent snowpack, below-average rainfall in the spring and very hot weather. It was putting a high demand on the system.”

Landscaping at the Lougheed mall in Coquitlam was varying shades of brown.

Landscaping at the Lougheed town centre in Coquitlam was varying shades of brown.

In July, the demands of the area’s 2.4 million customers drained the local reservoirs to lows they don’t usually see until the end of August. And with little summer rainfall to fill up the reservoirs, capacity was draining fast.

And that’s when water restrictions kicked in.

In a typical year, Vancouver encourages outdoor watering during morning or late evening hours, and only three days per week (sound familiar?). This summer, lawn watering, personal outdoor vehicle washing and the refilling of pools, ponds or hot tubs has been prohibited for the first time since 2003.

“Really, we have a first-world problem,” Morrell told me. “We have reliable, high-quality drinking water, and we will continue to deliver that. What we are asking residents to do this year is cut back on nonessential water use, such as watering lawns and washing cars.”

By the time I visited the city, outdoor watering had come to a halt. The beautiful greenery had turned brown, which felt oddly familiar. Weeds became the new badge of pride. People even got a little surly (for Canadians), referring to homeowners with green grass and vibrant plants as “grass-holes.”

Public fountains were turned off, and public showers at the beach were limited or unavailable.

All of this in a city that typically sees rain 168 days a year. Curious to hear from the residents themselves, I took to Reddit, a social networking, community news website. The responses ranged from disgust to denial.

A lawn in Port Coquitlam is covered in weeds and leaves.

A lawn in Port Coquitlam is covered in weeds and leaves.

Reddit user Tallmiller wrote: “Hasn’t really made a difference. It’s only really dried out our very small lawn and I had to cut a bunch of flowers back to shrubs. … we still shower, drink, cook the same as before.”

Another user, Esclean, shared: “I have a friend who’s (sic) sole business is pressure washing apartment/condo buildings. He’s had to shut down his operations and lay off all his employees.”

OGdinosaur, “Car is looking pretty dirty…”

AdiposeFin: “Vancouver has never had a drought. Sure, we might have extended periods without rainfall. But there is no drought.”

There it was. The dreaded “D” word.


So who had a worse water year?

According to the North American Drought Monitor (NADM), the Vancouver metro area is at drought level 3-4. By comparison, Denver is free from official drought designation.

Copyright © 2015, Province of British Columbia

Drought map of British Columbia, Aug. 20, 2015. Image copyright © 2015, Province of British Columbia

Colorado drought map as of Sept. 1, 2015. Image:

Still, it’s hard to talk drought in a city known for near-constant rain. So Metro Vancouver is gearing up to educate its customers by focusing on new water conservation messaging.

In 2016, the campaign will target both indoor and outdoor water use, said Heather Schoemaker, senior director of external relations for Metro Vancouver. The goal, she said, is “for residents to embrace water conservation as a key value and action to ensure the future livability of our region.”

Coloradans certainly understand that. “Warming of the planet is our (humankind) greatest challenge,” said Laurna Kaatz, Denver Water’s climate adaptation program manager. “We know the atmosphere is warming, we just don’t know exactly how it will play out in our local watersheds.”

In the Canadian Rockies, for example, the snowpack melted a month earlier than usual, adding to Vancouver’s problems. “Warming is not a one-time, one-season event,” Kaatz warns.

Each year, Denver Water monitors snowpack, stream flows, storage capacity and the state’s overall drought outlook to determine the appropriate water management programs for the summer watering season.

“Our role is to help our customers be efficient with their water use at all times, regardless of the supply conditions,” said Greg Fisher, Denver Water’s manager of demand planning. “During times of drought, we do have to ask them to cut their water use beyond normal, efficient practices.”

During a potential year of low snowpack, Denver Water looks to maintain three to four years of storage to weather a multi-year drought. “After the drought of 2002, we learned the importance of updating our drought response plans more regularly,” said Fisher.

A poster at a bus shelter reminds residents to water wise.

A poster at a bus shelter reminds residents to water wisely.

If there is anything I have learned this summer, it’s that weather patterns are changing and we cannot only use average historical snowpack and rainfall to plan for the future. We have to adapt and change our perceptions of sustainable water use, whether we live in the semi-arid climate of Denver or the oceanic climate of Vancouver. Conservation is not about cutting back, but about using water efficiently.

Residents from both cities can follow these simple tips:

  • Reimagine your landscape from water-thirsty grass to beautiful low-water-use plants.
  • Replace old toilets with high-efficiency toilets; some use as little as 0.8 gallons per flush.
  • Retrofit your faucets with an aerator. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and available at most hardware stores.
  • Use only what you need. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or hand-washing dishes, and use spring-loaded spray nozzles when watering trees and gardens.

And a little rain dance now and then might not hurt either.

Uncovering Dillon’s underwater footprint

Survey team scans reservoir bottom

By Jay Adams



Like modern-day treasure hunters, they scour Dillon Reservoir looking for clues. Angelo Martinez, Jerry Kahl and Art Cardona are Denver Water surveyors on a quest to map the bottom of the reservoir.

“This hasn’t been mapped underwater since the reservoir was built back in 1963,” said Martinez. “Accurate maps are critical because they provide details of Dillon’s water storage capacity.”

Denver Water surveyors Jerry Kahl, Art Cardona and Angelo Martinez, spent the summer mapping Dillon Reservoir.

Martinez’s team uses a specially designed hydrographic survey boat — aptly named “Reservoir Dog” — to capture contour details of the reservoir bottom.

The survey team collects millions of data points that serve as clues to piece together a picture of what Dillon looks like under the surface. Denver Water uses the data to inform reservoir maintenance, dam safety and planning decisions.


Kahl navigates the waters, and Cardona sets sonar scanners in the water while Martinez plots the course and analyzes data from the onboard computers. “It’s a pretty high-tech boat,” Martinez said.

New technology allows surveyors to measure depths and create maps with much more granular detail, said Dan Thompson, Denver Water’s manager of survey. The old topographic maps of Dillon had 5-foot contour intervals, while the new maps capture 1-foot increments.

Angelo Martinez, survey technician, uses sonar and GPS to gather information about the contours and depths of Dillon Reservoir.

Angelo Martinez, survey technician, uses sonar and GPS to gather information about the contours and depths of Dillon Reservoir.

“Looking at our old maps is like watching the Broncos on a black-and-white TV,” Thompson said. “With our updated equipment, our maps have detail like a wide-screen HDTV.”

Bob Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply, said the survey data provides valuable information for his team, which oversees reservoir levels and releases. “As our customer base grows, it’s important to know precise reservoir capacities, because the yield our system can produce is dependent on how much water we can store,” Steger said.

Monitoring sediment flowing into the reservoir is another reason surveys are needed, he said. Sediment takes up space and reduces a reservoir’s storage capacity.

The survey team uses single and multi-beam sonar to measure the depths of the reservoir.

The survey team uses single and multi-beam sonar to measure the depths of the reservoir.

“Conditions change over the years,” Martinez said. “Our job is to map those changes and get a more accurate understanding of the terrain.”

The survey team uses two types of sonar beams to measure the reservoir, which is more than 200 feet deep in spots. Readings are coordinated with the boat’s GPS system to create a 3-D picture of what’s below the surface.

Martinez compares mapping the reservoir to mowing a lawn. “Back and forth, up and down. It’s a long process,” he said. The team mapped the reservoir’s 3,233 surface-acres over the past two summers, trolling by nearly 27 miles of shoreline.

The data and maps produced during the survey are a snapshot of the bottom of the reservoir that can be used for many years, Martinez said. “This is a good example to show how Denver Water really knows their system, cares about their system and cares about the future.”

No water, no Great American Beer Festival

Love a big stout or a tasty IPA? Every step of the brewing process requires one essential ingredient.

American Water Works Association reminds beer lovers of the importance of water with every sip.

American Water Works Association reminds beer lovers of the importance of water with every sip.

By Travis Thompson

Tickets sold out in just over an hour for 60,000 beer connoisseurs who will flood the Colorado Convention Center this weekend to taste some really good water.

You read that right. Water.

Since beer is 90 percent H2O, Great American Beer Festival participants will taste 3,500 samples of that familiar clear liquid, with a hoppy twist.

If you attend the festival, you’ll learn quite a bit about the brewing process. But if you can’t make it, we created our own version, highlighting, of course, the value of water:

Step 1: Beer needs barley. And barley needs water.

According to North Dakota State University’s Department of Plant Pathology, the average American drinking 20 gallons of beer per year consumes about 21 pounds of barley. Barley requires 15 to 17 inches of water for optimal crop production.

The brewing process begins by soaking malted barley in hot water.  


Step 2: Hops won’t hop without water.

During an average growing season, a hop field requires 20 to 30 inches of water. The amount of hops used in brewing depends on the type of beer you’re making. For a baseline, I turned to The Mad Fermentationist for an IPA (my personal favorite) recipe that uses 1 pound of hops for a 5.5-gallon batch.

Boil the malt with hops for seasoning.


Step 3: Water keeps it clean, so yeast can do its thing.

Sanitation is vital throughout the entire brewing process, and that of course requires water. But having a sterile environment for yeast to begin fermentation is “doubly important,” writes Chris Colby in a Beer & Wine Journal article.

Cool the solution and add yeast to begin fermentation.


Step 4: Water makes the cans, and cans hold the beer.

For starters, water is vital in the production process of making beer cans. And “the lining in cans is a water-based polymer that doesn’t interact with beer,” writes Jeff Wharton about the craft beer cans vs. bottles debate on

Bottle (or can) the beer with a little bit of sugar to provide carbonation.


For beer lovers, the Great American Beer Festival is a dream come true, with more than 750 breweries pouring their favorites, from amber ales to stouts and flavored specialty beers.

Just remember, as our friends at American Water Works Association like to say: No water, no beer.

Scary thought, huh?



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