Posts Tagged ‘Denver Water’

Youth and water – our future depends on it

Matt Bond, Denver Water's youth education manager, uses a DSST-Cole Middle School student to demonstrate the Continental Divide and its impacts on water in Colorado.

Matt Bond, Denver Water’s youth education manager, uses a DSST-Cole Middle School student to demonstrate the Continental Divide and its impacts on water in Colorado.

As Denver and the West begin to address the next generation of water challenges, from climate change to the gap between supply and demand, educating the future leaders in our community about their role in the water cycle has never been more important.

From navigating water law to managing a water system, providing a reliable supply of drinking water is more complex than it may appear every time you turn on the tap.

That is why Denver Water has a dynamic Youth Education program that includes a Teacher Resource Packet to support sixth-grade water education, classroom presentations and a variety of online, interactive teaching aids.

Over the next six weeks we’ll use this blog to provide weekly posts of factual, locally relevant resources, activities, games and news clips about all things water to complement our Youth Education program. The resources provided below, and in this series of posts, will include additional teaching tools and information to enhance your discussions on how water relates directly to you and your students.

Week one: Watersheds                         

Online resources 

  1. What is a watershed? Explore the natural and human factors that influence a watershed in the Watershed Activity section.
  2. Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website and enter your zip code or city name to learn about the watershed you live in.
  3. Contact organizations that are working to protect your watershed. Many of these organizations, such as The Greenway Foundation and Earth Force, provide hands-on learning opportunities for students.

Charts, graphs & maps

co_update-snow

Visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service of Colorado’s Snow Survey Products page for a complete list of snow survey reports and maps.

This map  from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows how current snowpack levels in Colorado’s watersheds compare to the long-term median. Measuring snowpack in each watershed is a vital part of managing a water supply, because it helps water managers estimate how much runoff (snowmelt) to expect in the spring months. Denver Water’s collection system is comprised of portions of the South Platte and Colorado River watersheds shown below.

Math & science questions

  1. How many major watersheds are there in Colorado?
  2. How do you find the median of a group of numbers? How is a median different from an average?
  3. If you were a water manager at Denver Water, how would you use this graph to make decisions about your water supply? What additional information would be helpful to know about your watershed’s snowpack?
Denver Water only measures snowpack above its diversion points for a more comprehensive chart specific only to our operations. Check out our weekly Water Watch Report for a summary of water supply conditions, including updated snowpack numbers, reservoir supply and precipitation.

Denver Water measures snowpack above its diversion points for a more comprehensive chart specific only to its operations. Check out the weekly Water Watch Report for a summary of water supply conditions, including updated snowpack numbers, reservoir supply and precipitation.

Online activities

The Watershed Game (Bell Museum) – In the intermediate level, you’ll be in charge of your watershed, making decisions about recreation, agriculture, transportation and much more. Can you make the right choices to ensure a healthy watershed? Depending on your students’ level of knowledge on this topic, you might consider beginning with the novice level, which provides a good introduction to the basic concepts.

Watershed Detective (Agrium) – Investigate water samples for water-quality challenges that may occur in any watershed.

Recent water news

Visit historic Denver Water building during Doors Open Denver

This 1899 photo shows Denver Water’s pumping station that is now called Three Stone Buildings.

This 1899 photo shows Denver Water’s pumping station that is now called Three Stone Buildings.

For the first time, Denver Water is opening up a historic building to the public during this year’s Doors Open Denver.

This is the 10th anniversary of Doors Open Denver, a free two-day event celebrating architecture and design. About 100 new and historic, public and private buildings will open their doors to the public, offering access to spaces that are often seen but rarely entered. This year’s event, held April 12 and 13, focuses on neighborhood architecture.

Denver Water is opening the doors to the 134-year-old Three Stone Buildings, located on its main operations complex east of Interstate 25 between Colfax and Sixth avenues. The buildings have played a number of roles during their lifetimes, but began as a pumping station to supply the growing city with water.

In 1880, the first stone building was built west of an artificial lake. At the time, it pumped up to 5 million gallons of South Platte River water to Denver per day. In 1881, a second stone building was built, doubling the pumping capacity. The third stone building was added in 1905. After nearly 50 years in operation, the buildings stopped pumping water in 1929, and the lake was drained in the years following. In 1983, the three stone buildings were combined and turned into a museum and Denver Water employee center, a function they still serve today.

During Doors Open Denver, Denver Water employees will guide guests through the building and point out historic photos and artifacts. Refreshments will be served while guests view historic videos.

 

More snow same adventure – Denver Water crews measure snowpack

Tracking snowpack is a vital part of managing Denver Water’s water supply. But, with sample sites in remote locations throughout our watersheds, this is no easy task.

Take a journey with Jay Adams, from Denver Water’s Communications and Marketing Department, as he joins Denver Water crews to take on this adventurous mission.

Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker; Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman on the Arrow snow course near Winter Park.

Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker; Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman on the Arrow snow course near Winter Park.

What a difference a year makes in snowpack levels

By Jay Adams

It’s a trek not many people take, but one that provides critical information to more than 1 million people. The journey begins just below the Continental Divide in a Trooper Snow Cat. The ride leads up the side of a mountain, past a group of snowmobilers and two wandering moose. Onboard the Snow Cat heading into the forest are Denver Water employees Brian Clark, equipment operator; Tim Holinka, assistant district foreman; and Per Olsson, Jones Pass caretaker. The task today is to get a firsthand check on the snowpack by poking a few holes in the snow-covered forest.

This trip yields better results than one year ago when Colorado was facing one of its driest winters on record. “We have more snow this time,” Clark said. “Right now it’s definitely up, but you never know what can happen.”

Clark plows the Trooper up until they reach the Ranch Creek snow course. The Denver Water trio straps on their snowshoes, grabs their tube and gets down to business.

Snowpack readings in March are double where they were at this time last year.

Snowpack readings in March are double where they were at this time last year.

“Forty-four – 41 – 33. That’s good for Ranch,” Olsson calls out after spearing the snow and pulling out a plug. Clark holds the scale, while Holinka jots down the snow depth and calculates the water content and snow density — two critical numbers that will be called down to Denver and used for projecting the yield from this winter’s snow.

Next stop, the Arrow course. Ten tests are taken on the top of a hill where the old railroad town of Arrow once stood. Denver Water has been taking samples from this hill since 1938.

Olsson has been running snow courses for 23 years. “You want to do a good job and get a good reading,” he said. The group takes pride capturing good samples. “We are very serious about how we do it because it’s so important (for managing water supply),” Holinka said.

Measurement of the snowpack is extremely critical for Denver Water said Bob Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply. “Without snowpack readings, we’d have no way of estimating what the spring runoff would be. It’s important to have boots on the ground as a rough check on the automated readings,” Steger said.

Twenty samples were taken on this day. At the Ranch course, the snow water equivalent measured 12.9 inches, compared to 6.3 inches last year. “They’ll like that down in Denver,” Olsson said, referring to the strong readings.

More stories about measuring snowpack:

So, how are we looking this year?

Last year at this time, Denver Water needed about 6 feet of new snow in its mountain watersheds over a two- to three-week span just to have a normal snowpack. Fortunately, we experienced snowstorm after snowstorm throughout the rest of that spring and, along with customers’ reduced water use, water supply conditions improved.

This year is a new story, which is evident by the current snowpack charts for both of the watersheds that feed Denver Water’s supply.

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Learn how to find & fix leaks in your irrigation system for Fix a Leak Week

March 17–23, 2014

March 17–23, 2014

From water utilities to irrigation companies across the nation, word is spreading fast about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Fix a Leak Week.

Denver Water encourages leak prevention and repair all year long, and we have an extensive conservation program filled with tips and tools to help customers cut out leaks in their homes and businesses. This important week serves as a great reminder to use these resources and learn how to look for hidden problems to avoid costly and wasteful water leaks.  

With irrigation season right around the corner, we want to focus this week on a trend we are noticing during our high-bill audits. After a winter filled with fluctuating weather, leaks on irrigation systems are the main culprit for these high bills.

So, print up these tips and tape them to your irrigation controller as a reminder to check for leaks in your system when the irrigation season begins later this spring.

1)      Backflow device – Visually inspect the device for cracks before turning it on. Once your system is hooked up and ready to go, watch for drips from the valves or pipe connections.

2)      Zones – Turn on each zone, one at a time, and look for broken heads. Make sure all heads are adjusted so they are not spraying impervious areas.

3)      Valve box – After turning on each zone, open all valve boxes to ensure they are dry inside. If not, identify and replace leaking valve(s).

4)      Pipes – Walk the landscape twice. Once when the weather is dry and the sprinklers have not run for at least one day, and again after running a complete cycle of the irrigation system. Look for exceptionally wet or soggy areas in your yard. This could be a sign of a broken sprinkler head or an underground pipe leaking in that spot.

5)      Repeat – Continue to check your irrigation system throughout the season (at least once a month) to catch leaks before they affect your water bill.

A great way to identify a water leak is by monitoring your water bill. Compare the water usage with the same month from the previous year (there is a yearlong water use chart on Denver Water bills), and look for an unusually high month. Or, download a graph displaying your water consumption history over a specified period of time with Denver Water’s personalized water use graph, and look for unusual spikes in water use. If you are unable to identify a leak, submit a request for a free water audit of your property here.  

Check out more tips and tools being shared for 2014 Fix A Leak Week:

Apply lessons from physicist to save water in your yard

Walter A. Shewhart first discussed the concept of PDCA in his 1939 book, Statistical Method From the Viewpoint of Quality Control.

Walter A. Shewhart first discussed the concept of the plan-do-check-act cycle in his 1939 book, Statistical Method From the Viewpoint of Quality Control.

Walter A. Shewhart, 1930s physicist known as the father of statistical quality control, is about to help you transform your landscape into a water-efficient oasis.

Unfortunately, he isn’t going to show up at your door with shovel and seeds in hand, but he did come up with a model, called the plan-do-check-act cycle, that can be used as a process to ensure continual landscape improvement year after year.

Here’s how:

Plan – Since November, we’ve featured a Transforming Landscape series to help you plan an upgrade for your lawn. Peruse through these posts for ideas to improve areas of your lawn that are unused or are difficult to maintain.

Do – Pick one section of your lawn that needs an upgrade and make the transformation from turf to a water-efficient option.

If the posts above inspire you to explore designing your own xeric garden this spring, you’re in luck. Right now, through a partnership with Center for ReSource Conservation, we’re offering Garden-In-A-Box kits for customers at a discounted rate.

All proceeds from garden and plant purchases directly support the Center for ReSource Conservation, a nonprofit organization.

All proceeds from garden and plant purchases directly support the Center for ReSource Conservation, a nonprofit organization.

Garden-In-A-Box simplifies water-wise gardening by providing professional plant-by-number designs and a selection of colorful low-water-use plants that adapt well to our dry Colorado climate.

Check – This summer, take the time to determine if this was the right upgrade for you. Are you saving water? Is this the look you want throughout the rest of your landscape? Can this new look be integrated into a larger upgrade with other types of water-efficient solutions?

Act – After analyzing the pros and cons of your first transformation, you are ready to start the cycle over again. Use lessons learned from your experiences this summer to begin the planning process again next fall and winter.

There are always opportunities to make your landscape more water efficient while maintaining its character and usability. But, this transformation doesn’t need to occur all at once. By using the Shewhart model, you can make upgrades every year to make sure you are always doing your part to conserve.

If you are going to buy a Garden-In-A-Box this year, don’t wait — there are a limited number of discounted gardens available. This Denver Water discount offer is limited to no more than three gardens per customer. Order now, and gardens will be available for pickup in May and June at locations throughout the metro area during scheduled days and times.  

For more information, or to buy your discounted Garden-In-A-Box, visit http://www.gardeninaboxco.org or call 303-999-3820, ext. 222.

Teaming up to tackle toilets

Steve Lynch

Steve Lynch

By Steve Lynch, program coordinator for conservation at Mile High Youth Corps. Lynch served two yearlong terms of service with Mile High Youth Corps, participating in the Water Conservation Program as a Corpsmember in 2009 and 2010.

With much of the West mired in drought, water shortages have forced innovators to take a closer look at anything that uses water. This includes an ancient piece of technology – the toilet.   

Low-flow, pressure-assist and high-efficiency toilets have become the standard in new construction. But Denver is an old city, and many of its homes have old toilets. These toilets use twice as much water per flush than their modern counterparts, which raises a red flag in a city where water efficiency is a way of life.

As part of its commitment to conservation, Denver Water offers rebates for customers who purchase and install high-efficiency toilets. Not everyone can afford the upfront cost of a brand new toilet, however, and many are not comfortable replacing a toilet on their own. Enter Mile High Youth Corps.

In 2013, Water Conservation Program crews conducted 2,800 water audits and replaced 1,900 toilets.

In 2013, Water Conservation Program crews conducted 2,800 water audits and replaced 1,900 toilets.

Built on the principles of conservation and youth development, Mile High Youth Corps is able to offer job skills to young people (18–24 years old), while helping Denver Water’s commitment to conservation through the Water Conservation Program. The program is simple. Denver Water supplies the high-efficiency toilets, and Corpsmembers identify qualified high-need clients and perform the installations in their homes. Most important, the toilets and other water-saving appliances the program participants install in low-income homes are provided at no charge to the customer. 

Over the past seven years, Mile High Youth Corps crews have installed more than 10,000 high-efficiency toilets in low-income single- and multi-family homes across the Denver metropolitan area. Based on annual water consumption numbers, this is a savings of more than 200 million gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill 315 Olympic-sized swimming pools (roughly the size of 42 city blocks).

Of course, those conservation numbers would not be possible without the support of Denver Water, thanks to its commitment to conservation and youth development. Over the years, Denver Water employees have taken participants on tours of water treatment plants, provided educational opportunities for young people interested in learning more about water conservation, and supported the intensive development programs that Mile High Youth Corps offers to its Corpsmembers. 

Kelsey Bowers accepts her Corpsmembers of the Year award from Rep. Lebsock (left) and Sen. Udall.

Kelsey Bowers accepts her Corpsmembers of the Year award from state Rep. Steve Lebsock (left) and former interior secretary and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar.

Along the way, hundreds of young people have learned job skills, gained confidence and emerged as the future leaders of their generation. In the past four years alone, the Water Conservation Program has produced three Colorado Youth Corps Association Corpsmembers of the Year, including Kelsey Bowers, who was honored at the state Capitol as Corpsmember of the Year on Feb. 3, 2014. During the morning session at the state Senate, Bowers was recognized by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and introduced by state Rep. Steve Lebsock, who shared some of Bowers’ amazing accomplishments.  

Because Mile High Youth Corps has such a strong focus on youth development, our participants represent a non-traditional approach to performing conservation-based tasks. Involvement on the Water Conservation Program is not a job, but rather a term of service. Upon completion of a five-month term, participants receive an AmeriCorps Education Award. Many participants have used this award to pursue post-secondary education or pay off costly student loans. This structure makes it important for Mile High Youth Corps and our partners, like Denver Water, to emphasize education and leadership development. 

As the program coordinator for conservation, I am fortunate enough to receive calls and notes from clients about our Corpsmembers. From an elderly man calling to praise the work of our youth, to a woman who was so impressed with the teamwork of the crew that she took the time to say thanks in a hand-written note – these testimonials are some of the most inspiring parts of working for Mile High Youth Corps. 

Mile High Youth Corps is proud to continue the partnership with Denver Water through 2014 and beyond, and we look forward to being able to provide services to clients while working to empower the future leaders of the communities we serve. 

To learn more about these services or to see if you qualify, email claires@mhyc.net or rachelt@mhyc.net or call 720-974-0500, ext. 527.

How the landscape pros prepare for spring

This winter, we’ve featured posts from Denver Urban Gardens, the Be A Habitat Hero project and the Center for ReSource Conservation as part of our Transforming Landscape series. Each post introduces new ideas for upgrading your lawn to a more water-efficient landscape next spring and beyond.

While these posts focus on new landscape ideas to explore, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado put together a checklist of pre-season chores to help you prepare for next spring – a perfect fit for our Transforming Landscape series.  

Sketch out your dream yard now, so you are ready to begin implementing landscape elements in the spring. You don’t have to take it on all at once, but if you have a plan it will be much easier to upgrade a section at a time.

Sketch out your dream yard now, so you are ready to begin implementing landscape elements in the spring. You don’t have to take it on all at once, but if you have a plan it will be much easier to upgrade a section at a time.

Below are a couple of water-saving tips from the checklist:

  • Learn something you can apply this growing season. Take a class, read a book or research something online you’ve always wanted to know, but haven’t taken the time to explore. 

One suggestion from ALCC is to learn how to lay out a water-saving waffle garden. For more information on this quirky term, check out this blog post from Designscapes Colorado  called, What’s a Waffle Garden?

We also suggest looking into composting, establishing a community garden or different watering techniques – including our recommended cycle and soak method.  

  • Take a quick tour around the yard and indentify the eyesores and maintenance issues, such as trees to prune, dead shrubs to replace and beds to freshen up before spring. And, remember the sprinkler system – the one part of the landscape that is most out of sight and out of mind. What can you do this year to make it more water efficient? Having a list will guide the DIY projects and help you get the outside assistance you need scheduled early in the season.

One way to make your sprinkler system more efficient is to add a smart irrigation controller. Denver Water offers rebates for WaterSense-labeled controllers, which act like a thermostat for your sprinkler system by telling it when to turn on and off, to save water.

You also can visit Denver Water’s online run time scheduler to create a zone-by-zone schedule for your landscape. Here is a list of other irrigation tips, including the catch-can test, seasonal watering times and basic sprinkler system tips.

Read the complete ALCC checklist: Here are five great things you can do now to get ready for spring.

Water conservation – It’s not just a campaign, it’s a way of life

One of our 2013 billboards reminding customers to Use Even Less.

One of our 2013 billboards reminding customers to
Use Even Less.

From promoting dry t-shirt contests to encouraging the family dog to lick your dishes clean, we’ve had fun with our “Use Only What You Need” and “Use Even Less” campaigns over the years (check out the 2013 campaign video).

But, advertising was only a piece of the effort that led customers to save 32 billion gallons of water in 2013 (compared to our benchmark of pre-2002 use) – our robust conservation program helped make that possible.

Here’s how:

Conservation technicians Jenelle Rhodes and Rick Alvarado adjust a sprinkler head during an irrigation audit.

Conservation technicians Jenelle Rhodes and Rick Alvarado adjust a sprinkler head during an irrigation audit.

  • We offer rebates, incentives, water audits and more for our residential, commercial and industrial customers.
  • We have rules and programs in place to reinforce best practices, like our summer water use rules, requirements for new properties to amend their soil so it will retain more water, and tiered water rates to incentivize lower water use.
  • In 2013, we also started new conservation programs that are transforming how we will do business in the future.
    • We introduced a water budget program for large commercial customers, allowing them the flexibility to decide where and when to water (though never between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.) if they reduced water use 35 percent or more. This program helped large irrigators keep landscapes alive while saving 2,500 acre-feet of water this year.
    • We reached out to 8,000 residential high-water users to offer assistance through audits and rebates. By using the same principles as the water budget program, this proactive effort resulted in a savings of more than 16 million gallons of water.
    • We revamped our rebate program to make sure customer rebates are processed more quickly, reducing the wait for a rebate check from 5 to 6 weeks to 1 to 2 weeks.

Let’s take a look at what else was achieved last year:

  • Reyna Yagi, conservation technician, c.evaluates a sprinkler system at an apartment complex.

    Reyna Yagi, conservation technician, evaluates a sprinkler system at an apartment complex.

    Denver Water’s conservation field technicians worked with nearly 1,000 customers with high bills to examine their water use and help them become more efficient, saving them money.

  • Through our partnership with Mile High Youth Corps, we conducted 2,800 water audits and replaced 1,900 toilets.
  • Our high-efficiency toilet distribution program for residential community associations installed nearly 1,100 high-efficiency toilets in apartments and condominiums. One such project resulted in a 40 percent reduction in water use at the complex.
  • Denver Water’s water savers made more than 11,000 stops to educate customers about watering – 5,000 more stops than in 2012.

Water conservation wasn’t new in 2013. In fact, creating a culture of conservation in Denver dates back to 1936 when Denver Water advertised on street trolleys asking customers to help save water. While the modes of transportation have changed, the message remains the same. We believe water conservation must be a way of life in our dry climate and, along with recycled water and new supply, we are committed to ensuring a sustainable supply of water for our customers in the future.

Hats off to our CEO – 2014 Water Leader of the Year

The award ceremony was presented by 2013 Aspinall Award recipient, Diane Hoppe. The award was a surprise to Lochhead, who shared a laugh with the crowd during the presentation.

The ceremony was conducted by 2013 Aspinall Award recipient, Diane Hoppe. The award was a surprise to Lochhead, who shared a laugh with the crowd during the presentation.

In the 1982 fall issue of Colorado Water Rights, Wayne N. Aspinall, a lawyer and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, set a vision for water leaders to “begin thinking about constructive changes in the administration of water rights that might result in broader benefits to the people of the State from more efficient water resource management.”

This is roughly the same time Denver Water CEO/manager Jim Lochhead began his journey of representing water in Colorado – and he has been following the vision set by Aspinall ever since.

So, it was no surprise that the Colorado Water Congress awarded Lochhead the prestigious 2014 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award.

Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and 2011 Aspinall Award recipient, said: “Jim is very deserving of the Aspinall ‘Water Leader of the Year’ Award as he epitomizes the true intent of the award. He is a recognized and respected leader in the water community, not only in Colorado but throughout the Colorado River Basin and the West. Colorado is indebted to Jim for his exemplary service and innumerable contributions to the Colorado Water community.”

The Colorado Water Congress presents the Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award annually to an individual Coloradan who has long demonstrated courage, dedication, knowledge and strong leadership in the development, protection and preservation of Colorado water – those attributes possessed by Wayne N. Aspinall.

Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead, front row center, stands with past winners of the Aspinall Award.

Lochhead, fifth from the left, stands with past winners of the Aspinall Award.

This is exactly what the Denver Board of Water Commissioners set out to find during the search for the Denver Water’s next CEO/manager in 2010. They needed a leader not only to oversee the work necessary to provide an adequate supply of water to the 1.3 million people served, but also someone to champion regional cooperation in the water industry – and Lochhead was just the person for the job.

David Robbins (right), 2012 "Water Leader of the Year," congratulates Lochhead at the award ceremony.

David Robbins (right), 2012 “Water Leader of the Year,” congratulates Lochhead at the award ceremony.

When selected, Penfield Tate, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, said, “We believe he has the necessary ability to maintain and build relationships with the myriad of external stakeholders that work with Denver Water.” Commissioner Tate was absolutely correct, and Lochhead’s reputation and established relationships among the Colorado River Basin stakeholders led to him closing the deal for negotiations on the historic Colorado River Cooperative Agreement last summer.

Lochhead’s storied career of dedication to and leadership for the protection and preservation of Colorado’s water ranges from many years representing water in the courtroom to serving as the executive director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Roy Romer. And, over his lifetime he has touched practically every part of the river, literally, as he has been in or on the Colorado River for virtually its entire length.  

To a man who’s dedicated his life to the Colorado River with a passion that extends much further than his profession, we say thank you and congratulations on this well-deserved and prestigious award.

Work must go on – crews brave frigid temps

Feb. 5, 2014 5:30 p.m.

It’s 6 degrees below zero and crews are responding to a report of a water main break.

6:16 p.m.

The temperature has dropped one degree, and first responders have the water shut off, isolating the 8-inch-diameter water main so the repair crew can fix the break.

Feb. 6, 2014 – 3:07 a.m.

With temperatures as low as 13 degrees below zero overnight in Denver, crews complete their work and restored water service in the area.

So, what does a water main break look like in conditions like this? Watch a clip from a live report that aired on CBS4 Denver News last night at 10 p.m. Check out the complete report at CBSDenver.com.

This was the sixth water main break so far this week, with three of the breaks occuring overnight in the extremely tough, frigid conditions. But, it isn’t just our emergency response crews braving the tough winter conditions.

Water freezes around the release valves at Eleven Mile Reservoir.

Water freezes around the release valves at Eleven Mile Reservoir.

In the winter months, Denver Water employees show their true grit when the temperatures take a nose dive.

“It’s cold,” said Todd Pyle, caretaker, referring to a cold snap in December when the thermometer dipped to 27 degrees below zero at Eleven Mile Reservoir. The frigid temperatures made for an impressive sight at the bottom of the dam, where water froze around the release valves.

Pyle said the water also freezes on the valve house deck, making for icy conditions. “We always take precautions and never go alone to adjust the valves,” Pyle said. “It’s windy down there and we try to avoid getting wet. If you do, you can get really cold in a hurry.”

In the metro area, James Lobato, mechanic, and Tony Gutierrez, utility worker, rely on their insulated coveralls to keep warm when the temperatures dip below zero. The two say everything takes longer in the cold, but they know they have a job to do.

“This is the job we signed up for,” said Lobato. “You actually can get hot, so you can’t bundle up too much.”

James Lobato, Denver Water mechanic, and Tony Gutierrez, Denver Water utility worker, brave sub-zero weather to clean out a valve box.

James Lobato, mechanic, and Tony Gutierrez, utility worker, brave sub-zero weather to clean out a valve box.

Lobato and  Gutierrez, the men behind the masks.

Lobato and Gutierrez, the men behind the masks.

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