Is your water service line made of lead?

This easy, do-it-yourself check of the pipe that brings water into your home is a good place to start.

By Dana Strongin

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To check your service line’s material, use a key or coin to scratch the pipe’s surface, as NPR shows here.

When it comes to the risk of exposure to lead — and its serious health impacts — there’s more than one place to look. Since lead was once used in everything from gasoline to household plumbing to paint, the toxic element can be found in many places in our community.

And while there’s not lead in the water Denver Water delivers to your home, the risk of lead leaching into clean water increases if you have lead pipes or plumbing fixtures.

If you’re wondering whether your drinking water is contributing to your risk for lead exposure, the first place to check is your service line, the pipe that connects your home to the water main in the street.

National Public Radio created an interactive online tool to help residents take on this task, but it’s best to see this tool as a starting point.

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This interactive tool from National Public Radio walks you through a few easy steps to check your water service line for lead.

 

“While we encourage you to check your line by doing this simple “scratch” test, keep its limits in mind,” said Steve Price, a civil engineer who coordinates Denver Water’s efforts to reduce the community’s lead exposure. “This test tells you what you can see, but you still can’t see what’s buried underground.”

It’s not unusual to learn a service line contains two or even three different metals, because many have been replaced in sections with various materials over time. If yours is made of lead or galvanized steel, we encourage you to replace it. Galvanized pipes, if connected in tandem with a lead pipe, can attract and later release lead particles into drinking water, potentially affecting the quality of your water.

“Any time two metals come together, that point becomes more corrosive,” Price said. “The pipe is more likely to corrode and release particles attached on the inside, including iron — which causes discoloration — and lead.”

So why not just call Denver Water to ask what your service line is made of? Here’s why: Denver Water doesn’t own the service lines. You do. So we don’t have records of exactly when and where plumbers and builders installed lead pipes. In many cases, you may not have these records either.

To get a more definitive answer, consider hiring an experienced, licensed plumber for service line testing and, if applicable, replacement work. You can also take other steps to reduce your risk of lead exposure, including requesting a water quality test for lead from Denver Water.

 

More stories about lead:

Why is all that water pouring into the street?

Flushing stagnant water out of our hydrants, all in the name of high-quality H2O.

By Steve Snyder

 

Steve Lovato gets the same question all the time.

“Why are you wasting water, especially if we’re in a drought?”

As a system quality supervisor for Denver Water, Lovato is charged with flushing more than 3,000 hydrants and blow-off valves in our distribution system. That means he opens hydrants all around the metro area — letting lots of water rush out onto the streets.

Why?

“These hydrants sit at the end of a water main, so water isn’t constantly circulating like in other parts of the system,” said Lovato. “When water sits in a pipe too long, the quality isn’t as high as when it leaves our treatment plants. Flushing the hydrants brings that water quality back to where we want it.”

So every year from April to October, Lovato and his team open hydrants to get rid of stagnant water, but not without a lot of preparation first.

“We look at the size and length of the water mains before we go out, so we have a good idea of how much water it will take to flush a particular area,” Lovato said.

On average, about 1,000 gallons of water is flushed before the water is back to Denver Water standards. That amount represents a very, very small amount of our total annual consumption — about 0.01 percent.

But as you can imagine, opening hydrants in a busy area tends to draw a crowd, so the crews put up signs and hand out informational pamphlets explaining what Denver Water is doing and why.

And boy, do people love to watch.

“We have kids come up to play in the water,” Lovato said. “We have people who fill buckets to put on their gardens and lawns.”

And yes, people ask him why we’re “wasting” so much water.

“They have a lot of questions, but when we tell them we are making sure they have high-quality water, they are very accepting of what we are doing,” Lovato added.

As the hydrants spew water, Lovato watches for clarity, while testing the temperature and water-quality levels. When everything meets Denver Water’s standards, Lovato seals the hydrant and moves on to the next stop. Each hydrant takes about 10 to 15 minutes to flush. But the impact is more lasting.

“It’s important to make sure people have great quality water,” Lovato said. “That’s the thing I love about my job.”

Stay hydrated, Denver. We’ll be there to help.

This summer, our water trailer delivered thousands of gallons of refreshing H2O to more than 20 community events.

Denver Water employees set up a hose with a nozzle to mist hot fans with water at the NFL Kickoff event in Civic Center Park, which was a hit, especially with kids.

Denver Water employees set up a hose with a nozzle to mist hot fans with water at the NFL Kickoff event in Civic Center Park, which was a hit, especially with kids.

By Travis Thompson

One of my most cherished childhood memories is standing along the river banks with my grandpa, eagerly waiting to hook “the big one.” Baked by the hot sun bouncing off the water, we spent many of those days sitting in the shade, telling jokes and rehydrating.

My thermos was filled with water, grandpas with milk. Yes, milk.

While he had a hankering for milk, I think most of us would agree with Anchorman Ron Burgundy when he proclaimed, “milk was a bad choice,” on a hot day.

One thing we should all agree on, however, is that fluids are a must when the temperature rises.

Last week, Time magazine highlighted the importance of hydration in an article, “Why Hillary Clinton (And You) Should Be Drinking Water Regularly,” citing that Clinton doesn’t regularly drink water.

Turns out most Americans don’t either. Many of us become dehydrated “by not drinking enough fluid — usually water — to replace what you lose.” And while that may seem obvious, the story cites a 2013 study that found 75 percent of Americans may be dehydrated and highlights the factors that play into dehydration, such as climate and physical exercise — especially in the heat.

Denver Water’s water trailer was debuted during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when it was used to hydrate convention goers at various events, including one at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, pictured here.

Denver Water’s water trailer first appeared during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when it was used to hydrate convention goers at various events, including one at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, pictured here.

So you can imagine why Denver Health and other emergency responders were concerned about the conditions for the NFL Kickoff event at Civic Center Park on Sept. 8. With temperatures projected to be in the 90s and thousands of fans packing into the park for the highly anticipated live performances by Dierks Bentley and OneRepublic, the City of Denver called on Denver Water for assistance.

It’s a good thing they did. We needed every drop from our 200-gallon water trailer, as well as countless refills of 5-gallon water jugs scattered around the park, where we served more than 6,000 cups of cold water and filled hundreds of water bottles for hot and thirsty attendees.

But this isn’t the first, or last time Denver Water was on hand with refreshing H2O to help our community celebrate safely. With about 15 events each year — and more than 20 this summer — Denver Water has been bringing its 19-foot water trailer to events since its debut at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The trailer is a great way to keep Denver hydrated while throwing in a little education about our most precious resource, explained Tyler St. John, Denver Water’s summer marketing coordinator, in his story, “Life in the water trailer.”

“The best part is, we’re able to do it in a meaningful way, by helping to ensure festival-goers are safe from the exhaustion of spending the day in the heat,” said St. John.

As the dog days of summer transition to the chill of early fall, the water trailer is down to its last few events. But we’ll be back at it next summer, among the tents and booths at the many Denver-area festivals.

Even if you take a page out of my grandpa’s book and bring your own milk for refreshment, stop on by the trailer — we’ll toast to hydration with you.

 

 

Preparing Denver for multiple futures, not just one

Water planners must account for potential changes in climate, population, the economy and other variables.

By Kristi Delynko

Not everyone is Marty McFly, making the job of a Denver Water planner a difficult one.

We can’t time travel like Marty, though it would sure make it much easier to be a Denver Water planner.

Have you ever wished you could hop in your silver DeLorean with Marty McFly and Doc Brown and travel through time, like in Back to the Future?

For a Denver Water planner, the ability to zip back and forth across decades would certainly make the job of predicting future water demand much easier. “Try telling a planner he can’t predict the future — it’s a hard reality for us to accept,” said Greg Fisher, manager of demand planning. “But the fact is, no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, so we have to be ready for a variety of scenarios.”

Planning is a continuous process at Denver Water, and while we don’t budget for flying Deloreans, our water planners do employ some forward-thinking tactics to ensure we can deliver enough water to a growing population.

“Gone are the days when you could write a formal plan every few years, based on a linear planning process,” said Sarah Dominick, water resources engineer. “In the past, we would predict population growth and then correlate that with a straight, upward line to show future water demands.”

Today, new variables, such as climate change, demand a more flexible, comprehensive planning process, using a methodology that imagines several possible futures, not just one.

It’s called scenario planning — a type of adaptation planning — to study water supply requirements 50 years into the future. In addition to planning for things like population growth and decline, our planners also consider climate change, economic factors and government regulations to develop a number of possible futures. This makes it easier to adjust when conditions actually change.

Take climate change. The National Climate Assessment suggests climate change may be to blame for water shortages in the Southwest.

Among many other possibilities, Denver Water is exploring how Aquifer Storage and Recovery may contribute to delivering high-quality drinking water to our customers far into the future.

Among many other possibilities, Denver Water is exploring how Aquifer Storage and Recovery may fit in future planning efforts.

“The Southwest is warming, which will result in overall drier conditions. Unfortunately, we don’t know how precipitation will change in the future, but we know our water supply is very sensitive to warming,” said Laurna Kaatz, climate program manager. “Planning for multiple futures enables us to prepare for these types of unknowns.”

The planners monitor long-term climate trends and are always looking for innovative projects and new technologies that can improve efficiency, encourage reuse and increase the water supply.

“Having the flexibility to move water throughout our system, increase water storage capacities and build redundancy into our system, allows us to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws our way,” Dominick said.

Preparing for various scenarios also helps Denver Water invests wisely in its infrastructure, said CEO Jim Lochhead. “That ensures we build the right project, at the right time, and at the right cost,” he said. “Effective scenario planning means we are able to be financially responsible, while also making sure we have the appropriate facilities and resources to meet our customers’ water needs.”

5 things you may not know about Chatfield Reservoir

This popular recreation spot also happens to be one of Colorado’s hardest-working bodies of water.

By Jessica Mahaffey

Are you a Chatfield junky?

As a long-time Littleton resident, I have fond memories of sailing, water skiing, swimming, fishing and camping at the reservoir with friends on my summer breaks from nearby Columbine High School (Rebel Pride!).

Today, I still enjoy afternoon walks on my favorite trails and take my two small dogs to the onsite dog park.

I’m hardly alone. Chatfield State Park is summer sanctuary in Denver’s back yard, welcoming more than 1.5 million visitors each year, according to Colorado State Parks.

The result: Nearly $10 million in economic impact to the communities within 50 miles of the park.

With all the pleasure it provides, many people may not realize that this is one hard-working reservoir, handling multiple duties and obligations. Here are five facts about Chatfield you probably don’t know:

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Photo of the South Platte River flood of June 1965, looking due east.

  1. Chatfield was built for flood-control — not to store public drinking water.

It was built in 1967 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in response to the 1965 flood of the South Platte River that cost more than $500 million and claimed 28 lives.

This reservoir can hold more than 350,000 acre-feet of flood water in emergency situations, but its current capacity is only 27,000 acre-feet of water, the equivalent of 8.8 billion gallons.

During drought conditions, water can be pumped from Chatfield to Marston treatment plant to supplement Denver’s public drinking water supply.

  1. Even though we don’t own or operate the reservoir, only water from Denver Water is currently stored behind the dam.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns Chatfield and leases the land to Colorado State Parks, which oversees day-to-day operations at Chatfield State Park.

Under a state agreement, Denver Water can fill Chatfield Reservoir with water, as long as we maintain water levels for community recreation.

  1. The water stored in Chatfield is used for water exchanges.

Think of an exchange reservoir as a bank. The water we “deposit” (store) at Chatfield can be used to “pay” (trade) downstream users with rights to the water, instead of sending it from our upstream reservoirs that supply Denver’s drinking water. This allows us to keep water higher in our reservoir system and to later deliver it by gravity to our water treatment plants.

  1. Chatfield provides recreational benefits beyond the obvious.

    Bypass flows released from Strontia Springs Reservoir located at the top of Waterton Canyon keep the river at optimum levels, sustaining a healthy trout fishery for anglers like the author’s brother Jason Kirk, pictured here.

    Bypass flows released through Waterton Canyon sustain a healthy trout fishery for anglers like the author’s brother Jason Kirk, pictured here.

In addition to preserving water levels for recreation, Denver Water uses its space in Chatfield to capture water it releases from Strontia Springs Reservoir, located a few miles upstream of Chatfield. These so-called “bypass flows” keep the river at optimum levels all year long, supporting the trout fishery in Waterton Canyon.

  1. Chatfield is about to take on even more responsibility.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently approved the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project.  The project will increase water levels at the reservoir by about 12 feet, which is about 20,000 additional acre-feet, or about 6.5 billion gallons.

But this won’t be Denver’s water. Instead, it will help meet the water demands of growing populations in Centennial, Castle Rock, Castle Pines and other Front Range communities. It will also be used by farmers downstream of Denver. Denver Water will still maintain its original storage pool of more than 27,000 acre-feet and will remain involved in the overall operation of Chatfield after the reallocation is completed.

But that’s not all. The Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation CompanyColorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are developing a plan for an environmental pool to provide up to 1,600 acre-feet of storage. But there is room for more. Learn more about Denver Water and The Greenway Foundation’s effort to provide more water for fishing, farmers and fun on the South Platte: Not your average pledge drive.

So whether you are a Chatfield regular like me or someone who simply enjoys driving by it from time to time, I hope knowing more about Chatfield Reservoir increases your appreciation for this metro-area amenity.

Chatfield Reservoir can hold more than 350,000 acre-feet of flood water in emergency situations, but its current capacity is only 27,000 acre-feet of water, the equivalent of 8.8 billion gallons.

The water levels at Chatfield Reservoir will increase by about 12 feet, which is about 20,000 additional acre-feet, or about 6.5 billion gallons.

A day without water? For many, no imagination required.

‘Imagine a Day Without Water’ reminds us of how lucky we are in this world of water worries.

By Jimmy Luthye

It’s time to dust the cobwebs off the ol’ imagination and think about what life would be like without its most critical compound (not beer).

Advertising graphic from Denver Water's "Nothing Replaces Water" campaign from 2001.

Advertising image from Denver Water’s 2001 “Nothing Replaces Water” campaign.

That’s right — time to “Imagine a Day Without Water,” as suggested by our friends at the Value of Water Coalition.

Over the years, we’ve definitely had our fun imagining life in Denver without the wet stuff. We’ve created advertising campaigns around the notion that “Nothing Replaces Water” (fun videos here, here and here), and I even sang a song about it.

For many people, however, the prospect of a day without water is less imagination, more harsh reality.

Consider the fact that nearly 700 million people in this world don’t have access to clean water, instead viewing activities like showering as luxuries existing only in dreams.

Since 1990, water.org has worked to pioneer safe water and sanitation solutions around the globe.

Image credit to water.org, an organization that pioneers safe water and sanitation solutions.

And water.org reminds us that more people on Earth have a cell phone than have a toilet. Mind-boggling.

Even developed countries like India are, at this very second, dealing with outright war over what boils down to fear of running out of water.

Now, while we’re more than fortunate to live where we do, the U.S. is certainly not immune to water worries.

There are protests in North Dakota over a new oil pipeline that threatens the local water supply.

The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, triggered fears of a waterless reality for the town’s nearly 100,000 residents, but also sent cities across America to re-examine the lead pipes that could taint their water supplies.

And then there’s this other story out of East Porterville, California — a town that has been without running water for THREE YEARS.

Think about that. It’s 2016, we live in one of the most advanced countries on Earth, and yet, somehow, thousands of people in a small California town have been without running water since 2013.

How?

Lake Success, near East Porterville, California, at 4 percent of its capacity in November 2014. Today it is filled to 8 percent of its capacity.

Lake Success, near East Porterville, California, at 4 percent of its capacity in November 2014. Today it is filled to 8 percent of its capacity. Photo credit to David Seibold, Flickr Creative Commons.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, California’s crippling drought of five years dried up the town’s wells, leaving the state responsible for delivering water bottles and large tanks of non-potable water to keep the town going.

East Porterville is finally on the road to recovery, with all 1,800 properties in town expected to be on a new water system by the end of 2017.

Still, this is a harrowing reminder that clean, safe running water is precious, and so many of us are guilty of taking it for granted every single day. I know I am.

As East Porterville resident Tania Ramirez put it, “It was kind of scary to know there was no water.”

Such a simple, powerful thought. Can you even imagine?

So, not just today — but especially today — take a second to remember just how valuable water is, how lucky we are to have it, and how crucial it is that we continue to protect, respect and invest in the most important substance in the universe.

“I love water because I love to 'drek' water!” Couldn't have said it better myself.

“I love water because I love to ‘drek’ water!” Truer words were never spoken.

Denver schools take aggressive approach to lead

Comprehensive testing program this fall will collect and test more than 3,000 water samples.

By Jay Adams

If there’s a silver lining to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, it’s that it sparked a nationwide discussion about lead and drinking water. As kids head back to class this fall, school districts across the country are taking a closer look at plumbing and water fixtures in their schools.

In Colorado, Denver Public Schools recently kicked off its own ambitious lead-testing program.

To ensure water samples are collected correctly and consistently, DPS developed its testing program in partnership with Denver Water, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency and Denver Environmental Health.

“This is the most comprehensive lead testing program we’ve ever done with DPS,” said Zeke Campbell, Denver Water’s director of water quality and treatment. “We’re hoping to inform schools, students and families about lead and bring awareness to this important issue.”

There’s no lead in the water that leaves Denver Water’s treatment facilities and travels in water mains to schools. But lead can enter drinking water when it passes through plumbing fixtures, lead service lines and pipe solder that contain lead.

“We want to be proactive and ensure the water in all of our facilities is safe and meets EPA drinking water guidelines for schools,” said Trena Deane, DPS executive director of facility management.

Denver Public Schools is collecting more than 3,000 water samples at all of its schools this fall.

A Denver Public Schools staff member collects a water sample from a drinking fountain. DPS plans to collect more than 3,000 samples from all 160 schools.

A DPS sampling team began collecting water on Aug. 23 from drinking fountains, kitchen food prep sinks, lounge sinks and any other fixtures that provide drinking water to students and staff. The samples are then sent to Denver Water’s water quality lab for analysis.

The district’s 160 schools will collect more than 3,000 samples, and Denver Water will analyze them all — a process expected to continue through the end of 2016.

 

DPS is collecting the samples early in the morning, following EPA guidelines. That time provides the most accurate test for lead, as water has been sitting stagnant in the pipes for at least 8 hours.

The school district wants to collect samples from all of its elementary schools by the end of October and the rest of its schools by the end of the year. After Denver Water conducts the tests, DPS will post the results on its website as they are completed.

The EPA recommended that the schools collect the samples while school is in session to mimic what it’s like when a student fills up a water bottle or takes a sip from a drinking fountain.

“Due to the age of some of the buildings, we do expect we’ll find some lead levels in the schools,” Campbell said. “It’s similar to what we’re finding in homes in our service area.”

The EPA recommends schools take action if lead levels are 20 parts per billion or above. DPS is taking the added precaution of fixing problems if lead is found at or above 15 ppb at any fixture. One part per billion is equivalent to a single drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Linda Rosales, water quality specialist, tests DPS samples for lead at Denver Water's laboratory.

Linda Rosales, water quality specialist, tests DPS samples for lead at Denver Water’s laboratory.

If a test finds lead levels at or above 15 ppb from any fixture, DPS will replace the fixture, add a water filter or replace the plumbing to make sure lead exposure is reduced.

“DPS really did its homework to make sure they had a complete plan in place to find any sources of lead that might be coming from fixtures, faucets and plumbing,” said Melissa Elliott, director of public affairs for Denver Water. “The DPS plan is a model for how schools across the state and the country should go about sampling and testing for lead.”

The district already has water quality procedures in place to help ensure the freshest water supply possible, even in its older facilities.

For example, DPS routinely flushes water through the pipes at older schools after summer and holiday breaks, getting rid of stagnant water that may have been exposed to lead plumbing for days, weeks or months.

“As we test the schools, this is also a good time for families to test for lead in their homes,” Campbell said. “Lead is a community issue and when people are informed, they can make informed decisions.”

DPS sent informational letters to parents at the beginning of the school year and will post results for each sample at leadtesting.dpsk12.org. Parents with questions can reach out to DPS at office_communications@dpsk12.org.

Denver Water provides free lead tests for its customers, as well as additional information at http://www.denverwater.org/lead.

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