Archive for the ‘Water treatment’ Category

Lessons from a former Kool-Aid kid

Why drinking water between meals is a better alternative to the sugary drinks of yesterday — and today.

By Jessica Mahaffey

I was a Kool-Aid kid.

The sweet drink fueled my summertime adventures in Waterton Canyon. I remember whipping up my cousin Matt’s favorite flavor (orange) instead of my favorite (grape) because my mom insisted I be polite to guests.

But oh, how times have changed. Today’s parents are replacing pitchers of Kool-Aid with seemingly healthier options like milk, sports drinks and fruit juices.

But these “healthy” drinks can have surprisingly large amounts of sugar, a point powerfully illustrated in Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s Cavities Get Around campaign about the link between what kids are drinking and childhood tooth decay.



What’s the big deal about sugar? Dental health experts say sugar fuels cavities and impacts oral health. According to the foundation, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting more than 40 percent of kindergartners in Colorado. More than half of all children in our state will experience tooth decay by the third grade. Children in Hispanic and low-income communities — where there is mistrust of tap water — are disproportionately impacted.

“Poor oral health can set children up for a lifelong struggle,” said Wyatt Hornsby, campaign director at Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation. “It’s hard to form words, focus in school, sleep and play when you’re in pain. That’s why we’re focusing on one of the root causes of tooth decay in kids: sugar.”

How much sugar is in these drinks? More than you might think.


Beverage Serving Size (ounces) Sugar (teaspoons) Sugar (grams)
Kool-Aid 8 oz 4.4 tsp 22g
Orange Juice 8 oz 6.6 tsp 33g
Apple Juice Box 6.8 oz 4.2 tsp 21g
Grape Juice 8 oz 7.2 tsp 36g
Gatorade 8 oz 4.2 tsp 21g
Chocolate Milk 8 oz 4.8 tsp 24g


So what does this have to do with us? Water, of course.

Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation encourages parents to limit sugary drinks at home and school and serve only water between meals and at bedtime.

“Our research has shown that juices and sugary drinks are major sources of sugar for many children,” said Hornsby.  “Water, on the other hand, helps protect a child’s teeth from decay when it’s from the tap and contains fluoride.”

Consider this Kool-Aid kid reformed.

A family stops at the water trailer this summer to enjoy a cup of Denver Water. “I love water because it keeps me healthy and happy” (left). “I value water because it makes me strong” (right).


All in a day’s — or night’s — work

On the shortest day of the year, the sun sets early, but you still need water. We’ll be there.

By Kristi Delynko

Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day — and longest night — of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. And while many of us use an early sunset as an excuse to curl up on the couch with a good book or movie, some Denver Water employees will be hard at work — no matter how short the daylight hours.

Ensuring 1.4 million people receive high-quality drinking water is a 24/7 operation. Here’s a glimpse at what some of our employees will be doing long after the sun sets.

Emergency services conducts night work to repair a leak

A customer calls the emergency services dispatcher to report water bubbling up in the middle of a busy intersection. Even in the dark, members of the Emergency Services team are Denver Water’s first responders. They handle anything from shutting off water so crews can repair pipe breaks, to supporting Denver firefighters during multi-alarm blazes, to assisting customers with water quality complaints.


Daniel Ruvalcaba, senior utility technician, works on repairing an underground leak

Water mains burst when they want to, and usually at inopportune times, like when it’s dark and chilly. After Emergency Services responds to a call, a Water Distribution crew — including senior utility technician Daniel Ruvalcaba — fix the problem so customers can have water service restored as soon as possible.


Water treatment plant supervisor David Brancio

Long after many of us have gone to bed, staff at our four water treatment plants are hard at work. They gear up overnight when water use is low, to ensure the plants can meet customers’ needs during the day, when demand is higher. Our three drinking water plants and recycling plant are staffed around-the-clock by operators and maintenance personnel like water treatment plant supervisor David Brancio, who monitor the treatment processes and run lab tests to ensure the water we deliver (sometimes at the rate of 350,000 gallons a minute) meets all the federal and state regulations, and even tighter Denver Water standards.


Distribution operator Albert Geist monitors our complex water system

Coffee percolates and the dark room glows from monitors that cover entire walls in Systems Operations (also known as Load Control). Distribution operators like Albert Geist work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, scanning various computer screens to make sure our 30 treated water reservoirs, more than 3,000 miles of pipe, 160 pressure zones and 22 pump stations are ready for the morning load as our customers wake and prepare for their day. With a water system as large and complex as ours, pumps, facilities, even entire pipelines occasionally go down for service, maintenance or repair. Operators must constantly respond to alarms that signal potential real-time problems with everything from equipment and instrumentation to water quality and pressure.

We provide customers an average of 64 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water and 2 billion gallons of treated recycled water every year. No small task, but it’s all in a day’s — or night’s — work at Denver Water.

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:

Watershed: It’s not a building for storing water

Denver Water celebrates Arbor Day with a tribute to Mother Nature’s own water filtration process.

Denver Water knows firsthand the debilitating consequences forest fires can have on a watershed. In 2002, the Hayman Fire burned thousands of acres near Denver Water’s Cheesman Reservoir, as shown in this photo.

Denver Water knows firsthand the debilitating consequences forest fires can have on a watershed. In 2002, the Hayman Fire burned thousands of acres near Denver Water’s Cheesman Reservoir, as shown in this photo.

By Kristi Delynko and Steve Snyder

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.”

Hold on. No need to be confused. Despite the poetic interlude, you are still on Denver Water’s site. But it’s Arbor Day, and we want to show our appreciation for trees.

So why does a water utility care about trees (beyond the obvious reasons why most of us love trees)?

One simple word: watersheds.

Now that’s a word you don’t hear every day. And no, it’s not a temporary building for storing water.

When it rains, or when mountain snow begins to melt, gravity pulls the water downhill. The water comes together as runoff to form small streams, which connect with other streams to form a river.

As the runoff travels downhill, it may pass through forests, farmland and even commercial, industrial and urban areas. This is called a watershed, which directly impacts the quality of water that eventually gathers in Denver Water’s reservoirs, where we store water for 1.4 million people.

“People don’t realize how important a healthy forest environment in our watershed is to their water supply,” said Paula Daukas, manager of environmental planning. “It’s the first, natural filtration process our source waters see.”

Healthy trees in a watershed absorb rainfall and snowmelt, slow storm runoff, recharge aquifers, sustain stream flows and filter pollutants from the air and runoff.

But, wildfires and insect infestations can harm watersheds, which highlights the need for us to take aggressive steps to protect forest health.

We can’t exactly uproot these trees and take them to the doctor, so Denver Water scientists make house calls. (Or should we call them “forest calls”?) Either way, our medical bills are insane!

From 2010 to 2016, Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service invested more than $33 million in forest treatment and watershed protection projects in a management partnership program called, From Forests to Faucets.

“Through the From Forests to Faucets program, we’ve treated and reforested more than 40,000 acres of forestland to mitigate potential wildfires, insect infestations and restore a healthy forest — reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” said Christina Burri, Denver Water’s watershed scientist.

And because some watersheds aren’t on federal lands, Denver Water also partners with others throughout the state to maintain healthy forests on private and non-federal lands with programs like our source water protection programs.

There’s so much more to drinking water than what comes out of your tap, which is why Denver Water has a team of scientists and collaborative partnerships to ensure our watersheds are in tip-top shape.

So when you turn on the faucet to fill your glass, know you’re drinking water that was filtered largely by the forests of Colorado. Perhaps you may ponder your own poetic ode to trees, and raise your glass in gratitude to the healthy forests that make up your watersheds this Arbor Day.

Breaking down barriers, building trust

Some of our Latino customers wanted to see for themselves that our water is safe to drink. So we showed them.

By Steve Snyder

“Why should I trust you?”

It was an honest question at the beginning of an uncertain journey.

The question came from a Denver Water customer about to take a tour of our distribution system. But this wasn’t the kind of tour we typically give, where we showcase the size and complexity of our system to people who already know about — and usually trust — Denver’s water.

Community members from Westwood Unidos explore at the base of Strontia Springs dam,

Community members from Westwood Unidos explore at the base of Strontia Springs Dam.

She was with a group from Westwood Unidos, an organization that supports resident-led projects to improve community health in southwest Denver. Westwood Unidos has joined forces with the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation to encourage residents to drink more water and fewer sugary beverages.

But when it comes to tap water, that’s easier said than done in some communities. Culture can often be the barrier, contributing to an inherent distrust that the public water supply is safe to drink. Nearly all of the people on the tour still have close generational ties to Mexico, a country with a long history of water supply and water quality problems.

“People we work with don’t trust the public water supply,” said Rachel Cleaves, a community coordinator with Westwood Unidos. “They’ve been told not to drink tap water since they were kids. That means that they boil water to use in their homes, and they are spending money unnecessarily on bottled water to drink.”

“They think tap water will make them sick,” Cleaves added. “That’s understandable because in many countries it is unsafe to drink the water.”

While catchy conservation campaigns and mainstream education efforts can reach many in our service area, getting the word out to diverse audiences about water quality requires additional steps.

“Not only are there language barriers, but there are significant cultural differences as well,” said Katie Knoll, Denver Water’s manager of stakeholder relations, and one of the people who organized the tour. “When we reached out to Westwood Unidos, they told us the people in the neighborhood needed to see where their water came from and the other measures we take to make our water safe to drink.”

And see it they did. Denver Water took a group of 30 people to Strontia Springs Reservoir, where Denver Water’s source water is stored after it runs off the mountains. The next stop was the Marston Treatment Plant, so the group could get a first-hand look at how Denver Water treats the water supply before distributing it to customers.

The Westwood Unidos tour group gets an up-close look at their water supply in Strontia Springs Reservoir.

The Westwood Unidos tour group gets an up-close look at the water supply in Strontia Springs Reservoir.

At the end of the day, members of the group said they felt more informed and very grateful for the experience.

“I’m drinking tap water as soon as I get home,” one resident said confidently. “I can’t wait to tell all my friends and family.”

This tour was the first of several planned outreach efforts with culturally diverse groups in our service area.

“It’s up to us to win the trust of our customers by answering their questions and showing them how their water system works,” Knoll said.

Recycled, yes. Untreated, no.

You can’t drink it, but recycled water, twice treated, plays an ever-expanding role in Colorado’s future. 

Recycled water has successfully been used on various species of trees, plants and grasses at the Recycling Plant since it first opened in 2004.

Recycled water has successfully been used on various species of trees, plants and grasses at the Recycling Plant since it first opened in 2004.

By Travis Thompson

According to The Naked Scientists at the University of Cambridge, some of the water we drink today is the same water that dinosaurs drank 65 million years ago.

Rest assured, there is no T-Rex slobber in your drinking water — we have a state-of-art treatment process to make sure of that. But, this means all water is in fact, recycled.

So why do so many people get uneasy when they hear “recycled” and “water” used together?

Maybe it’s because the water we drink is commonly referred to as “treated water,” which seems to suggest — erroneously — that recycled water isn’t treated at all.

“This language has always bothered me because recycled water is a high-quality water source that has actually gone through two separate treatment processes,” said Russ Plakke, Denver Water’s Recycling Plant supervisor.

Recycled water isn’t treated to the same highest-quality standard we impose on our drinking water. (That’s why recycled water systems are marked with signs saying, “Don’t drink the water.”)

But did you know that today’s recycled water would have met the drinking water standards of the early 1980s? That’s the 1980s — not the 1880s.

Purple, which has become the international symbol for recycled water, is used on valve boxes, manhole covers, newer sprinkler heads and even the pipes inside our Recycling Plant.

Purple, which has become the international symbol for recycled water, is used on valve boxes, manhole covers, newer sprinkler heads and even the pipes inside our Recycling Plant, pictured here.

Recycled water has successfully helped free up drinking water supplies for more than 100 years across the country and since the early 1960s in Colorado. Once fully built-out, Denver Water’s system will supply more than five billion gallons of recycled water every year, which is water we don’t have to take from a reservoir.

It’s a big part of Colorado’s future, too. On Nov. 19, Gov. Hickenlooper unveiled Colorado’s Water Plan, a document seeking to address the state’s most difficult water challenges. From incentives and loan programs for recycled water projects to updated plumbing codes, various forms of water reuse are identified in the plan as part of the solution.

A recent op-ed penned by Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO, and Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, stressed that the water plan’s call to action won’t be easy.

And that’s certainly true for expanding the use of recycled water. One hurdle, recently highlighted by 9News and The Denver Post, is the potential impact of higher sodium levels in recycled water on non-native conifer trees.

Denver Water has been working with experts to optimize landscape management practices using recycled water since 2004, when the Recycling Plant opened.

Plakke has been using the Recycling Plant grounds as his own demonstration garden.

Healthy conifers can be found on the Recycling Plant grounds as well.

Healthy conifers — watered with recycled water — on the Recycling Plant grounds.

“Many trees and plants — especially natives — thrive with recycled water,” said Plakke. “I’ve been using recycled water on various species of trees, plants and grasses since it opened more than a decade ago, and the campus looks great!”

But sodium levels, along with location, soil type, watering schedules and weather conditions (such as drought, dry winters and hard freezes like we saw in 2014) all play a part in tree health.

“Needless to say, it’s complicated, and we still have a lot to learn,” said Plakke.

That’s why Denver Water is working with a group of experts, scientists and community members in 2016 to assess the current state of recycled water and trees. The group will determine if more testing is needed and recommend further improvements to managing this important water resource.

Plakke applauds recycled water customers for learning how to best use this source in their system — and for answering the governor’s call to help secure the future water supply of this state.


Mines draining to Denver? Not on our watch.

Contaminated waterways are in the spotlight, but what does this mean for your drinking water?

Water quality investigators gather samples all year long. Aubrey Miller (left) and James Berrier, drill through two feet of ice on the Colorado River near Kremlin to gather samples.

Water quality investigators gather samples all year long. Aubrey Miller (left) and James Berrier, drill through two feet of ice on the Colorado River near Kremlin to gather samples.

By Travis Thompson

After the Animas River vividly meandered through mountains and towns like an orange-colored serpent as a result of the Gold King Mine spill in early August, conversations ignited about abandoned mines in Colorado.

While this topic is very serious, it isn’t new. Mines have such a prominent place in our state’s history that there are tours and museums dedicated to mining’s past, including the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s replica mine shaft exhibit.

So, what does this mean for Denver Water? A recent Denver Post article could leave customers wondering about the water quality impacts from some of the mines in Denver’s watersheds. While the article accurately notes that the water treatment processes keep contaminants from impacting drinking water, there are additional reasons why your water is safe from these mines.

Zeke Campbell, Denver Water’s superintendent of water quality and treatment, explained that Denver Water’s work to provide the highest quality water begins well before it reaches the treatment plants.

“We monitor the water throughout our collection system, including in rivers, streams and reservoirs,” said Campbell. “Our water quality tests don’t detect a measurable level of contaminants from mine drainage.”

Last year, Denver Water collected more than 16,000 samples and conducted more than 60,000 tests from the mountains to customer taps.

But what if a spill were to occur within one of Denver’s watersheds?

“We’ve developed models to help us determine how long it would take a spill or leak to reach certain points within our system, and our employees are trained to stop contaminants from spreading,” said Bob Lindgren, Denver Water’s superintendent of source of supply. “We also work closely with local authorities, first responders and stakeholders to maximize the response during any issues across our water collection system.”

And, if a Gold King Mine-sized spill occurred, Lindgren said that Denver Water has some ability to move and pull water from different sources, isolating the contaminated area while continuing to provide clean water from other locations throughout the system. “Having multiple storage facilities in different watersheds, three water treatment plants and redundancy built into our distribution system provides us with additional operational flexibility.”

This flexibility is important, which is why Denver Water continues to design and build a more resilient and balanced system as an added safeguard for when emergencies occur.

“Most important, our employees are working around-the-clock to ensure we continue to deliver safe, great-tasting water directly to your tap,” said Campbell.


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