Archive for November, 2016

When Mother Nature flakes out, just add water

Water-sharing agreements provide yearly snowmaking operations for six Summit and Grand county ski areas.

By Jay Adams



It’s finally starting to look a lot like winter in the Colorado Rockies — just a little later than normal. Mother Nature delivered some much-needed snow at the end of November to boost a ski season that’s been dealing with warmer temperatures and limited snow this fall.

Luckily, ski runs have a solid base waiting for fresh powder, thanks to snowmaking and a helping hand from Denver Water.

Resorts typically rely on early-season snowmaking to cover the slopes. In years when Mother Nature is slow to deliver, snowmaking operations are even more critical to the ski industry.

Snowboarders at Arapahoe Basin

Snowboarders enjoy early-season conditions on man-made snow at Arapahoe Basin.

“If we didn’t have snowmaking right now, we wouldn’t be open,” said Alan Henceroth, chief operating officer at Arapahoe Basin ski area in Summit County. “We can’t make snow without water.”

Enter Denver Water.

Through a water-sharing agreement with Denver Water, A-Basin diverts water from the North Fork of the Snake River and stores it in a small retention pond at the bottom of the ski area. The ski area then pumps the water up the mountain to 20 snowmaking machines.

“When we’re at full capacity, we’re using 1,000 gallons of water per minute,” Henceroth said.

Denver Water has senior water rights in Summit County, but allows A-Basin to borrow 97.4 million gallons of water each ski season to make snow. The ski area returns the water in the spring when the snow melts and flows into the streams and rivers that feed Dillon Reservoir — Denver Water’s largest storage facility.

Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Frisco Adventure Park, Keystone and Winter Park also have similar agreements with the utility, which shares 1.1 billion gallons of water with the ski areas each year.

“Letting them redirect water from the streams onto the mountain is a way to get multiple uses out of every drop,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “The ski areas get their water to make snow, and we catch it after they use it.”

Denver Water has very senior water rights in Grand and Summit counties dating back to the 1920s and 1940s before their resorts were open or made snow.

Arapahoe Basin uses water from the North Fork of the Snake River to make snow.

Arapahoe Basin uses water from the North Fork of the Snake River to make snow.

A 1985 agreement with Summit County allowed Denver Water to share water for snowmaking in the county.

The 1992 Clinton Reservoir Agreement and the 2013 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement provided the additional framework for ski areas to borrow Denver’s water rights to divert water from streams in Grand and Summit counties.

“The agreements show that people on both sides of the divide can work together and manage water so it benefits as many people as possible,” Bennett said.

Because 20 percent of the water is lost to evaporation in the snowmaking process, the ski areas have their own additional water rights stored in Clinton Reservoir that would be used to pay back the lost water, if needed, during a severe drought.

“When it comes to water, we’re all connected,” Henceroth said. “We’ll ski on the snow this winter, and next summer they might be drinking it down in Denver.”

Cyber Monday shopping list: clothes, shoes — and water?

On the web’s busiest shopping day of the year, choose the online option to pay your bill and check your water use.

By Kristi Delynko

Michael Amireh, customer care representative

Michael Amireh, along with all Denver Water customer care representatives, is able to help customers get started with online self-service.

It’s Cyber Monday — Black Friday’s more civil, convenient and efficient sibling. According to Forbes, Cyber Monday could match or beat Black Friday in sales this year, and nearly two in five of those Americans making purchases will use their smart phones.

So whether you’re at work (we won’t tell), or shopping from the comfort of your home, here’s something else you can do online: Pay your water bill.

(You knew we were headed somewhere with this.)

Denver Water launched online self-service in 2015, said Michelle Garfield, customer relations manager for Denver Water. Since then, about 45,000 customers access online self-service each month.

Online self-service is secure and convenient, Garfield said. In addition to paying their water bills, customers can view up to two years of their billing and payment history, as well as their water use.

While many customers (and shoppers) like the online option, others still want to do it the old-fashioned way. In fact, Denver Water customer care representatives answer more than 19,000 calls per month, many of them related to billing.

Jose Valero Jr., customer care representative

With more than 19,000 calls coming into Customer Care each month, Jose Valero Jr. is prepared to help customers with a variety of questions.

During last year’s holiday season, for example, customer care representative Wendy Sutherland answered a call from a customer concerned about a high water bill. Sutherland set up an appointment with a field technician, who discovered a leak in the customer’s home.

Afterward, Sutherland encouraged the customer to repair the leak, and when she did, Denver Water provided a leak adjustment, putting money back in her pocket just in time for holiday shopping.

While your own credit card is at-the-ready for holiday deals this Cyber Monday, why not give online payment a try?

And if you need help getting started, go low-tech: Give our customer care representatives a call at 303-893-2444.

In Waterton Canyon, Black Friday is for the birds

After nearly two years of sporadic closings, a major construction project is finally complete. Time for a Turkey Trot!

By Travis Thompson

In the spirit of the holiday, I want to give thanks for Waterton Canyon.

As an outdoor enthusiast with two young children, the canyon has become our family sanctuary. In 15 short minutes we can be on a trail — actually a Denver Water service road — large enough for the kids to ride their bikes without impeding others, while we gawk over the varieties of birds, reptiles and mammals along the way.

Like others who love the canyon, our time in this oasis has been limited since the spring of 2015, when the High Line Canal diversion dam, halfway up the canyon in the South Platte River, deteriorated to the point that it needed to be replaced.

Since then, it’s been nearly two years of intermittent, months long closures and restrictions on public access while crews worked to rebuild the dam.

It was a long and challenging process, but construction on the dam is officially complete.


On Nov. 25, hikers will be allowed back into the canyon just in time to burn off the Thanksgiving stuffing, gravy and sweet potato pie.

Just as grateful as I am for this recreational retreat next to the city, I’m even more grateful for the true purpose of the canyon: to provide 1.4 million people in the Denver metro area with clean drinking water.

As explained in “The ‘trails’ and tribulations of Waterton Canyon,” the No. 1 priority of this working facility is to store and send water to two of Denver’s three drinking water treatment plants. That means infrastructure maintenance and upgrades are frequent and must take priority over recreation.

In fact, the next weekday closure is already looming. A separate construction project wrapping up at Strontia Springs Dam, located at the top of the 6.5-mile canyon, involves heavy equipment, creating unsafe conditions for recreationists for the last three weeks of the year.

This certainly won’t be the last time the gates are closed to the canyon, either. So, here’s my advice:

1) Take advantage of the times when Denver Water is able to safely allow recreation on its service road. 2) If you see a wild turkey in the canyon the day after Thanksgiving, you might not want to look him in the eye.

Turkeys in Waterton Canyon

Wild turkeys, including these two, are frequently spotted in Waterton Canyon. Photo courtesy of Waterton Canyon enthusiast, Lori Bollendonk.



Being thankful, not wasteful this holiday season

Hosting a Thanksgiving feast? Follow these 20 tips to save water before, during and after your meal.

Turkey photo

It takes about 520 gallons of water to produce one pound of turkey meat. (Photo credit:

By Travis Thompson

Are you hosting a family dinner this holiday season? If so, it could mean unnecessary water waste in your home.

Thankfully, it’s easy to keep water usage to a minimum; just follow these simple tips compiled from Denver Water’s conservation department, the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program and Water – Use It Wisely.

Meal prep

  • Don’t use running water to thaw a frozen turkey or other food. For water efficiency and food safety, defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or basin using a vegetable brush instead of letting water run. Use the extra water on plants.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible. This also helps it retain more nutrients.
  • Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than necessary.

Dinner time

  • Enjoy the side dishes! Corn, apples and potatoes require only 84, 108, and 132 gallons of water per pound to grow, respectively. Meats such as beef and lamb require many more times the amount of water per pound to produce.
  • Reuse leftover water from cooked or steamed foods to make a nutritious soup.
  • Designate one glass for each guest to use for drinking water. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
  • Food waste is water waste. It takes about 520 gallons of water to produce one pound of turkey meat. To avoid scraping leftover food in the trash, serve smaller portions and invite guests to bring containers to take extra food home.
  • Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold.


  • Scrape dishes – don’t rinse – before putting them in the dishwasher. Energy Star-qualified dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to clean without needing a rinse.
  • Make sure the dishwasher is full before running it. Avoid cycles like pre-rinse and rinse-hold that use heated water but may not be necessary to clean your dishes.
  • Reduce the number of times you run your garbage disposal by composting foods that are not salty, greasy or dairy. Even if you live in an apartment, you can still compost by learning to do worm-composting. Compost can also be made from your fall leaves. Ask your Colorado State University Cooperative Extension expert for more details.
  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.


  • Need something for the kids to do? Here are some fun online games from Water – Use It Wisely.
  • Teach children to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • Reward kids for the water-saving tips they follow.

Before the next party

  • Check your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank and waiting 5 to 10 minutes. If the color shows up in the toilet bowl, you have a leak. Replace that leaky toilet with help from a Denver Water rebate.
  • Install water-saving aerators on all of your faucets.
  • Grab a wrench and fix that leaky faucet. It’s simple, inexpensive, and you can save 140 gallons a week. Learn how to use your water meter to check for leaks.

Do you have a water-saving tip to share this holiday season? If so, add it to the comments below or send a tweet to #HolidayWaterTip.

Anytime is a good time to test for lead in your water

If you missed lead prevention week, follow these tips to check your home plumbing and reduce your risk.

By Dana Strongin

We hope that National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 23-29, 2016) prompted you to check your home for common sources of lead, which can range from paint to pottery.

But it’s always a good time to test for lead, and we can help, when it comes to your water.

Denver’s water supply is free of lead. But your service line or household plumbing may be made of lead, and that can leach into your water.

Denver Water lead test kit

Denver Water offers customers a free lead testing kit.

If you’re concerned about the water in your home, the first step is to get a water quality test. Denver Water customers can request a free test, and the state keeps a list of other options.

Our sampling kit comes with three bottles, which must be filled with water from the same faucet. (See this video for all of the single-family kit steps.) This helps us analyze water from throughout a home’s entire plumbing system, to help determine the source of any lead.

Whether or not you use our test, it’s important to understand where water meets lead: within a home’s plumbing, after it leaves Denver Water’s system.

Sources of lead in your home include:

Sources of lead

There are several potential sources of lead in a home’s plumbing.

  • Faucets and faucet parts made of brass, especially if they were installed before 2014.
  • Pipes made of lead or galvanized iron.
  • Copper pipes connected with solder made of lead, which was common before 1987.
  • A lead or galvanized service line, which connects your home to the water main in the street. Homes built before the mid-1950s are the most likely to have lead service lines.

To better understand your home’s plumbing, you might want to hire a plumber, said Steve Price, coordinator for Denver Water’s lead reduction program.

“You can’t necessarily see everything your faucet is made of. The same goes for service lines, because they run underground,” Price said. Experienced, licensed plumbers can test service lines and — if needed — replace lines, pipes or fixtures.

Get more tips for reducing your risk of exposure to lead through drinking water. Helpful resources on preventing lead poisoning from soil, paint and other sources include the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More stories about lead:

Into the dark, under the Divide and out the other side

Inspecting Roberts Tunnel: What it’s like going through a 23-mile concrete tube thousands of feet underground.

By Jay Adams



This is not your typical road trip. Twenty-three miles long and more than 4,000 feet underground, navigating Roberts Tunnel is more like driving a convertible through a car wash in the dark.

And for the Denver Water team that inspects this critical piece of infrastructure, it’s a big task, and not for the faint of heart.

Inspection Team left to right: Nate Soule, Lithos Engineering inspector; Tim Holinka, West Slope operations supervisor; Garret Miller, Roberts Tunnel supervisor; Doug Sandrock, safety specialist; Jay Dankowski, mechanic; Erin Gleason, dam safety engineer.

Inspection team (left to right): Nate Soule, Lithos Engineering inspector; Tim Holinka, operations supervisor; Garret Miller, Roberts Tunnel supervisor; Doug Sandrock, safety specialist; Jay Dankowski, mechanic; Erin Gleason, dam safety engineer.

Starting in Summit County, Roberts Tunnel carries water from Dillon Reservoir, under the Continental Divide and into the North Fork of the South Platte River in Park County before heading on to customers in Denver. Completed in 1962, the tunnel took 16 years to build and can deliver more than 480 million gallons of water a day to the Front Range. It’s nearly as long as the Chunnel under the English Channel.

“It’s an impressive piece of engineering,” said Erin Gleason, a Denver Water dam safety engineer. “We inspect the tunnel every five years to check for debris and look for any structural issues.”

On Sept. 21, a six-person inspection team went into the tunnel entrance at Dillon Reservoir and spent four hours driving through the 10-foot diameter passageway to the tunnel’s east portal, near the town of Grant in Park County.

“When we do tunnel inspections, we’re looking for shifts and cracks in the concrete lining,” Gleason said. “We compare notes from past inspections to see if there are any changes that could lead to future problems.”

Before the inspection begins, Denver Water drains the tunnel so the team can go through, but it’s not completely dry — especially at the entry point where the tunnel runs under Dillon Reservoir.

“It’s definitely wet at the beginning,” Gleason said. “Pressure from the water in the reservoir seeps through the rock and concrete and drains into the tunnel.”

The inspection team arrives at the tunnel's eastern portal near Grant in Park County.

The inspection team arrives at the Roberts Tunnel east portal near Grant in Park County.

While the water makes for a soggy ride, Gleason said seepage is not unusual to see inside tunnels and is not considered a major problem. The tunnel is basically dry after the first mile.

“We didn’t find any defects,” said Garret Miller, Roberts Tunnel supervisor. “It was a long ride, but this is something we have to do to make sure the tunnel can deliver water to our customers.”

A tunnel engineering consultant rode with the inspection team and declared the tunnel’s concrete lining to be in excellent condition.

“It’s really a team effort to pull off inspections like this, and we had an outstanding team,” Gleason said. “With regular inspections and maintenance, this tunnel will last well into the future.”

This ain’t no holiday pleasure cruise

From medicine to mechanic, Navy vet recalls life on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and how he arrived at Denver Water.

By Kristi Delynko

Nick Montez prepares F18 pilot for take-off.

Focused on safety and preparation, Nick Montez helped this F18 pilot get ready for take-off during combat flight operations.

Imagine living on a cruise ship at sea for months at a time.

But instead of an evening buffet with all-you-can-eat shrimp and baked Alaska, there’s a mess deck with roll-away benches seating about 5,000 people. You heap on the Texas Pete hot sauce to give your meal a little flavor.

Instead of a private cabin with an ocean view and in-room bottle service, your berthing accommodations consist of a fold-up rack of coffin-sized bunks stacked three-high.

And instead of elaborate and splashy production shows, your evening entertainment is an F-14 Tomcat screaming toward the deck of your ship, precisely snagging its tailhook on an arresting wire to land.

This is no luxury liner — you are aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, where you must always be prepared for the unexpected.

That was life for Nick Montez on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just 18 years old when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, he was inspired to put his college schooling on hold to join the Navy.

Montez on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Montez in the flight deck battle station of the USS Theodore Roosevelt during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After boot camp and intense medical training, Montez was deployed as a hospital corpsman. He spent seven months in the Persian Gulf as an aerospace medic, conducting physicals and health safety checks for flight crews and pilots, and providing emergency medical response for flight deck personnel.

“Working on the flight deck is organized chaos, especially at night,” Montez said. “There’s so much going on all the time and you have to stay alert. You have jets taking off just as others are coming in to land — and all of this happening in the confined space of a Navy ship’s flight deck.”

While Montez saw many terrible accidents while working the flight deck, he chooses to reflect on the positive memories. “I have many lifelong friends I met while in the military, and the camaraderie I experienced during my service helped me get through the hard times,” he said.

After five years of service, Montez left the Navy and returned to college to study business management.

In 2007, as the economy began to falter and eventually crash, Montez couldn’t find a job. His military medical skills didn’t translate to the private sector, and he lacked the civilian training and certifications required to be a paramedic. A career change was in order.

Having spent a summer working in Denver Water’s electrical shop prior to his enlistment, Montez returned to Denver Water to pursue a new career. He secured a job in building maintenance and shortly after moved into a trade helper position.

The teamwork and sense of community his co-workers offered made the transition from military life easier. “Finding work was really hard after I got out of the Navy, and I’m lucky Denver Water gave me an opportunity.”

Denver Water recognizes the difficultly veterans can have finding employment after leaving the service and explaining their job skills in a way that translates into the private sector, said Loren Robinson, a talent specialist for Denver Water. With more than 70 veterans currently on staff, Denver Water actively recruits qualified veterans for positions and supports them once they are employed.

“The military produces highly trained individuals in technology, water treatment, engineering, science and many other areas that are a great fit for many of Denver Water’s skilled positions,” said Robinson.

Montez on flight deck during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A brief moment of calm, Montez stands on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the middle of the Persian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Denver Water’s Veteran’s Network offers support during the transition into the private sector and provides the camaraderie that many miss from their military environments, he added.

Now working as a maintenance mechanic, Montez is glad Denver Water gave him a chance nine years ago to show his skills and grow his career.

“The military helped me build many life skills and instilled work ethic, teamwork and dependability in me, which has served me well at Denver Water,” he said. “Those who serve truly make a sacrifice, and I think that’s something to be proud of.”

Reflecting on his own military experience, Montez urges others to honor veterans and those currently serving in the armed forces.

“This Veterans Day, consider what you were doing when you were 18 years old, and remember that many men and women — some very young  — were on a battlefield, or out at sea, in a war, defending our country’s freedom.”

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