Posts Tagged ‘Denver Water’

Starting small, thinking big

Ezzie Sauter Baca, water treatment technician (left), and Andrea Song, water treatment engineer (right), discuss an experiment using the pilot treatment plant’s replica filters. The filter tubes are filled with anthracite and granular activated carbon to strain out particles from the water.

Ezzie Sauter Baca, water treatment technician (left), and Andrea Song, water treatment engineer (right), discuss an experiment using the pilot treatment plant’s replica filters. The filter tubes are filled with anthracite and granular activated carbon to strain out particles from the water.

Starting small, thinking big

Miniature treatment plant helps engineers reduce cost, footprint of new facility

By Jay Adams

How do you design a new water treatment plant that will cost several hundred million dollars and last more than 50 years — and make sure you get it right?

Start small.

One of Denver Water’s most important construction projects in three decades begins in a small room tucked away inside the 78-year-old Moffat Water Treatment Plant.

There, in a storage room 18 feet wide and 37 feet long, engineers and plant operators are running tests on a miniature version of a treatment facility that will eventually be the prototype for the real thing.

The results of those tests will be used to design the North System Renewal Water Treatment Plant at Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir site near Golden, Colo. The new facility is expected to be built in the next 10 years.

The scaled-down version of the plant consists of two main components: a large tank that replicates the pretreatment process and four large tubes that filter the water.

“It really is a cutting-edge system,” said Andrea Song, pilot plant manager and water treatment engineer.

The pilot treatment plant replicates the processes used by a full-size water treatment plant. The pilot plant consists of two main components that replicate the pretreatment and filtering processes.

The pilot treatment plant replicates the processes used by a full-size water treatment plant. The pilot plant consists of two main components that replicate the pretreatment and filtering processes.

Song, along with water treatment technician Ezzie Sauter Baca, are among the engineers and operators running the tests. “It’s neat to see the treatment process happen before your eyes — usually it’s all underground,” Sauter Baca said. The pretreatment and filtering processes take about 3.5 hours in the pilot plant compared to 10 to 16 hours in the actual plant.

Song has designed water treatment plants across the country and is passionate about doing it right. “We want the most cost-effective design, but a design that also will stand the test of time,” she said.

They’re using the test model to determine the right size and flow rate for the new treatment plant’s filters. Filters are large concrete structures filled with sand and anthracite coal or granular activated carbon. The materials strain particles from the water, a critical final step in producing high-quality water.

The biggest challenge: trying to demonstrate how much water per square foot the filters can process in a minute. The current treatment plant has 28 filters. Determining the correct flow rate and filter material is essential in designing the number and size of the filters in the new plant, according to Zack Alabbasi, Moffat Water Treatment Plant supervisor.

“If we can build filters that can process more water, we won’t have to build as many. That means the footprint of the new plant will be smaller and cheaper to build,” Alabbasi said.

Moffat Water Treatment Plant has 28 filters. The tests using the pilot plant will determine the size and number of filters needed in the new North System Renewal Treatment Plant.

Moffat Water Treatment Plant has 28 filters. The tests using the pilot plant will determine the size and number of filters needed in the new North System Renewal Treatment Plant.

Denver Water purchased the pilot plant for $368,000, but Alabbasi said that building fewer filters could end up saving tens of millions of dollars in construction costs at the new facility.

Once the experiments at Moffat are complete, engineers and operators will use the pilot plant to test various water treatment strategies at all four of Denver Water’s treatment facilities.

The experiments will make the new facility more flexible for future regulations and better equipped to handle changes in water quality.

“The impact of climate change, pine beetles, floods and wildfires is changing our water supply, and we need to be ready for those changes,” Song said. “When people look back in 50 years at what we did today, we want them to say we made the right decisions. Our customers depend on us for great water, and we intend to keep it that way.”

Take a virtual tour of Denver Water’s treatment process.

 

March was dry, but reservoirs are high

March was dry, but reservoirs are high

What it takes to manage water supply in Colorado’s fickle climate

By Stacy Chesney

Riddle me this:

If Denver Water relies on snow to fill its reservoirs, and most of March — typically the snowiest month of the year — is one of the driest in Colorado’s history, how can Denver’s water supply remain in good shape?

Is the answer:

Smart planning? Efficient water use? Luck?

Actually, it is all of the above. It may seem counterintuitive given the low snowpack levels across Colorado, but as Bob Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply, explains, Mother Nature, smart planning and customer water use have all factored into Denver’s strong water supply despite the recent conditions.

We wanted to delve into this topic a little deeper, so we asked Bob to answer a few more questions about what it takes to manage water supplies in the face of Colorado’s ever-changing weather conditions.

Elements of a strong supply image

Even if you don’t watch the news, it is no secret that snowpack across the state is low. Is Denver Water’s system different?

Denver Water can only capture water from snow that is above our reservoirs. For us, that means the snow in the Upper Colorado River and Upper South Platte River basins. We’re fortunate that these areas above our system are some of the wetter areas in the state this year. The snowpack in these areas is below normal, but not by much.

 

It was just a couple of years ago that we were facing a severe drought. Why are our reservoirs in good shape right now?

In short, rain, snow, water use and planning all played a role.

In 2013, we were on the tail end of a severe drought. While the massive rainfall that occurred that September was devastating to a lot of the state, we were able to capture much of that water, which helped our reservoirs recover before heading into that winter.

We’ve been fortunate ever since, with above-average snowfall and timely precipitation through February 2015.

But it’s not just about the weather. Our reservoir levels are directly related to how much water our customers use. Last summer, customers used 14 percent less water compared with recent years. Seemingly small steps like shutting off sprinklers in the rain help keep water in our reservoirs.

 

Does this mean you aren’t worried about the dry conditions? 

In this state, anything can happen. We saw severe drought and epic flooding in just the past four years. Because the weather and climate in Colorado are so variable, we will never be in a position where we have enough water to waste.

Just because our supply is in good shape right now doesn’t mean what’s happening elsewhere in the state doesn’t matter. Dry conditions outside of our collection area can affect our water supply. We have to pay attention to what happens downstream of our facilities because if a downstream user has a senior (legal) right to the water, we may not be able to capture it in our reservoirs. We must stay vigilant to ensure our reservoirs are positioned to maximize the water we can store when it’s available.

 

So there you have it. In the end, there really is no riddle. While we can’t control the weather patterns or conditions, we can make sure that we all do our part to use water efficiently. Because every drop you save today will become a drop we need a different day.

For tips and tools to become more water-efficient in your home or business, visit denverwater.org/conservation. And, make sure to review the annual watering rules before irrigation season begins.

Six gallons per flush? That’s too much water, say Bear Creek students

Bear Creek High School's cheerleading squad show's off their water-saving cheer: It's all connected.

The Bear Creek High School cheerleaders chant their water-saving fight song, “Hashtag: It’s all connected.”

Six gallons per flush? That’s too much water, say Bear Creek students

High schoolers team up with Denver Water and Denver Zoo to reduce water consumption by 16 percent.

By Travis Thompson

The Bear Creek High School gym floor rattles with a drumline cadence. A marching band steps into motion. Four cheerleaders fly into the air with signs leading the chant, “Hashtag: It’s all connected.”

This is the Bear Creek High School water-saving fight song.

Through the Denver Water and Denver Zoo Water and Sustainability Program, Bear Creek students took a hands-on approach to learn about water issues and used that knowledge to do something positive in their school.

“We’re the first school to go about this project,” said student Hunter Trujillo. “We’re kind of like the pioneers.”

By stepping away from the textbook and working directly with sustainability experts, the students reduced their school’s water consumption by 16 percent through water-efficient upgrades like switching out faucet aerators and showerheads. The class also identified larger water-saving opportunities that could save the school more than $30,000 in the future.

“It’s so amazing when you get to inspire students to a level where they really want to take action in their own worlds,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water youth education program manager. “The students really are empowered to apply their knowledge, be leaders and make change — real, meaningful change.”

Watch their journey, and see why these student’s chant “It’s all connected” when it comes to water in the West:

Classroom on the mountain: Snow school brings new meaning to higher education

As part of the snow school, instructors and students dig trenches in the snow and slice it up like a seven-layer cake. Each layer tells a different story about the snowpack.

As part of the snow school, instructors and students dig trenches in the snow and slice it up like a seven-layer cake. Each layer tells a different story about the snowpack.

Classroom on the mountain: Snow school brings new meaning to higher education

Where there’s snow, there’s water. Here’s how Denver Water’s engineers dig into Colorado’s most precious resource.

By Jay Adams

High in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, nestled among the pine trees of the Uncompahgre National Forest, is a classroom like no other. There are no desks, no chalkboards and no textbooks.

This is snow school, with a curriculum devoted entirely to studying the properties of Colorado’s most precious resource.

Nathan Elder, a water resource engineer, lives and breathes snow. He tracks how much of it falls, where it falls and when it melts. In the world of managing Denver Water’s water supply, snow is everything.

So it was only fitting that Elder headed back to school in February for some higher education. Hosted by the Colorado Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies near the town of Silverton, the course is geared toward water resource managers and avalanche safety experts.

Elder was happy to take a break from his day job at Denver Water to dig into the piles of snow and information offered in this alpine environment.

“It was great to get a firsthand look at the snow, Elder says. “And seeing the boots-on-the-ground science was really rewarding.”

That part about the boots is no metaphor in this giant San Juan classroom. Elder and his fellow snow school students ventured out on snowshoes to learn the power of the sun on snow and the impact of dust.

Nathan Elder, water resource engineer, stands next to a SNOTEL measuring site near Silverton, where he attended snow school.

Nathan Elder, water resource engineer, stands next to a SNOTEL measuring site near Silverton, where he attended snow school.

“Solar energy has a greater impact on melting than does temperature,” he said. “We saw firsthand the difference between snowmelt on south-facing slopes compared to north-facing slopes.”

Dust on snow determines the “albedo,” a measurement of how much the snow absorbs or reflects the energy from the sun. “If there’s a lot of dust, the snow absorbs more energy and melts faster,” Elder says.

To most people, snow is something to be shoveled or skied. But for Elder, snow is the critical piece of creating water supply operating plans.

The course starts with the true beginning of a snowflake by examining meteorological phenomenon such as El Nino, a warm weather phase from Pacific Ocean currents, and La Nina, the cool weather phase. Both produce temperature change and rainfall.

“We studied the jet stream to learn where the moisture comes from that makes Colorado’s snow,” Elder said.

As part of the class, instructors and students dig trenches in the snow and slice it up like a seven-layer cake. Each layer tells a different story about the snowpack.

“When you look at the layers, you can tell if the snow came from a wet storm or a dry storm,” Elder said. “It gives us a better idea of how the snow is going to melt.”

And that’s critical information for water managers because it helps determine the timing of the runoff — the amount of water that flows into Denver Water’s reservoirs — and when the runoff will peak.

For Elder’s water supply team, the more information they have about the expected runoff, the better they can make good decisions about how much water to release from reservoirs, and when.

The students also checked out the automated snow-monitoring sites — called SNOTEL —managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Seeing the SNOTEL sites firsthand helps me better understand the data they provide and help manage the runoff better,” Elder says.

Going back to class is what experts do, constantly looking to add to their knowledge base.

Elder’s take on snow school? “It was pretty cool, and well worth the trip.”

Money down the drain? Not if you invest in efficiency

Denver Water employee Rick Alvarado installs a high-efficiency showerhead in a Denver area residence, one of 120  on this day!

Rick Alvarado, Denver Water conservation technician, shows how easy it is to install a high-efficiency showerhead during a recent multi-family residential audit.

Money down the drain? Not if you invest in efficiency

5 ways you can reinvest your tax refund to save both water and cash

By Steve Snyder

If you already filed your tax return this year, chances are you’re looking at a nice refund. The IRS tells us that Colorado residents will receive an average federal tax refund of more than $2,700. Sure, you could spend that on a nice vacation or the latest electronic gadget. But if you want to promote water efficiency and reduce your water bill, here are a few products to consider. Many carry the WaterSense label, and rebates are available for some of them.

1. Ultra-high-efficiency toilets: Prices start at $149, and they use up to 50 percent less water than a standard toilet. We know what you’re thinking: You’ll have to flush more with the new toilets to get the same results. But these are not your father’s high-efficiency toilets.

“The technology has improved tremendously in the last several years,” says Denver Water Conservation Manager Jeff Tejral. “With the newer models, you will see better performance and less water use with one flush.”

How can you tell how much water your current toilet uses? First, look for a marking near the seat hinge. Newer toilets have a mark that says 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush). If you don’t see that mark, check the underside of the tank lid or back wall inside the tank for a date stamp. Toilets made before 1982 use more than five gallons per flush!

2. High-efficiency showerheads: Prices start at $6, and like the toilets, these are more efficient than older models. They use about 20 percent less water than a standard showerhead, but you will still get a satisfying shower. (Yes, we remember that “Seinfeld” episode, too.)

By the way, Denver Water teamed up with water providers and legislators to pass a new law for 2014 that will save water by phasing out the sale of less efficient fixtures in Colorado.

The Xeriscape Garden at Denver Water. Xeriscaping is a cost-effective way to save water and beautify your yard.

Denver Water’s Xeriscape Garden has more than 200 species of water-wise plants on display, including trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses.

3. Weather-based sprinkler controllers: With prices starting at $99, these devices will help you water your landscape based on weather conditions, soil type and plant species. Landscape irrigation accounts for about half of typical residential water use, so understanding the variables that influence outdoor water use will help you become more efficient.

4. Xeriscaping and wildscaping: There are many cost-effective ways to reduce the amount of grass in your yard and replace it with plants native to Colorado. Xeriscaping is a popular option that can cost as little as $69 by adding a few xeric plants to your landscape, or you can transform an entire area of your yard for less than $200.

Wildscaping creates healthy, diverse habitats that include native plants that feed, shelter and nurture wild creatures. The Habitat Hero program offers a guidebook to get you started for just $10.

“This is not simply about using cactus and mulch,” Tejral says. You can have an aesthetically pleasing, yet water-efficient landscape on your property using xeriscaping or wildscaping.”

5. Community gardens: Rather than devoting resources to a garden in your own yard, Denver Urban Gardens invites you to participate in community gardening. Community gardens typically use half the water you would use in your own yard if you had grass in the same area. Denver Urban Gardens plot fees average about $35 per year.

Here’s the good news: Even if do all of these things, you will likely still have money left over to treat yourself to something nice. So what are you waiting for? Efficiency is calling your name!

Waste not: A water-saving guide to fixing leaks

Waste not: A water-saving guide to fixing leaks 

It only takes a couple of minutes to check a bathroom for leaks. A leaking toilet can easily waste 100 to 250 gallons per day. Indoor self-audits – checking the bathroom and other water sources – are easy to perform and will help you find ways to conserve water.

Denver Water’s 2014 audit shows how prevalent leaks are and where to fix and save:

3-15Full-Fix-Leak

Green beer, not just on St. Paddy’s Day

St. Patrick's Day background[]Green beer, not just on St. Paddy’s Day

The “greening” of the brewing industry, one drop of water at a time

By Travis Thompson

While craft brewing has become synonymous with the city of Denver, one day of the year may catch even the most sophisticated home brewer drinking a beer considered sacrilegious by most microbrew mavens.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, when the green-dyed beer flows like water.

Now Denver Water is hoping to contribute to another kind of “greening” of the beer industry, by helping the more than 50 breweries, tap houses and craft-brew operations in our area find ways to use water more efficiently.

“Craft brewing is an important part of the culture in the metro area and throughout the state,” said Michael Thomas, water conservation technician with Denver Water. “Together, we must identify efficiencies in the industry now, so we don’t have to look for water-use reductions later.”

Thomas has been meeting with local brewers and working with university and industry experts to discover more about the use of water in brewing and to develop efficiency baselines.

“We’ve learned that most of the breweries in our service area are on a smaller scale and don’t have the means to invest in some of the extreme water-saving equipment available,” he said. “But we can help them set achievable goals, create action plans and share their successes.”

Michael Thomas talks about partnering with the brewing industry on water efficiency at Epic Brewing during a Town Hall presentation sponsored by Senator Lucia Guzman (right).

Michael Thomas discusses water efficiency and beer making at Epic Brewing during a Town Hall presentation sponsored by Sen. Lucia Guzman (right).

Opportunities for water efficiency abound for brewers, Thomas said, some as simple as putting a nozzle on the end of the hose when washing equipment. Brewers also can take advantage of Denver Water’s commercial rebate program, where products range from high-efficiency toilets and urinals to cooling towers and commercial ware-washing equipment.

This “greening” effort is catching on throughout the industry. Triple Pundit, an online news site aimed at socially responsible businesses, reported that 24 breweries, including three from Colorado, signed a declaration urging the industry to take greater action on climate change-related risks.

Writer Leon Kaye highlighted the importance of water conservation, saying, “Brewers are increasing their water efficiency, crucial in regions that struggle with drought and water scarcity.”

“This statement is spot on for our situation,” Thomas said. “We don’t want the first time we talk to this industry to be because we are looking for reductions in time of a drought.

“We want to get ahead of that and ensure brewers are part of making Denver’s water system more resilient to drought by being as efficient as possible from the outset.”

So before you drink your next IPA, Helles or Stout, please raise a pint to the next great movement in the craft-brewing world — green beer, without the dye. Cheers!

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