Posts Tagged ‘9News’

Early season turnaround bodes well for water supply

Despite a parched start to winter, snowpack levels are on track thanks to a snowy December and early 2017 storms.

Denver Water's Winter Park crew works around the clock to ensure facilities are accessible during snowstorms.

Denver Water’s Winter Park crew works around the clock to ensure facilities are accessible during snowstorms.

By Travis Thompson

Like carpenters, water supply managers use an assortment of tools to get the job done. But instead of tape measures and hammers, their tool boxes are filled with charts and graphs, computer models and good old-fashioned experience.

With 80 percent of Denver’s water supply coming from snowmelt, no tool is used more during the winter months than the charts showing snowpack levels in the mountains above Denver Water’s facilities.

And this year is proving to be one of the more interesting in recent memory.

With more than half of the snow season still ahead, water managers have already seen near historic lows and highs to kick off the winter.

“Our team was starting to sweat a little bit this fall — literally and figuratively — with the unseasonably warm and dry weather,” said Dave Bennett, water supply manager for Denver Water.

In late November, snowpack levels in areas feeding the streams and rivers that flow into Denver’s mountain reservoirs were only 10 percent to 20 percent of normal.

Denver Water’s reservoirs were still above average because of the good water years carried over from 2014 and 2015, as well as efficient water use in the Denver metro area.

But the dry start to winter had Denver Water planners on edge.

“I knew that a couple of good storms would have us back to normal,” said Bennett. “It was too early to panic — well, that’s what I kept telling myself at least.”

Thankfully, he was right.

On Jan. 5, water supply manager Dave Bennett talked to 9News reporter Colleen Ferreira about the improved snowpack levels in Denver Water's collection area.

On Jan. 5, water supply manager Dave Bennett talked to 9News reporter Colleen Ferreira about the improved snowpack levels in Denver Water’s collection area.

In December, Denver Water’s Colorado River basin collection area received almost double the amount of accumulation than normal, with approximately 60 inches, making it the sixth snowiest December for this area over the past four decades.

Similarly, the South Platte River basin collection area that feeds Denver’s reservoirs received approximately 40 inches of snow compared to the normal 20 inches, making it the fifth snowiest December in this location over the same 40-year time period.

Couple that with the early 2017 snowstorms, and snowpack levels are now 137 percent and 128 percent of normal in the Colorado River and South Platte River watersheds — and, it’s still snowing!

It was such a significant turn of events that Bennett was featured on 9News, talking about the importance of the recent snow, not only for water supply but also for Colorado’s greatest asset: outdoor recreation.

“I’ve never seen an early season turnaround like it,” said Bennett. “But we still have a long way to go. A lot can happen between now and spring — the months we rely on the most for snowpack are still ahead of us.”

snowpack-combined-stacked

5 DIY fall landscape tips that will save you money

Thwart costly repairs and upgrades next year with this prewinter checklist

By Travis Thompson

Remember when you were paid to do chores as a kid? Well, we found a way to make those jobs profitable again.

Follow this easy do-it-yourself checklist to avoid costly landscape and irrigation system repairs next spring, and put the money you saved back into the bank:

John Gebhart, Denver Water Conservation technician, showed 9News viewers how to protect exposed outdoor pipes and nozzles from freezing this winter.

John Gebhart, Denver Water Conservation specialist, showed 9News viewers how to protect exposed outdoor pipes and nozzles from freezing this winter.

Winterize: In 2015, Denver Water techs discovered about 80 homes with an irrigation system leak, and about half of those leaks occurred in September and October — when the nightly temperatures started to drop.

Don’t become a statistic. With freeze season underway, winterize your irrigation system now to prevent costly damage caused by frozen water left in pipes. Here are some tips from Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado on how to properly prepare your system for winter.

Don’t have a sprinkler system? You still should disconnect your hoses from the spigot before it gets too cold. If you don’t, you’re leaving your faucet and hose vulnerable to the winter conditions that could cause the pipes feeding the spigot to break.

Mow: Did you know that late-season mowing helps reduce the risk of mold and other diseases forming in your yard? There is no reason to trim your grass shorter than usual, but make sure to get in one last cut before the snow flies. This simple task may save you from having to apply a fungicide later.

Mulch: If you’re like me, raking and bagging is the fall chore I dread most. But with one easy step, you can make the job easier while benefiting your yard. Just keep the bag off your mower and mulch the leaves into the grass.

Why? According to ALCC’s tips for fall lawn care, “The mulched leaves will naturally compost into the soil, providing nutrients for the lawn.”

If you do need to collect and bag your leaves, take advantage of community leaf drop programs, like this one in Denver. (And if you have kids, don’t forget to rake the leaves into large piles to dive into first!)

Aerate: By opening up pathways for water and nutrients to move into the root zone, you’ll have a thicker and more drought-tolerant lawn without having to apply more water.

Transplant: Do you have an area that you are looking to transform into a more water-wise landscape? If so, now’s the perfect time to make the move. If you or a neighbor have established plants, splice off some sections and follow these simple steps to get your new garden off and running — for free!

 

Of course, you can always pay the kids in your neighborhood to do these chores for you and call it a wash. Either way, you’ll have a healthier landscape next spring while saving time, money and water.

Getting personal about water use

Pilot program’s water use reports offer customers insights on efficiency.

By Dana Strongin

We realize it’s easy to say changing a yard can make it more beautiful and still use less water. It’s not so easy to explain how, yet our customers prove there are plenty of appealing options.

Residents throughout our service area have achieved water-efficient results when they put beautiful, low-water landscape ideas into action — everything from native plants to entertaining spaces to vegetable gardens.

This summer, homeowners in the Park Hill area are receiving personalized outdoor water use reports as part of a pilot program that 9News anchor Kyle Clark featured in June.

ben-tracy-soren

Ben Dinsmore and his wife, Tracy, and son, Soren, ditched their front lawn in favor of a vegetable garden after moving to Park Hill two years ago.

They are learning how their water use compares with what is considered efficient, as well as with neighbors who have similar-sized yards.

Denver Water’s conservation department decided to focus on the Park Hill neighborhood because homeowners there are using more water on landscapes than other neighborhoods in its service area. More than 40 percent of the homes are exceeding the efficiency target of 12 gallons per irrigated square foot annually.

The program tests homeowners’ response to individualized feedback on water use.

“This is taking Use Only What You Need to the next level by providing customers with customized information about the water needs of their property,” said Mark Cassalia, Denver Water conservation specialist.

“This isn’t just about focusing on customers using too much water,” said Phill Segura, a conservation analyst who helped develop the pilot program. “The great thing about this effort is that a lot of the customers receiving the letters are getting a pat on the back, because we’re able to show them they’re using water efficiently. We want to celebrate that great work.”

veggies-and-plants-2

Dinsmore’s raised garden beds are proof that veggies can be both beautiful and bountiful.

While a detailed evaluation of the program’s impact on behavior change will begin in January, Cassalia said they’ve learned from talking with customers in the program that the letters help them understand how much they should be watering their lawns.

In addition, Denver Water is highlighting homeowners with inspiring yards who use water efficiently. Our Water Savers cruised the streets last summer in search of customer landscapes that are beautiful, functional and water-use efficient — everything we thought anyone could want. We enjoyed some extra delight when we learned that one of our favorites belonged to a fellow Denver Water employee, Ben Dinsmore, a GIS technician.

The conservation team plans to continue this pilot and test additional strategies in 2017 to advance Denver Water’s understanding about effective ways to help customers use water efficiently.

‘Twas the night of the Parade of Lights

Follow us into the whimsical world of Denver’s biggest holiday tradition.

By Jimmy Luthye

 

‘Twas the night of the Parade of Lights, and all through Denver Water,

Not a creature was stirring, except for a running toilet.

 

The garland was hung with glitter displayed,

In hopes it wouldn’t fall off during the parade.

 

The toilet was finally ready at long last,

It sprang from the elevator and ran very fast.

 

Denver was the scene to be seen far and near,

The toilet made many friends and spread holiday cheer.

 

It stretched out its legs and got ready to go,

But not before checking out Denver Water’s super neat float.

 

“From mountain to tap, it’s all connected,” it said,

As team Denver Water prepared for the long journey ahead.

 

On your marks, get set, GO — the Parade of Lights had begun!

Right then, running toilet knew, this was going to be fun.

 

Onward and onward, the parade picked up steam,

Running toilet was just thrilled to be part of this team.

 

After the parade, running toilet met many fans,

They gave toilet hugs and shook toilet hands.

 

They heard running toilet say, as he ran away in a rush,

Happy holidays to all, and to all, a good flush!

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.

 

Does your water bill seem high? You’re not alone.

 There’s a lot of chatter out there about ‘unusually high’ water bills. We found out why.

By Travis Thompson

Water bills seem to be the talk of the town.

Neighbors are complaining about higher-than-normal water bills in community forums like Nextdoor and Facebook. There have even been news stories on the topic, including one from 9News last week featuring one of our customers.

Many people along the Front Range are asking, “Why is my bill so high?”

It’s a fair question. And since we’re your water department, it’s on us to give you a fair answer. Here’s what we learned:

Stacy - through Sep 2015

Real customer’s water use through September.

Water bills were significantly higher this September compared to last September. Why?

Short answer: The weather.

Your water bill includes a chart detailing your water use, month-by-month, for the past year. Look at September 2014; it was an abnormally low water-use month. In fact, September 2014 saw the second-lowest total treated water volume since 1976 for that month. (September 2013, with its historic rain, ranked first.)

But 2015 was different. We had record rainfall in the spring, and customers used a lot less water than normal. In fact, single family residential water use was down 51 percent in June and 36 percent in July from our 2008-2013 baseline averages. See our story, “Water, water everywhere.”

In August, water use remained slightly below average. Then September and October arrived, and were much warmer than normal — September was even the warmest on record. Because of this, single family residential customer water use rose 6 percent and 23 percent from the average for those months.

And if you actually compare this September with September 2014, single family residential water use was 44 percent higher.

Higher water use, higher water bill.

But some customers apparently aren’t buying the weather explanation. On social media, some said they thought their water meters weren’t working. So we checked on that, too.

We read the meters all the time, and we’ll actually stop by your home and examine your meter if you think there’s an issue. Our testing and routine maintenance on our meters shows that less than 1 percent of them fail.

Even if there are issues with the automatic reader on your meter, like a dead battery or faulty wiring, the meter will continue to read consumption, and we can use that to get the correct reading.

In September, 160 customers reported higher-than-normal water bills. Here’s what our investigation turned up:

  • We found a water leak in 65 of these homes. Leaks will drive up your bill. Of those, we found 29 toilet leaks and 26 leaks in the irrigation system.
  • Another 31 customers were simply running their sprinkler systems too long. We urged them to use this tool to create a zone-by-zone schedule and dial-in their irrigation requirements.
  • Many of the homes had old, inefficient fixtures, and we helped customers make simple, water-saving upgrades. You’d be surprised what you save by replacing toilet flappers, showerheads and faucet aerators, not to mention Denver Water’s rebate program for upgrading to qualifying WaterSense-labeled toilets.

In many cases, we discovered multiple factors for higher bills, but all of them were easy fixes to get the customer back on the right track. If you think your bill is too high, you can conduct your own self-audit.

Stacy - through Oct 2015

Same customer’s water use through October.

 OK, so when will it get better?

Water bills will soon return to normal, but we’re not out of the woods quite yet.

This month, you’ll be receiving your water bills reflecting October use. Because October was warm, many customers didn’t winterize their irrigation systems when they typically would, thus extending the watering season. So for many customers, those October bills will also reflect a higher water use than the year before.

Fortunately, the snow is here and watering season is over, which will create a more stable bill reflecting only indoor water use.

One last thought

While some of the conversations we saw on social media weren’t exactly positive about Denver Water, we’re actually happy to see that customers are looking at their bills and paying close attention to their water use.

After all, understanding your own water use is a great way to help you realize how efficiently you are using our most precious resource — or what you can do better.

Interested in learning more about your own water history? Register through Denver Water Online and view up to two years of your water use.

Just make sure to factor in the weather.

 

 

 

A tale of two tunnels: How the Moffat Tunnel conquered the divide

The water tunnel is the pilot bore next to the famous railroad tunnel, pictured here in 1956.

The water tunnel runs parallel to the famous railroad tunnel, pictured here in 1956.

A tale of two tunnels: How the Moffat Tunnel conquered the divide 

The Moffat Tunnel changed the way Denver Water provided a reliable water supply to its earliest customers.

By Steve Snyder

This week, 9News and History Colorado provided a historical perspective on the Moffat Tunnel. Eighty-seven years ago, that tunnel changed the way railroad travelers traversed the Continental Divide. But the Moffat Tunnel would provide groundbreaking implications when it came to water delivery as well.

In the early 1920s, the Denver Water Board (as Denver Water was called then) was a fledgling utility searching for additional water to serve a growing city. The water provider had already secured additional water rights from Colorado’s West Slope, but getting that water over the Continental Divide and into existing infrastructure was problematic. Necessity would soon meet innovation.

As David Moffat’s railroad company started construction of a tunnel to provide fast train service through the Rocky Mountains, it also bored a parallel tunnel to be used by their workers to access the main tunnel each day. Denver Water Board members saw potential in that access tunnel, envisioning that it could be reconfigured to bring water from the Fraser River on the West Slope to Denver Water’s South Platte River system on the Front Range.

Workers pose for a photo in the Moffat water tunnel in this 1930 photo.

Workers pose for a photo in the Moffat water tunnel in this 1930 photo.

In 1922, that dream became reality when the Colorado Legislature created the Moffat Tunnel Improvement District and Commission to oversee the project. Workers completed the parallel tunnel and partially lined it by June of 1936, and the first waves of water flowed through. Following the severe drought of 1950, the tunnel was enlarged again, and lining was completed in 1958. Initially, the federal government owned the tunnel and leased it back to Denver Water. After 30 years, the tunnel became Denver Water’s property.

Denver Water still relies on the Moffat water tunnel today. The 6.2-mile tunnel can deliver up to 100,000 acre-feet of water a year, providing an important source of water for Denver Water customers. The Moffat Tunnel and its parallel bore are engineering marvels — a credit to the foresight of Denver Water’s founding fathers.*

 

*Information for this article came from Patricia Nelson Limerick’s book A Ditch in Time – The City the West and Water.

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