Archive for April, 2014

Youth and water – conservation

Denver Water's Teacher Resource Packet illustrates the three Rs of water conservation.

Denver Water’s Teacher Resource Packet illustrates the three Rs of water conservation.

Last week’s Youth Education blog post, Youth and water – following a water drop, focused on the movement of water through the water cycle. Now that you understand the journey of Denver’s water — let’s talk about how to conserve our most precious resource.

Week three: Use only what you need

The weather in this area constantly fluctuates (Ebbs and flows highlights the extremes we faced in 2013 alone), but it’s typically dry. Denver receives an average of 15 inches of precipitation each year, which is about a fourth of the precipitation a tropical city such as Miami receives. We’ve also experienced several severe droughts in the past that have challenged our water system. We never know the extent of a dry period or when precipitation may come, so conservation has to be a way of life for all of us.

There are many things we can do indoors and outdoors to reduce the amount of water we use every day. Conservation is an integral part of Denver Water’s three-pronged approach for a reliable water supply, along with expanding our recycled water system and securing new supply.

Online resources

Activity — Ask students how they would create a campaign to reduce water use and let them use their art skills to produce a marketing campaign by drawing pictures of billboards, commercials or ads.

Charts, graphs & maps

This graph shows that Denver Water customers have done a great job conserving water. Since the early 1970s, the number of people Denver Water serves has increased by almost 50 percent while the amount of treated water those customers use has increased only 6 percent.
This graph shows that Denver Water customers have done a great job conserving water. Since the early 1970s, the number of people Denver Water serves has increased by almost 50 percent while the amount of treated water those customers use has increased only 6 percent.

Online activities

  • Project Wet’s Use Water Wisely game has students play the role of a water detective to identify wise water use and water wasters in the community.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s interactive quiz, Test your WaterSense, has students move the water-efficiency hero Flo through a maze of water pipes by answering water-efficiency questions.
  • Test your memory by matching water conservation tips in the Tip Tank from Water Use It Wisely. Students can also go through nearly 200 water-saving tips on the 100+ Ways to Conserve page.

Recent water news

Drought or no drought, smart water use is essential

News release:

Drought or no drought, smart water use is essential

Denver Water’s summer watering rules begin May 1

Denver — April 28, 2014 — After responding to multiple years of drought conditions, Denver Water stresses the importance of using water efficiently, regardless of the weather.

“We just came out of a severe drought, and our customers did a great job of answering our call to save even more water than usual last year,” said Greg Fisher, Denver Water’s manager of demand planning. “But, water conservation isn’t a drought response; it must be a permanent way of life for all of us.”

To help eliminate outdoor water waste, Denver Water implements annual summer water use rules, which begin May 1, 2014.

The Water Savers program – to educate customers about Denver Water's watering rules – has been in place since 2008.

The Water Savers program – to educate customers about Denver Water’s watering rules – has been in place since 2008.

The watering rules, which help facilitate smart irrigation, include:

  • Water during cooler times of the day – lawn watering is NOT allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Water no more than three days per week.
  • Do not allow water to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
  • Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete or asphalt.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Do not irrigate while it is raining or during high winds.
  • Use a hose nozzle with a shut-off valve when washing your car.

“The landscape may be green, but that doesn’t mean it needs a lot of water.” said Jeff Tejral, Denver Water’s manager of conservation. “Typically, early in the irrigation season, two days of watering a week will be enough.”

Denver Water will have a team of nine Water Savers out in the community to provide customers with tips and tools for water-saving practices this summer. Water Savers will also respond to reports of water waste. To report water waste, call Denver Water at 303-893-2444, and if you see waste in one of Denver’s parks, call 3-1-1.

“Many times people are either unaware of a rule or something happened to their irrigation system, like a broken sprinkler head, and they appreciate being notified of the issue,” said Tejral. “We’ll send out a Water Saver as a friendly way to work with customers to help them locate and address any problems.”

Visit www.denverwater.org/conservation for conservation tips, rebates, irrigation calculators and many more tools for saving water outdoors, including suggested watering times.

 

Youth and water – following a water drop

Denver Water's teacher resource packet illustrated the water cycle from a local viewpoint.

Denver Water’s Teacher Resource Packet illustrates the local water cycle.

Last week’s Youth Education blog post, Youth and water – our future depends on it, focused on watersheds, where the journey of water begins within Denver Water’s collection system. Watersheds are only a small portion of the complete water cycle, however, so this week we’ll look at the water cycle in its entirety.

Week two: Journey of water – the water cycle

Online resources

  1. How does water move through the water cycle? The Project Wet Foundation’s chapter on The Water Cycle provides information, activities, vocabulary and much more around the never-ending movement of water.
  2. The U.S. Geological Survey provides an interactive graphic highlighting how Earth’s water is always changing form and moving around the Earth. Start with the beginner diagram and work your way up to the intermediate and advanced diagrams for a comprehensive study of the complete water cycle.
  3. Who better than Bill Nye the Science Guy to provide an entertaining lesson on the water cycle? Check out this fun episode.

Charts, graphs & maps

Denver’s water arrives in an annual water cycle that starts primarily in the mountains as snowpack during the winter and early spring. This snow buildup is followed by spring runoff, then rainstorms in the late summer. The amount of water available for people to use varies from year to year and in different regions of the state. Take the Journey of Water from the time it falls in the mountains until it swirls down the drain in your bathroom.

Click here or on the graphic to launch the Journey of Water.

Click here or on the graphic to launch the Journey of Water.

Online activities

The Blue Traveler (Project Wet) – Students play the role of a water droplet moving through the complex and endless water cycle journey. This guide provides instructions for classroom use.

Steve Spangler Science makes learning the water cycle fun through this interactive game for the classroom where students represent water molecules traveling through the water cycle.

Recent water news

 

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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