Posts Tagged ‘Denver Water’

Passion for the river

When it comes to the Colorado River and Denver Water, it’s all connected

By Travis Thompson

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

This rings true for Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. Even though he has touched every section of the 1,450-mile Colorado River, it’s never from the same perspective. As a river master and scholar, Jim spends much of his free time rafting the rapids and sleeping next to the banks. As a lawyer and water manager, his 30-year career has been dedicated to water in the West, centered upon myriad issues along the mighty Colorado River.

Because the river flows west from the Rocky Mountains, its course doesn’t touch the city of Denver. But with half of Denver Water’s supply coming from the Colorado River Basin, Jim’s connection to the river remains steadfast.

When Jim speaks about his passion for the river, it’s easy to see how it’s all connected:


The intersection of professional dedication and personal passion for water persists throughout Denver Water. Like for Laurna Kaatz, Denver Water’s climate scientist:


And Dave Bennett, water resource manager at Denver Water:

Getting the lead out when we find it

Since March, Denver Water has replaced more than 260 lead service lines found during our construction work.

By Jay Adams

The Postal Service delivers mail to your mailbox. The power company sends electricity to your meter. And Denver Water provides safe drinking water to your service line, which connects our water main to your home.

Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Rubalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.

Denver Water foreman, Johnny Roybal, overlooks Steve Foster (left) and Daniel Ruvalcaba as they work to replace a lead service line.

There are nearly 200,000 service lines connected to Denver Water’s elaborate system of water mains, which run beneath the metro area. Some of those service lines are made of lead, and this can create a health risk if the lead leaches into your drinking water.

Service lines are owned and maintained by property owners, not Denver Water. And that’s the challenge, we don’t know which homes have service lines made of lead.

This is why Denver Water is taking a proactive approach to remove lead service lines from the community. Since early March, we’ve already replaced more than 260 service lines.

Simply put, if we find a lead service line in the course of our construction work, we will replace it with a new copper service line, all the way from the water main to your home.

The replacement work can happen when we’re repairing water main breaks and leaks, as well as during our regularly scheduled pipe replacement and rehabilitation projects.

If we are not working near your house and you are concerned about the possibility of lead in your water, here’s what you should do:

  • Request a free lead sampling kit from Denver Water to determine if water from your faucet contains lead.
  • If lead is discovered in your water, contact a licensed plumber to inspect your house to see if you have a lead service line or plumbing that might contain lead. In Denver Water’s experience, we typically find lead service lines at properties built in the mid-1950s and earlier.
  • A licensed plumber can also replace your lead service line with a copper service line.
  • If replacing your line isn’t an affordable option, visit to learn about other ways you can protect your family from lead risks, including details on specialized filters.

For more information on lead in water or to request a free lead sampling kit, call 303-893-2444 or visit

Time to weigh in on Denver’s famous ditch

Open houses give the public a chance to share ideas on protecting, preserving and enhancing the High Line Canal.

By Jay Adams

Here’s your chance to be a visionary, just like the Denver pioneers who dreamed of bringing water to the dry plains of Denver after the Gold Rush of 1859.

That earlier vision produced the High Line Canal, a 71-mile irrigation ditch built in 1883 that begins at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and ends on the plains northeast of Denver.

Today, the canal and its trails are one of Denver’s most cherished recreational assets, even as its use as a water delivery system has given way to new technologies and homes instead of farms.

The evolution of the canal is why Denver Water is teaming up with the High Line Canal Conservancy to develop a master plan.

You can share your ideas about the future of the historic canal and its greenway at three community open houses held July 20 and 21, sponsored by the Conservancy.

A jogger runs past a flume used to carry the High Line Canal over Lee Gulch in Littleton.

A jogger runs past a flume used to carry the High Line Canal over Lee Gulch in Littleton.

“We’re looking for blue-sky ideas,” said Harriet Crittenden LeMair, the Conservancy’s executive director. “We want the public to think broadly, think creatively, and help us come up with a vision that preserves, protects and enhances the canal.”

People who use the High Line Canal should take advantage of this opportunity, added Tom Roode, Denver Water director of Operations and Maintenance. “We want the public to weigh in and say what they want the canal and the corridor to look like in the future.”

Creating a long-term vision for the canal is no easy task.

Denver Water purchased the canal in 1924 and still uses it today to transport un-treated water to about 70 customers. Instead of supporting farms and ranches, customers today use the water for landscaping and irrigation needs.

High Line pkg 6.00_00_19_25.Still003

The High Line Canal near Chatfield Reservoir. The canal loses around 70 percent of its water to seepage into the ground.

While the canal was considered an engineering marvel in 1883, it’s no longer an efficient means of delivering water. About 70 percent of the water sent down the canal seeps into the ground before it makes it to customers.

Denver Water’s mission is to deliver water to our customers in an environmentally efficient way and that applies to how we manger the canal,” Roode said. “We have to assess how we use the canal in the future while taking into account our customers and its important role in the community.”

Water delivery, trail maintenance, developing new uses and creating a sustainable greenway are all part of the discussion for Denver Water, the Conservancy, the public and the 11 communities that border the canal.

“We’re in the visioning process and the sky’s the limit,” Crittenden LaMair said. “It’s only with input from the public that we can truly reflect the needs of all the communities along the canal.”

In addition to this week’s meetings, the Conservancy will hold similar open houses in September and October. This month’s meetings are:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 20, at Expo Recreation Center, 10955 E. Exposition Ave., Aurora.
  • 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 20, at Eloise May Library, 1471 S. Parker Rd., Denver.
  • 4 to 8 p.m., Thursday, July 21, at Eisenhower Recreation Center, 4300 E. Dartmouth Ave., Denver.

Find out more about the High Line Canal Conservancy at

Floatin’ on the 4th: Making waves on the Blue River

Dillon Reservoir’s water managers help extend the whitewater rafting season while meeting customer needs downstream.  

By Jay Adams



Nothing says Fourth of July in Colorado like a day of rafting on a mountain river. Paddling through rapids is as much a tradition in our state as fireworks, hot dogs and apple pie.

Our nation’s birthday is one of the busiest days of the year for whitewater rafting. But there’s no rafting without rapids — and that’s where Dillon Reservoir comes in.

With a capacity of 257,304 acre feet, Dillon Reservoir in Summit County is Denver Water’s largest storage site, supplying 30 percent of Denver’s water. Water managers work to balance the demands of Denver customers while supporting the recreational economy on the Blue River and Dillon Reservoir.

“In the spring and early summer, Denver Water carefully manages outflows from Dillon Reservoir,” said Cindy Brady, water resource engineer at Denver Water. “We try to provide reliable and predictable rafting flows on the Blue River below Dillon Dam.”

Whitewater rafting through the spectacular alpine scenery beneath The Eagles Nest Wilderness area on the Blue River. Photo courtesy of Performance Tours Whitewater Rafting.

Whitewater rafting through the spectacular alpine scenery beneath The Eagles Nest Wilderness area on the Blue River. Photo courtesy of Performance Tours Whitewater Rafting.

In years with above-normal mountain snowpack, water planners gradually increase the outflow from Dillon to make room for the spring runoff that fills the reservoir. The approach minimizes high water through the town of Silverthorne and helps extend the rafting season.

“Instead of having a really high flow early on and then having it drop to an unraftable level, Denver Water manages the water so we have optimum flows as long as possible,” said Kevin Foley, president of Performance Tours Whitewater Rafting, sending rafters down class 3 whitewater trips on the Blue River for 30 years.

As Dillon Reservoir’s recreational role grew, Denver Water began working closely with Summit County and the rafting community to manage the river flows. “We work with the whitewater industry to understand their flow needs and communicate to them what to expect each year,” Brady said.

The best flows for rafting are when the river is running between 1,100 and 1,400 cubic feet per second, Foley said. “Knowing how much water is coming down is incredibly important when we plan our rafting season,” he said.

Outflows from Dillon Dam into the Blue River reached their highest level of the season at 1,490 cubic feet per second on June 15 and are expected to drop as the runoff slows and outdoor watering picks up in Denver.

“It’s a constant balancing act,” Brady said. “We always try to meet the interests of everyone to enhance the recreational experience.”

A message in a bottle

History behind Perrier’s ad campaign feat highlights some of our favorite messages.

Perrier began advertising in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Photo credit: Erik Charlton, Flickr Creative Commons

Perrier began advertising in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Photo credit: Erik Charlton, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sabrina Hall

Perrier is often synonymous with bottled water, and understandably so — after launching an advertising campaign in the late 1970s, Perrier’s success kicked off a new beverage trend that has only grown since then. It’s projected that by the end of this year or early next year, Americans will drink more bottled water than soda.

So it piqued our interest when we saw a recent article about Perrier’s historic ad campaign, “The ad campaign that convinced Americans to pay for water.” This article highlights some of our favorite messages.

  1. As we’ve explained to Jay Z, and despite the article’s title, water isn’t free. Perrier and other bottled water companies sell bottled water that costs up to 2,000 times more than tap water. Denver Water customers pay an average of less than $3 for 1,000 gallons of water. While tap water is a bargain to say the least, utilities must operate vast collection, treatment and distribution systems to deliver this water. It’s not free.
  2. The bottled vs. tap debate usually includes a lot of misinformation, especially when it comes to water quality and price. Last year, an opinion piece in The Washington Post about the lack of trust in drinking fountains spurred a Twitter chat on the benefits that safe, affordable tap water provide to the community.
  3. Forty-five percent of all bottled water in the U.S. comes from the tap. Every so often a story comes along expressing shock that bottled water companies use tap water as the source. We don’t see this as a scandalous topic, as we proudly supply safe, high-quality drinking water to more than 1.4 million people.
  4. Ad campaigns can change behavior around water. Perrier’s campaign changed how people consume water, and created a massive new market. Denver Water’s Use Only What You Need campaign successfully achieved a goal on the other end of the spectrum — customers reduced their water use by more than 20 percent in the last 15 years.

In the early 1900s, Perrier supplied Buckingham Palace with “the champagne of waters.” At the same time, across the pond, Denver Water was planning and developing a complex water system to serve a growing population. Fast-forward 100 years, and we’d like to think we also are serving the champagne of water. Our source, after all, is champagne powder.

Fillin’ Dillon: Reservoir hits 84-billion gallon mark

Managing our biggest storage site is a balancing act of water needs, recreation and river flows.

By Jay Adams



Dillon Reservoir in Summit County filled to capacity early Monday morning, a welcome sight on both sides of the Continental Divide.

“Seeing it fill is always a relief,” said Cindy Brady, water resource engineer. “Dillon is a huge part of our water supply, so when it’s full, it means we had a good snow year.”

Dillon is Denver Water’s largest storage reservoir, capable of holding 257,304 acre-feet of water. That’s nearly 84 billion gallons or enough to fill 80 Mile High Stadiums. Dillon has hit its high mark all but nine times since it first filled in 1965.

The Blue River basin, which feeds Dillon Reservoir, also provides an average of 30 percent of Denver’s annual water supply, enough water for 320,000 homes every year.

Ten Mile Creek is one of three tributaries that drain into Dillon Reservoir.

Ten Mile Creek is one of three tributaries that drain into Dillon Reservoir.

The reservoir hit its capacity elevation of 9,017 feet above sea level on June 20, thanks to above-normal snowpack this past winter combined with efficient water use in the Denver metro area. The mountain snow runoff reached its highest point on June 11, when water from the three tributaries poured 2,048 cubic feet per second of water into the reservoir.

To put that in perspective, imagine a wall of 2,048 basketballs rolling into the river every second.


Denver Water built Dillon in 1963 to ensure Denver had an adequate water supply for its growing population, but the reservoir’s role has grown in the past five decades.

“Our primary goal is to fill the reservoir every year,“ Brady said. “Over the years we’ve built partnerships with the community to balance mountain snowpack and customer demand in Denver with boating on Dillon and river flows downstream.”

And that makes Dillon one of Denver Water’s most complex reservoirs to manage.

Dillon and Frisco Marinas adjust to Dillon Reservoir's changing water levels every summer.

Dillon and Frisco Marinas adjust to Dillon Reservoir’s changing water levels every summer.

“What happens in Denver has a direct correlation with Dillon’s water level,” Brady said. “If water demand goes up in Denver, more water has to be diverted under the Continental Divide to the Front Range.”

Water managers also try to minimize the impact of high water below Dillon Dam in the town of Silverthorne by regulating how much water they release from the reservoir during high springtime flows.

On June 11, outflow from the dam into the Blue River reached 1,490 cubic feet per second, without any issues or concern along the river.

Coordinating downstream water rights, maintaining a quality fish habitat and providing stable rafting flows are also taken into account in Dillon’s operating plan.

“It’s important to work with the Summit County community,” Brady said. “It’s good for us to understand their needs and it’s important that, if we can’t meet their needs, they understand why.”

Denver Water’s goal is to keep the reservoir as close to full as possible through Labor Day, but maintaining that level is dependent on weather conditions, water use in Denver and other factors.

For example, during the drought year of 2003, Denver Water pulled 162,000 acre-feet of water from Dillon through the Roberts Tunnel. The reservoir dropped to 35 feet below capacity on April 27, 2013.

Frisco Marina in Sept. 2012, shows the impact of drought and demand on Dillon Reservoir.

Frisco Marina in Sept. 2012, shows the impact of drought and demand on Dillon Reservoir.

But in 2015, after a wet spring and summer in Denver, customers let Mother Nature do the watering for them and water managers only needed 19,400 acre-feet of water from the reservoir. The reservoir filled on July 1, and remained full through Sept. 12.

“People think managing water is easy, but’s it’s really a complex matrix,” said Bob Evans, manager of the Dillon Marina. “Tourists from around the world travel here to see this place. That’s why it’s so important to work together to manage and protect this valuable resource.”

Conservation, coming to a neighborhood near you

The Water Savers offer tips and gentle reminders to residents who might be using a bit more than they need.

Water Saver Joel Hernandez, provides a customer with Denver Water’s free Water Wise Landscape Handbook with tips and tools to reduce your water use and maintain a stunning yard.

Water Saver Joel Hernandez provides a customer with Denver Water’s free Water Wise Landscape Handbook, with tips and tools to reduce water use and maintain a stunning yard.

By Tyler St. John

Facing drought conditions, the San Antonio Water Service is taking aggressive steps to conserve water by calling out the area’s top 100 residential water users.

The list shows names, exact water usage and sometimes the neighborhood of the biggest users. Added up, those 100 residences used 108 million gallons last year.

Whatever you think about that approach, the list certainly raises awareness. On top of it, San Antonio runs an array of other programs with tips on how to avoid waste.

Like Texas, Colorado is no stranger to the need to talk to customers about drought. Efforts to limit water waste and enforcement during these dry times date back to the 1930s — when a Special Inspections Division was created.

Fast forward to the drought of 2002, when field technician Jim Rael helped create the 21st-century team who worked tirelessly to write drought violations in an attempt to drastically reduce water use.

“We had to make sure everyone behaved and did what they had to do,” said Rael.

Their efforts worked and customers cut back enough to make it through the drought. Two years later the patrol took on a new name — Water Savers — and adopted a completely different approach.

A 2016 Water Saver vehicle.

A 2016 Water Saver vehicle.

“We are no longer patrolling to catch people,” said Jodi Johnson, who oversees this year’s team of seven Water Savers. “We want to get into the streets and the parks to educate our customers, not punish them.”

Water Savers can issue fines if a customer repeatedly wastes water, but they rarely need to take that step. Despite responding to 400 first-time violations in 2015, the team only had to come back for 28 second violations — without issuing a single fine.

The savers come equipped with the ability to look up individual water consumption history and review irrigation control settings right on the spot. In addition to responding to calls from neighbors and concerned members of the community, they canvas neighborhoods, knocking on doors to provide water-saving tips and tools.

Armed with a smile and a free water nozzle, Joel Hernandez is embarking on this third summer as a Water Saver. In a single day he may provide a water audit, chat with a customer working in her garden and respond to reports of daytime watering, broken sprinkler heads and other violations to the watering rules.

“It’s good to interact with customers and give them little bits of information they didn’t know about,” said Hernandez.

If you notice any significant water waste, or are curious about your own water use, call the Water Savers at 303-893-2444, or use our online form.


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