Getting the lead out when we find it

Since March, Denver Water has replaced more than 260 lead service lines found during our construction work.

By Jay Adams

The Postal Service delivers mail to your mailbox. The power company sends electricity to your meter. And Denver Water provides safe drinking water to your service line, which connects our water main to your home.

Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Rubalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.

Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Ruvalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.

There are nearly 200,000 service lines connected to Denver Water’s elaborate system of water mains, which run beneath the metro area. Some of those service lines are made of lead, and this can create a health risk if the lead leaches into your drinking water.

Service lines are owned and maintained by property owners, not Denver Water. And that’s the challenge, we don’t know which homes have service lines made of lead.

This is why Denver Water is taking a proactive approach to remove lead service lines from the community. Since early March, we’ve already replaced more than 260 service lines.

Simply put, if we find a lead service line in the course of our construction work, we will replace it with a new copper service line, all the way from the water main to your home.

The replacement work can happen when we’re repairing water main breaks and leaks, as well as during our regularly scheduled pipe replacement and rehabilitation projects.

If we are not working near your house and you are concerned about the possibility of lead in your water, here’s what you should do:

  • Request a free lead sampling kit from Denver Water to determine if water from your faucet contains lead.
  • If lead is discovered in your water, contact a licensed plumber to inspect your house to see if you have a lead service line or plumbing that might contain lead. In Denver Water’s experience, we typically find lead service lines at properties built in the mid-1950s and earlier.
  • A licensed plumber can also replace your lead service line with a copper service line.
  • If replacing your line isn’t an affordable option, visit DenverWater.org/lead to learn about other ways you can protect your family from lead risks, including details on specialized filters.

For more information on lead in water or to request a free lead sampling kit, call 303-893-2444 or visit DenverWater.org/lead.

A selfie-less view of wildlife in Waterton Canyon

Wherever your outdoor adventures take you, being mindful of snakes, bears and other animals is a must.

Read and follow the signs, like the one pictured here, throughout Waterton Canyon to learn how to safely interact with the wildlife.

Read and follow the signs, like the one pictured here, throughout Waterton Canyon to learn how to safely interact with the wildlife.

By Tyler St. John

With a footprint larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, the opportunities to experience and observe wildlife in its most natural form are vast at Yellowstone National Park.

But as Public News Service story recently explained, park officials are shifting their focus from the 67 species of mammals that call this park home to the 68th found in this park every single day — humans.

Ryan Atwell, the park’s new social science coordinator, described the challenges his team faces with social media. “Every other person seems to be taking a selfie, or looking at a phone instead of watching where they’re walking,” he told Public News Service.

Sound familiar? Last summer’s story about visitors in Waterton Canyon using selfie sticks to snap photos with bears made local, national and even international headlines.

The bear activity in the canyon was so extreme in 2015 that Denver Water and Colorado Parks & Wildlife had to close the canyon for two months to protect both animals and humans.

This year, the canyon gates are open, but don’t be fooled. Bears, snakes, sheep and many other species still call Waterton home — and we humans have to watch our step.

So if you plan on hiking the 6.5-mile canyon this summer, we recommend stopping at each of the rest areas — aptly named after some of the most common mammals, birds and serpents found in the canyon — to hydrate and learn more about these popular canyon dwellers.

Let’s take a trip up to the canyon to learn more:

Mile Marker 0.25: Mule Deer Rest Area

Not to be confused with the while tailed deer, the mule deer has large mule-like ears (almost the length of their whole head) and a black forehead with a light grey face. While they may look cute and harmless, these animals can weigh upwards of 400 pounds. Turn those camera phones around the right way and use the zoom feature from a distance to capture these guys.  Their favorite feeding times are dawn and dusk, so get to the canyon early for the best chance to see them in action.

Mile Marker 0.6: Great Blue Heron Rest Area

Standing 4-feet tall with a wingspan between 6 and 7 feet, the Great Blue Heron is considered one of the best fisherman in the canyon. This bird can swallow fish much larger than its skinny neck would suggest. This heron does not reach full adult coloring until three years of age, so if you spot one with colorful head plumes, you’ll know it has been catching fish for quite some time. You are most likely to catch a glimpse and snap a picture of the bird while it is out foraging at dawn or dusk. Just don’t get too close, or it will start to squawk loudly and fly away.

These twin cubs and other bears actively foraging in the canyon led to a two-month closure of Waterton Canyon in 2015. Photo courtesy: Lori Bollendonk

These twin cubs and other bears actively foraging in the canyon led to a two-month closure of Waterton Canyon in 2015. Photo courtesy: Lori Bollendonk

Mile Marker 1.9: Black Bear Rest Area

Starting in early May, black bears begin coming out from their winter slumber, skinny, hungry and desperate for food. The bears typically hang around until September, when they finish bulking up for hibernation season. During this time, bears will forage for 20 hours a day.

We’ve spotted a couple different types of bear in the canyon this year. If you spot one yourself, please keep a safe distance and watch these other tips from a couple of ‘Da Bears Superfans.

Mile Marker 3.1: Mountain Lion Rest Area

The Puma Concolor, “cat of one color,” is an extremely rare sight. The Colorado Trail Foundation reports up to two mountain lion sightings in this area each year. If you do manage to catch a glimpse however, use extreme caution. Mountain lions can be as large as 8-feet long and weigh upwards of 150 pounds. They can also leap at least 15-feet straight up in the air and 40-feet forward. If you find yourself face-to-face with one, do not back away. Stand tall and stare the cat right in the eyes. Mountain lions like to stalk and chase down prey, so if you start to run you’ll just look like a slow moving meal.

Mile Marker 4.5: Rattlesnake Rest Area

Colorado is home to around 30 species of snake, and the only venomous ones are the rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes use their camouflage to blend into their surroundings instead of engaging with people. That being said, if the snake starts rattling that tail, you are too close and need to back away. Since the rattlesnake will most likely be hiding from you, watch where you’re putting your hands and feet. The last thing you want to do is grab a rock to help yourself over an obstruction in the trail, only to end up grabbing a snake.

Mile Marker 6.2: Bighorn Sheep Rest Area

Waterton Canyon is currently home to about 70 of Colorado’s state animal, the bighorn sheep. Aptly named for its enormous horns (which alone can weigh upwards of 40 pounds), you are most likely to see the slightly smaller desert bighorn sheep in Waterton Canyon, as they live in canyon country of Western Colorado. Their most active times are in the morning and late afternoon.  It’s not uncommon to see the sheep along the canyon road. They may look friendly, but as always, it’s important to keep your distance. If threatened, the sheep will undoubtedly charge and that is one battle you are sure to lose.

 

Still looking for more adventure? From the top of the canyon you can continue your exploration on the Colorado Trail.

Just make sure to follow Atwell’s advice and practice “safe selfies” by not approaching wildlife and enjoying them from a safe distance.

A herd of bighorn sheep on the Waterton Canyon trail.

A herd of bighorn sheep on the Waterton Canyon trail.

Time to weigh in on Denver’s famous ditch

Open houses give the public a chance to share ideas on protecting, preserving and enhancing the High Line Canal.

By Jay Adams

Here’s your chance to be a visionary, just like the Denver pioneers who dreamed of bringing water to the dry plains of Denver after the Gold Rush of 1859.

That earlier vision produced the High Line Canal, a 71-mile irrigation ditch built in 1883 that begins at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and ends on the plains northeast of Denver.

Today, the canal and its trails are one of Denver’s most cherished recreational assets, even as its use as a water delivery system has given way to new technologies and homes instead of farms.

The evolution of the canal is why Denver Water is teaming up with the High Line Canal Conservancy to develop a master plan.

You can share your ideas about the future of the historic canal and its greenway at three community open houses held July 20 and 21, sponsored by the Conservancy.

A jogger runs past a flume used to carry the High Line Canal over Lee Gulch in Littleton.

A jogger runs past a flume used to carry the High Line Canal over Lee Gulch in Littleton.

“We’re looking for blue-sky ideas,” said Harriet Crittenden LeMair, the Conservancy’s executive director. “We want the public to think broadly, think creatively, and help us come up with a vision that preserves, protects and enhances the canal.”

People who use the High Line Canal should take advantage of this opportunity, added Tom Roode, Denver Water director of Operations and Maintenance. “We want the public to weigh in and say what they want the canal and the corridor to look like in the future.”

Creating a long-term vision for the canal is no easy task.

Denver Water purchased the canal in 1924 and still uses it today to transport un-treated water to about 70 customers. Instead of supporting farms and ranches, customers today use the water for landscaping and irrigation needs.

High Line pkg 6.00_00_19_25.Still003

The High Line Canal near Chatfield Reservoir. The canal loses around 70 percent of its water to seepage into the ground.

While the canal was considered an engineering marvel in 1883, it’s no longer an efficient means of delivering water. About 70 percent of the water sent down the canal seeps into the ground before it makes it to customers.

Denver Water’s mission is to deliver water to our customers in an environmentally efficient way and that applies to how we manger the canal,” Roode said. “We have to assess how we use the canal in the future while taking into account our customers and its important role in the community.”

Water delivery, trail maintenance, developing new uses and creating a sustainable greenway are all part of the discussion for Denver Water, the Conservancy, the public and the 11 communities that border the canal.

“We’re in the visioning process and the sky’s the limit,” Crittenden LaMair said. “It’s only with input from the public that we can truly reflect the needs of all the communities along the canal.”

In addition to this week’s meetings, the Conservancy will hold similar open houses in September and October. This month’s meetings are:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 20, at Expo Recreation Center, 10955 E. Exposition Ave., Aurora.
  • 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 20, at Eloise May Library, 1471 S. Parker Rd., Denver.
  • 4 to 8 p.m., Thursday, July 21, at Eisenhower Recreation Center, 4300 E. Dartmouth Ave., Denver.

Find out more about the High Line Canal Conservancy at highlinecanal.org.

Are millennials less aware than everyone else about water?

Maybe not, according to our very unscientific poll. But like many of us, a little more education wouldn’t hurt.

By Tyler St. John and Dave Gaylinn

 

As a member of the much-maligned millennial generation, I took it a bit personally when a recent state-wide water quality survey suggested that 20-somethings lack a firm understanding of water issues in Colorado.

I’m very conscious of the ire my generation seems to draw from the rest of the populace on a host of issues, not just water. We’re too self-absorbed, people say. Too concerned with views to our Twitter and Instagram accounts.

I personally think that’s absurd, so I happily took on my toughest assignment to date at Denver Water: Hit the streets, find some millennials and ask them some basic questions about water.

And pray they came through for me.

This was hardly scientific; I couldn’t disprove the research results, which found that, compared to other age groups, millennials were more likely to be unsure about the source of their tap water and most likely to say it came from the faucet, bottle or store.

But at least I could see whether a selection of random millennials off the street might rise above those conclusions.

First, some good news: Like many health-conscious Coloradans, the millennials I spoke with took their water consumption seriously and said they drank plenty of water every day.

They also said that Colorado had some of the best tasting water in the country, adding that they trusted the source of all that clean, clear goodness.

Then, we ran into some trouble.

When I asked, “Where does our water come from?” my fellow millennials looked at me as if I were asking a trick question.

tsj

The author explains the journey of water, from mountain snowpack, to rivers and streams, to reservoirs, to treatment plants, to tap.

If you work at Denver Water, as I do, then you know our source water originates as snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, flows into the rivers and streams that feed our mountain reservoirs, and then on to our water treatment plants and from there, delivered to your tap.

But would a random millennial on the street know this? When all the water you use is coming out of a faucet, you have to work a little bit to find out how it gets there in the first place.

Unfortunately, one young lady answered that the water just came out of the faucet, period. But others were on the right track.

Finally, I wanted to feel out my age group on conservation, and those answers varied greatly. Everyone was certainly aware that it’s better to conserve than to waste, but not everyone thinks about it as much as they should.

There was no right or wrong answer to this question — except for the guy who said he rode his bike a lot — but the general consensus was that we all need to take steps to get the most out of our water supply and conserve.

All in all, not a bad showing from my peers. Despite a few hiccups, millennials on the streets of Denver certainly are not as unaware about water as the research might suggest.

If anything, it just proves we can all stand to learn more about water.

My summer mixtape: Getting in the irrigation mood

In the spirit of Smart Irrigation Month, I created a water-wise lawn care playlist.

By Kim Unger

“The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art.”

­ — Rob Gordon (John Cusack), “High Fidelity”

A mixtape isn’t just a collection of songs. It’s a story, an expression of emotions and actions told through the poetry of song.

So, with Smart Irrigation Month upon us, here is my water-wise summer playlist to feed your head — and your efforts.

1. Over my head – Fleetwood Mac

I like to start off my playlists with a classic but simple opening, and as a child of the ‘70s, Fleetwood Mac is a must.

An irrigation must is ensuring proper coverage. If you don’t, you will find brown areas of thirsty sod.

What exactly is head-to-head coverage? Basically, you want your sprinkler heads to create overlap, from one head to another. Check out the video for a quick explanation.

You’ll be over your head(s), and it sure feels nice. 

 

2. You spin me round – Marilyn Manson

From Dead or Alive to Manson, many artists continue to put their own unique spin on this classic song. Just like manufacturers continue to put their own efficient spin on irrigation products to help you battle the heat of summer.

My playlist includes the new version of “spin me round” because we recommend getting new and efficient rotary nozzles. We even have a rebate for that.

Rotary nozzles provide many benefits over fixed spray heads. Rotating streams improve uniform watering coverage by 30 percent over traditional heads, by putting more water where you need it. And heavier water drops reduce the chance for wind drift and evaporation.

High efficiency nozzles also release up to 20 percent less water,than fixed spray heads, allowing the soil to slowly soak up the water and reduce run-off. Watch to learn more about the difference.

Like a record, baby, right round round round.

 

Note: Don’t mix and match your sprinkler head types. Make sure all your sprinkler heads match the precipitation rates and run-times needed for each type of head.

3. Digital Love – Daft Punk

By adding some technology to watering your yard, you’ll have more time to dance to this song’s techno beat.

From rain sensors and soil moisture shutoff devices to smart controllers, many high-tech devices can help homeowners water efficiently during the summer. Add them to existing systems, or buy them as stand-alone products to replace your existing control boxes.

It doesn’t mean you can just set it and forget it. Continual monitoring and maintenance throughout the irrigation season is a must. But these technologies will make your life easier and keep your water bill lower.

We were dancing all night long . . .

Smart controllers also include apps that put your sprinkler control panel in the palm of your hand so you can manage your system wherever you are.

Watch this video to learn how to use your smart controller to cycle and soak.

 

4. Testing the water – Thompson Square

We’re closing out our playlist with some good vibes, and the wisest tip of all — by “testing the water” — or moisture — in your soil.

Simply insert a screwdriver into the ground. If it goes in easily, you can hold off on watering. This comes in handy after a big rainstorm.

Oh Oh Oh, bring your bare feet . . .

Hold off on restarting that sprinkler system until your lawn becomes resistant to a poke from the screwdriver. This quick video will show you how.

 

So there you have it. A Smart Irrigation Month playlist to jam out during your backyard gatherings this summer, included with some subtle reminders on keeping a healthy and efficient yard.

 

Extreme treatment

In his lime green kayak, water treatment technician Casey Tango takes on Colorado’s toughest rapids.

By Kristi Delynko

Casey Tango racing down Rigormortis on Clear Creek, a few miles west of Golden, along Highway 6.

Casey Tango races down Rigormortis on Clear Creek, a few miles west of Golden, along Highway 6.

Every year, Casey Tango eagerly awaits the first signs of spring — not just for the warmer temperatures, but for the mountain snowmelt that fills Colorado’s rivers and streams. When runoff is at its highest, so begins Tango’s obsession with racing down Colorado’s toughest rapids in his lime green Dagger kayak.

As a water treatment technician at Foothills Water Treatment Plant — one of Denver Water’s three drinking water treatment plants — Tango works with water every day, running tests and monitoring plant operations to ensure safe water is delivered to 1.4 million people in the Denver metro area. But when it’s quitting time, he hops in his Subaru and races to Clear Creek to experience water in a more exciting fashion — whitewater kayaking.

“You’ll find me out kayaking at least five days a week in the spring and summer,” Tango said. “When I’m not out on the water, I’m reading kayak articles, doing research, watching videos and planning kayak trips. It’s really kind of an obsession.”

Tango, a longtime outdoor enthusiast, worked as a river guide for 10 years, taking groups down major rivers in Colorado, Arkansas, West Virginia and even Chile. So learning to kayak seemed like a natural fit. In 2004, Tango began teaching himself the ins and outs of kayaking, picking up some tips from a few friends who were also into the sport.

Casey Tango checks a sample at Denver Water’s Foothills Treatment Plant.

Casey Tango checks a sample at Denver Water’s Foothills Treatment Plant.

After more than a decade of kayaking, Tango can still remember his first time was out on the water. “I flipped for the first time and was able to turn myself back upright, so I was pretty excited. But, right after that, I flipped again and had to swim out of my kayak. You never can tell what’s going to happen.

“In the moment, you’re just focused on your technique and what you need to do to get back up. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t — that’s just the way it goes,” he said.

Tango recalls a particularly rough ride on Daisy Creek near Crested Butte, where he flew down a waterfall and crashed into a rock. “I was really shaken up, and when I got out I realized I had sprained both of my ankles.”

Despite his injuries, Tango wasn’t discouraged from taking on Daisy Creek again. “After a mistake, you learn what you need to do the next time. I know what to do in that spot now,” he said.

The more challenging the rapids, the better. Tango loves to take on tough rapids and waterfalls, exploring remote canyons and quiet coves, and discovering the world’s best whitewater. While the thrill of the ride is what keeps him going back for more — even after a nasty spill — safety is always on his mind.

“When the river’s high, we scout out the routes beforehand, so we know where the dangerous spots are and what we can do to get through them. It’s easier to see the tricky spots from up above than when you’re cruising down the river at full speed,” he said.

Near the end of the summer, when runoff starts to slow, Tango travels further into the mountains to find rivers and creeks suitable for kayaking. Thanks to stream flow information provided by the USGS, he can find the best spots for late-summer kayaking. “A lot of the water I paddle on is managed by Denver Water, and it’s actually thanks, in part, to Denver Water that I am informed about where to find out about streamflow, which helps me locate the best spots for late summer kayaking, when the rivers are low.”

“For instance, I know that after runoff season, I can head up to the North Fork of the South Platte near Bailey, Colo. to find deeper waters,” he said.

Should you find yourself hiking or fishing one of Denver Water’s streams or rivers this summer, keep your eyes open for Tango — he’ll be the one speeding by in the lime green kayak.

Casey Tango and his trusty lime green Dagger kayak.

Casey Tango and his trusty lime green Dagger kayak.

Gross Reservoir Expansion Project takes a giant step forward

State certification moves this critical project closer to reality, and cooperation is the key.

By Matt Wittern

 

As a native Coloradan and lifelong flyfisherman, I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to sell trout a line. I’ve encountered many frustrated fisherman in my day, and remember too many days when I’ve counted myself among them.

No matter what you hear or read about how to be successful in the sport — tippet size, line length, fly pattern, cast placement — success all comes down to one word: approach.

Gross Reservoir has a surface area of 418 acres. Once the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is completed an additional 424 acres will be added to the reservoir’s surface area.

Gross Reservoir, pictured here, has a surface area of 418 acres. Once the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is completed an additional 424 acres will be added to the reservoir’s surface area.

And that same word, as It turns out, applies to how Denver Water recently secured Gov. John Hickenlooper’s endorsement and a state water quality certification for the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir that found the project will result in a net environmental benefit for the state.

Here are the technical details: The Section 401 certification under the Federal Clean Water Act, or more succinctly, a 401 certification, comes from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The certification is one big step forward for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project.

Without diving too much into the weeds (where personal experience teaches that you’re just going to get snagged and lose a couple flies), this is a REALLY big deal, and not just for Denver Water, but for the environment and interests on the West Slope, too.

“I think there are benefits on both sides of the Divide on this project,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates, one of Colorado’s most respected and influential environmental groups. “Denver Water has guaranteed that when there are temperature fluctuations that threaten the health of the river, there will be additional releases. In the driest years, Denver Water can release additional water downstream, and that helps rivers across the West Slope.”

Let’s face it: In the past, Denver Water’s approach to these issues has been flawed, and like a fisherman using a DuPont lure, shockwaves and damage were left in its wake. But today’s Denver Water is much more like a successful flyfisherman who takes into account the environment, notices nuances in the currents, and observes and reacts to changes in the hatch.

Denver Water changed its approach to one of cooperation and relationship building, and in so doing found solutions to this challenging project.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead (left), accepts the 2016 River Stewardship Award from Colorado Trout Unlimited executive director David Nickum.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead (left) accepts the 2016 River Stewardship Award from David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

“We were involved in a very lengthy battle with Denver Water over the Two Forks project some 25 years ago,” remembers David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “At that time, the idea of Trout Unlimited and Denver Water working together would have been difficult to imagine. I think that we’ve seen just a sea-change in Denver’s attitude toward really trying to work with partners in those basins, to understand that those are legitimate concerns and considerations – that we can actually achieve win wins by all working together, listening to each other, understanding our various concerns and looking at the fact that we do have a common interest in watersheds like the Fraser.”

The conditions included in the 401 certification provide for long-term monitoring of stream temperature, nutrients, metals and aquatic life with an adaptive management strategy for responding to water quality impairments, if detected. The certification builds upon the cooperative process that helped get us here and the manner in which fishermen hone their skills in the sport. It’s called Learning By Doing. CDPHE describes Learning By Doing as:

… a cooperative process that has a goal of maintaining or improving the “stream environment” in the project area. An adaptive management strategy is employed to make decisions about allocating resources to meet the goal. The management committee includes representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, the Colorado River Conservation District, Middle Park Water Conservancy District, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Municipal Subdistrict), Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited.

Beyond working collaboratively, Denver Water has made additional commitments and earmarked millions of dollars in funding to enhance the environment as part of our broader approach to secure approval for the project. These include committing additional funds to multiple water improvement and stream restoration efforts in collaboration with West Slope county officials, Trout Unlimited and other interested parties.

Kind of like when you hook a magnificent trout with a perfect cast, this approach is instructive, rewarding and encourages us to do it more.

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