Archive for December, 2013

Year of uncertainty

This graph shows the wide range of impacts seen from drought and precipitation this year. As Dec. 23, 2013, reservoir storage is at 94.5 percent full.

This graph shows the wide range of impacts seen from drought and precipitation this year.

For Denver Water, 2013 was the year of climate uncertainty layered with weather extremes.

Beginning with severe drought and culminating with floods of a “biblical proportion,” there was extensive coverage of the roller coaster ride we endured as a water resource manager in 2013. So, we looked back to find the quotes from news outlets that best highlight our water year.

January & February: A slow start

Reservoirs that store Denver Water’s supply are less than two-thirds full — well below the 80 percent historic median and even below the levels in 2002, when the state was in the midst of a historic, multi-year drought. –Denver Post, Feb. 13

March: First move

… area water providers are positioning themselves to restrict lawn watering to twice a week and call upon residents to be stingy about how they use the precious resource.

We hope everyone is listening. –Denver Post editorial board, March 20

April & May: Minor relief

A wet spring has caused Denver Water to delay its proposed drought pricing for water use that had been scheduled to start in June. –7News, May 23

June & July: On the path to normal

Thanks to an unexpectedly wet spring and good conservation efforts, Denver Water — which provides water to Littleton — says people can increase their watering days from two to three times per week … –Littleton Independent, July 2

Water flowed into Ralston Reservoir so fast during the September floods that it topped out over the dam’s emergency spillway, the first time in the reservoir’s 76-year history that the emergency spillway had to be used.

Water flowed into Ralston Reservoir so fast during the September floods that it topped out over the dam’s emergency spillway, the first time in the reservoir’s 76-year history that the emergency spillway had to be used.

August: Changes for the future 

The state’s biggest municipal water provider is pushing legislation to require more water-efficient appliances to be sold in Colorado.

… Denver Water wants the state to mandate Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for water use in household appliances. –The Pueblo Chieftain, Aug. 24

September & October: Keeping our heads above water

Although (Jim) Lochhead (Denver Water CEO) said the system worked “perfectly” in the sense that service to customers was not interrupted and no dams were breached during the flood, Denver Water sustained $15 million to $20 million in damage to roads, exposed conduits and one of its gravel pits located near the South Platte River.

… According to the most recent reports, Denver Water’s reserves, which consist of 15 fully or partially owned reservoirs across more than 4,000 square miles of watershed in eight counties, is at 96 percent capacity. –Summit Daily, Oct. 23

November & December: Collaboration paying off

After just two years in operation, a Berthoud Pass sediment pond helped the Fraser River’s clarity by 680 tons.

… “We are happy that it is a successful project and believe it demonstrates the benefit of collaboration, ingenuity and the value of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water, in a press release. –Sky-Hi News, Nov. 1

This year of uncertainty has set the tone for the future of Denver Water. Water utilities used to look at past hydrology and weather patterns to plan for the future. Now, we also must factor in climate change, which creates uncertainty in many areas, including changes in supply availability and customer water use; extreme weather events like droughts and floods; the timing of snowmelt; the life span of summer and fall snowpack; watershed impacts from fires, beetle kill and changes in vegetation; fluctuations in soil moisture; evaporation; water quality impacts; and more.

But we are up to the challenge. Denver Water is actively taking steps to ensure reliable delivery of clean, safe, great-tasting water supplies for the next 50 years and beyond. Since 1918, we have created and operated an intricate water system to ensure we are meeting our customers’ needs. And we are committed to continuing that service, by pursuing a multi-faceted approach that includes water efficiency measures, reuse and supply augmentation.

How to grow more and use less

This guest blog post from Denver Urban Gardens is part of our Transforming Landscapes series, introducing fresh, new ideas for upgrading your lawn to a more water-efficient landscape. To help you think outside the box when planning for your landscape transformation next spring, also check out:

How to grow more and use less

Denver Urban Gardens is a nonprofit organization that builds and supports food-producing community gardens throughout metro Denver. Founded in 1985, the DUG network now includes 125 community gardens, plus an additional seven gardens owned by DUG.

Denver Urban Gardens only owns a small percentage of the gardens in our network. Working with partner agencies to secure land for community gardens allows DUG to keep the cost of establishing a new garden low, while providing urban gardening space to residents in important community spaces like parks, libraries and schools. One of DUG’s largest landowner partners is Denver Public Schools, which provides land and programmatic support for more than 30 DUG community gardens. As one of the largest landowners in Denver, DPS sites often have turf to spare. DUG works with DPS and school communities to transform many of these highly irrigated, but underused turf areas into productive, educational gardens for schools and communities alike. DPS supports these school-based community gardens for multiple reasons, including educational opportunities, community support, access to fresh produce and reduced water bills.

Garden benefits

Community gardens use less water than an area of turf of equal size. Based on water use during the 2010 growing season at seven of DUG’s gardens, we know that hand-watered community gardens use an average of 9.16 gallons per square foot of water each growing season. This is half of the 18 gallons per square foot that Kentucky bluegrass requires. When a community garden replaces turf, it supports water conservation goals and saves money. For this reason, some landowner partners cover the cost of water in community gardens, which frees annual gardener plot fees to be used for the upkeep of infrastructure and educational programs for children.

While water conservation is a great perk to turning turf into gardening space, most people garden for the vegetables, and for the opportunity to spend time outside and get their hands in the dirt. They soon realize, however, that the benefits of a garden extend even further. A community garden is a common ground where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather, learn and grow, while eating healthy food together. Over and over, we hear from people who say their garden has created personal connections they otherwise never would have established.

A young girls working at Fairview Gardens.

A girl planting at Fairview Gardens.

Converting grass to garden

Home gardeners experience many of the same benefits as community gardeners. Gardens bring people outside of their homes and spark conversations between neighbors about favorite dishes, their grandparents’ gardens, or the best way to get rid of aphids. And because a typical garden plot produces way more food than one family can eat in a season (more than 170 pounds), gardeners share their produce with friends, families, neighbors and local food pantries, deepening their connections to the community and contributing to the health and food security of fellow community members.

Interested in joining a DUG garden, or replacing your home turf with a vegetable garden? Visit www.dug.org or check out the horticulture workshops offered by our friends at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Other DUG resources:

Jessica Romer

Jessica Romer, DUG Community Initiatives Coordinator, supports the school leaders and educational programs at DUG’s school-based community gardens, in addition to coordinating related school district policies. Romer also coordinates DUG’s intergenerational mentoring program, Connecting Generations, and the Free Seeds and Transplants Program.

Abbie Noriega
Abbie Noriega, DUG Development and Communications Coordinator, is responsible for coordinating the organization’s fundraising, development, marketing, public relations and Web and social media activities.

Scarce and vital: History Colorado showcases water in the West

Think making water decisions is easy? This interactive display lets you turn a wheel and try to get water to every thirsty user across the state.

Think making water decisions is easy? Try to get water to every thirsty user across the state in this Living West interactive display.

Each ancestral Pueblo person used about 2 1/2 gallons of water a day for various activities, including:

  • Quenching their thirst
  • Cooking
  • Mixing clay and pigments for pottery
  • Softening yucca to make baskets and sandals
  • Washing

Today, we use more than that with just two flushes of a low-flow toilet.

History Colorado Center’s second exhibition phase — Living West — is a groundbreaking new 7,000-square-foot exhibit that explores the living dynamics between the people of Colorado and our state’s extraordinary environment.

How much water content is in that snowpack? See for yourself with this fun display in the Living West exhibit.

How much water content is in that snowpack? Crank a wheel and see for yourself with this fun display in the Living West exhibit.

Explore life in Mesa Verde and see History Colorado’s renowned collections of ceramics, basketry and other archaeological finds. Experience the epic “Black Sunday” of the Dust Bowl. And discover why we can only make Colorado our home today if we know how to keep our mountain ecosystems healthy for tomorrow.

Denver Water is a proud partner of the exhibit, housed at the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway in Denver.

Bring a copy of your Denver Water bill to the History Colorado Center from Dec. 1, 2013, through Feb. 28, 2014, and receive $2 off the regular adult admission price. And, join the conversation on Twitter by sending comments and photos of the exhibit to #LivingWest.

Students protect train-wreck hero monument

A group of middle school students are preserving the monument, located on Denver Water property, which was erected to honor train engineer Billy Westall more than a century ago.

A group of middle school students are preserving the monument, located on Denver Water property, which was erected to honor train engineer Billy Westall more than a century ago.

By Ann Baker, Denver Water Communications and Marketing

More than a century after a train engineer saved all 450 passengers before dying in the crash he saw coming, a group of students are preserving the 113-year-old monument erected in his honor.

The granite marker, tucked away on Denver Water property near the confluence of the North Fork of the South Platte River, stands near the old Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad routes. A group of West Jefferson Middle School honor students saw the deteriorating monument – slumping toward the river and starting to separate – as a real-world lesson in history, engineering and fundraising.

On Aug. 28, 1898, train engineer Billy Westall lead a group of passengers on a trip from Denver’s Union Station along the South Platte River into the mountains, returning to Denver by dinner. The route was a common daytrip for city dwellers at the time, eager to spend a day out of town and enjoy a picnic in the mountains.

That afternoon, the train made its scheduled stop in the small town of Pine, continuing onto the Dome Rock Station. Westall noticed that a pile of rocks, trees and debris had washed across the tracks, and, sensing the train would crash, slowed the cars enough so the crew and passengers could jump off.

Although everyone on board scrambled to safety, Westall couldn’t escape in time. The train rolled, pinning him underneath.

Train engineer Billy Westall died in this train wreck after he slowed the train so all 450 passengers and crew members could escape the pending crash. Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Train engineer Billy Westall died in this train wreck after he slowed the train so all 450 passengers and crew members could escape the pending crash. Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Several people freed him, but his injuries were too severe. He died later that night, whispering, “tell my wife I died thinking of her,” as he took his last breath.

“The story is so interesting,” said Neil Sperandeo, retired Denver Water recreation manager who coached the students through the restoration process. “And not many people have heard of it.”

A year after the train wreck, the Ancient Order of United Workmen erected a 10-foot granite monument near the site of the crash. Westall’s name and last words are engraved in the stone, which has survived more than a century of forest fires and floods, the end of the railroad line, and the harsh mountain weather. But the soft riverbed has shifted beneath it, causing the structure to lose ground support and tilt toward the river.

“It’s definitely going to fall apart sometime,” said Jessica Barbier, a Denver Water engineer who met with the students to talk about what engineering and construction help would be needed to restore the monument.

The students raised money for the project and researched its history to replace a plaque that once was bolted to the stone. On Dec. 9, 2013, the monument was moved to its new location where it will be more visible from the nearby dirt road. Once it’s completely restored, the students plan to promote the monument so people stop and learn more about the last heroic act a train engineer made so long ago.

Brandon Ransom, Denver Water's new recreation manager oversaw the operation to move the monument on Dec. 9, 2013.

Brandon Ransom, Denver Water recreation manager, oversaw the operation to move the monument.

The monument was moved in seven separate pieces.

The monument was moved in seven pieces.

A large crain was used to move sections of the monument.

A large crane was used to move sections of the monument.

Last wooden pipe removed 50 years ago

Crews connect a 48-inch wood-stave pipe to a steel pipe crossing Cherry Creek in this 1910 photo. Fifty years ago, the last wood stave pipe was removed from service.

Crews connect a 48-inch wood-stave pipe to a steel pipe crossing Cherry Creek in this 1910 photo. Fifty years ago, the last wood stave pipe was removed from service.

By Ann Baker, Denver Water Communications and Marketing

Denver Water’s last wood-stave pipe was taken out of service 50 years ago, ending an era of pipe that had at one time carried almost all of Denver’s water.

In late 1963, crews removed the 60-inch steel-banded, cedar stave conduit that extended from the old South Platte intake to Conduit 20 leading to Marston Reservoir. It was replaced with a 90-inch concrete line that could handle twice the capacity, a project that cost $1.15 million. At one time, wood-stave conduits were considered some of the best, and several had been installed by private water utilities, long before Denver Water was established. Now, conduits are made primarily of concrete, steel, ductile iron or cast iron, which are far more efficient at transporting water.

“And so, with the last of the wood-stave lines gone, another era passes,” the January 1964 WaterNews said. “And Denver’s water system progresses to meet current and future challenges.”

Crews lay a 48-inch wood-stave pipe in County Road 1 in this 1910 photo.

Crews lay a 48-inch wood-stave pipe in County Road 1 in this 1910 photo.

Pipes by the numbers

  • Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of pipe, enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York.
  • Some pipes in our system are more than 100 years old. The oldest pipe does not necessarily need to be replaced, but it may need to be cleaned and lined to improve flow and water quality.
  • In 2014, Denver Water is scheduled to replace and rehabilitate 20 miles of pipe in the metro area to improve water delivery, ensure adequate fire flows, minimize water outages and maintain high water quality.

Toilet rebate video

Toilet stats:

  • A running toilet can waste more than 100,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Conventional toilets use 3.5 to 5 gallons per flush.
  • New, ultra-high-efficiency toilets can use as little as 0.8 gallons per flush.
  • Since 2007, Denver Water has helped customers retrofit about 90,000 fixtures (toilets/urinals/flushometers), saving more than 1 billion gallons of water.
  • Best of all, Denver Water wants to pay you $75 for each toilet you upgrade (3 max)!

If those stats don’t entice you to take advantage of our toilet rebate program, maybe this fun video will help. It features our friends from Mile High Youth Corps, people sitting on the toilets in public and our famous Running Toilet.

%d bloggers like this: