Posts Tagged ‘Denver Water’

Not your average pledge drive: A revival on the river

Denver Water and Greenway Foundation team up to provide more water for fishing, farmers and fun on the South Platte.

By Steve Snyder

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead announces a pledge drive for storage space in the Chatfield environmental pool at a Greenway Foundation event.

Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead announces a pledge drive to add storage space in the Chatfield environmental pool at The Greenway Foundation’s Reception on the River event.

Denver, Colorado: the city by the river.

OK, nobody has ever actually said that. Denver isn’t known as “a river town,” like some other U.S. cities.

But Denver does have a storied history with one river in particular — the South Platte River. After all, it’s where the city was founded. Since then, the South Platte has been an important water source, a unique recreational amenity and occasionally, a devastating force of nature.

But the South Platte also has had its share of environmental and water quality challenges. So when Denver Water saw an opportunity to improve the overall environment of the river, particularly through the Denver Metro area, we jumped at the chance.

“Having a healthy, vibrant river running through our city offers so many benefits,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “It helps the environment, encourages recreation and ultimately supports agricultural interests downstream. We all benefit from a healthy South Platte River.”

That’s the goal of an agreement between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. As part of the mitigation portion of the Chatfield Reallocation Project — a project allowing the flood-control reservoir to store additional water supply — the two agencies will create an environmental pool of water at Chatfield, to increase the South Platte’s flows through Metro Denver.

They have designated 1,600 acre-feet of reservoir storage for the pool, but there is room for more. And Denver Water wants to make that pool even bigger, in a partnership with The Greenway Foundation.

“We’re doing a pledge drive of sorts,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager at Denver Water. “We have committed nearly $2 million to purchase 250 acre-feet of storage space in Chatfield — if The Greenway Foundation can raise the funds necessary to match that amount.

“If the fundraising is successful, it would create an additional 500 acre-feet of storage in the environmental pool to benefit the South Platte flows,” he added.

The South Platte River running through Confluence Park in Denver.

The South Platte River running through Confluence Park in Denver.

The additional acre-feet would provide three major benefits:

  • Water released through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s fish hatchery at Chatfield Reservoir would help grow fish for stocking purposes.
  • Timing of releases would increase river flows, benefitting fish and recreation.
  • Water would eventually be reused by agriculture downstream of Denver.

“This is a unique opportunity to secure water to benefit the South Platte River in our city,” said Lochhead. “This opportunity won’t come again, so we need others to join our efforts.”

The price for purchasing an acre-foot of storage in the environmental pool is $7,500. Interested parties should visit the Greenway Foundation’s website.

The “trails” and tribulations of Waterton Canyon

Why this wild retreat next to the city is such a great attraction — and why we’ve so often had to close its gates.

Crews work on the new High Line Canal diversion dam last spring before high water flooded the site.

Crews work on the new High Line Canal diversion dam last spring before high water flooded the site, resulting in the need to return this fall to finish the project.

By Travis Thompson

With school starting and pools closing, Labor Day weekend is considered the unofficial end of summer.

This year, it also marks the end of weekday recreation in Waterton Canyon for about three months.

Recreationists will only be able to access the trail on the weekends while construction crews inhabit the canyon during the week. Read more about the 2016 fall construction impacts here.

With more than 100,000 visitors a year, it’s no secret that Waterton Canyon is one of the most popular outdoor recreation amenities for Coloradans and tourists alike. But as a key Denver Water operational facility, the attributes that make this canyon so great can also lead to unexpected closures.

Let’s take a look at some of the ups and downs of this special place.

Why it’s great: Well-maintained trail for hikers, bikers and horseback riders

The road for Denver Water employees to access the canyon facilities and Strontia Springs Reservoir doubles as the canyon trail for recreationists. Because this is a vital road for our operational crews, it’s always well maintained, providing optimal conditions for a family-friendly hiking and biking experience.

Challenge: As a working facility, there are times when infrastructure and maintenance projects create unsafe conditions for the public, prompting us to close trail access.

Why it’s great: A scenic mountain experience without having to venture far from the city

Within minutes of starting the 6.5-mile hike up the canyon, visitors are engulfed in nature, losing sight of the Denver suburbs that are right around the corner. And as the South Platte River cascades along the canyon path, the echoes of the flows bounce off the valley walls, providing an escape from the everyday din of the city.

Challenge: Environmental conditions can change quickly in the canyon. During dry times, forest fires can spark in the area. When it floods, the beautiful winding river trail turns into a hazard, as high waters ascend the river banks. In either extreme, one thing is certain: the canyon gates will be locked.

Why it’s great: The wildlife experience

The canyon is home to rattlesnakes, bighorn sheep, bears and more than 40 species of birds.

Challenge: The wildlife is a highlight for visitors, but the animals are exactly that — wild. As we learned with last year’s bear situation, there are times when it’s necessary to keep the public out of nature’s way.


We love Waterton as much as you — for its natural beauty as well as its vitality to delivering our customers water.

When the construction crews move out and it’s safe for hikers and bikers to rush back in, we’ll reopen the canyon for weekday use.

But there will come a time when we’ll have to close it again. So when we do, know that it’s done to maintain a safe environment for the recreational users and workers who share the canyon.

Looking to branch out during the closure and find other recreational opportunities? See what some other Denver Water facilities have to offer:


Contributing: Jamie Reddig

Are you smarter than an elementary schooler?

A kid’s perspective on all things water-bottle related.

By Steve Snyder

Kids are heading back to class, and water bottles are now a must-have school supply. We asked some elementary school kids at the Denver Green School what they know about what’s in their water bottles.


The first question was obvious: What’s in your water bottle?

“Water,” said Matteo Reen, stating the obvious answer.

“Sometimes we put juice in it,” Jasmyn Fisher said with a giggle.

“I don’t put anything in it,” Zach Kim said. “I just drink the water.”

But do the kids know how much water they actually drink?

“Maybe like a gallon,” said Xena Flemister as she smiled.

Paul Cunha went bigger. “Two gallons,” he said proudly.

“Two, three or four bottles,” Matthew Lufkin added.

But none could outdo Lizzy Valdez.

“One time, I drank three bottles, all in a row without stopping,” she said. “I was soooo thirsty!”

How about the taste?

“It’s kinda weird, but I like the taste of water,” Xena said. “It’s not really a flavor, but it tastes so good.”

“It tastes like nothing,” Gisel Martinez said, summing things up quite well.

Now for a tricky one. What is water is made of?

“Liquid?” asked Julius Jackson, after pondering the questions for a moment.

“Liquid and … uh … air?”  Yonas Wassen asked, sounding only slightly more certain.

“Liquid and … I don’t remember the other things,” Paul confessed. He sounded a bit disappointed in himself.

We ended with an easy one: What do the kids like most about water?

“Water fights,” Matthew said with a bit of uncertainty, perhaps for fear a teacher or parent might be listening.

“It’s healthy for me and gives me energy,” Yonas joyfully told us.

And Zach summed things up better than we possible could have.

“Because it’s good for me,”  he said, proving to be wise beyond his years.

Cheesman Dam: Happy trout, reliable water supply

Century-old workhorse dam keeps the water flowing and the temperatures just right for great fishing.

By Jay Adams

Water travels a maze-like path on the way to your faucet: from mountain snow to high-country streams, through reservoirs, dams and canyons.

Denver pioneers developed the elaborate delivery system as far back as the late 1800s, and today’s water managers know how to get additional benefits from every drop brought into the city.

Southwest of Denver, Cheesman Canyon is one example of how careful planning can get water to the tap while sustaining one of the state’s top trout fisheries along the way.

The mid-level jet valve serves as a backup water release and helps fine tune river temperatures below Cheesman Dam.

The mid-level jet valve serves as a backup water release and helps fine tune river temperatures below Cheesman Dam.

Denver Water uses a special feature at Cheesman Dam to help manage the temperature of the South Platte River at various times of the year.

Completed in 1905, Cheesman has three ways to release water from the reservoir: a spillway on the top, a mid-level release with a jet valve and valves at the bottom.

The mid-level valve’s primary function is to serve as a backup system to send water to treatment plants downstream when the main valves at the bottom need repairs.

“The jet valve is critical to the dam’s operations,” said Dave Bennett, water resource engineer. “We can also use it to warm up the river when it’s cold, or cool it down if it gets too warm for the fish.”

Fly Fishing guide Pat Dorsey shows off a rainbow trout in Cheesman Canyon.

Fly fishing guide Pat Dorsey shows off a rainbow trout in Cheesman Canyon.

“Water temperature is a huge component for a healthy fishery,” said Pat Dorsey, a long-time fishing guide on the South Platte River. “The healthiest temperature for rainbow and brown trout is between 50 and 60 degrees.”

Keeping the water in the optimum temperature range is good for fish metabolism and improves their ability to spawn, Bennett said.

Each level of the reservoir has a different water temperature. When water goes over the dam’s spillway, the temperature can top 60 degrees. The water released through the jet valve 60 feet below the surface is in the 50-degree range, and water from the bottom of the reservoir is in the 40s.

“What we try to do is blend those temperatures together to create the best environment for the fish,” Bennett said. “Temperatures in the 50s also trigger insects to hatch, providing food for the trout.”

Rainbow and brown trout are healthiest in 50 to 60 degree water.

Rainbow and brown trout are healthiest in 50 to 60 degree water.

Adding environmental factors into water delivery requires careful coordination between Denver Water’s planning division and Cheesman Dam operators. It’s a balance that involves juggling demand for water in the city, reservoir levels and dam maintenance with the appropriate time of year and conditions for the fishery.

Denver Water also has the ability to manage temperatures along the South Platte River at Eleven Mile Canyon Dam and coordinates stream flows with Aurora’s Spinney Mountain Reservoir to improve trout habitat through Eleven Mile Canyon. 

Denver Water manages water temperatures according to the South Platte Protection Plan, a cooperative regional project designed to protect and enhance the river.

“Healthy fish make for ideal fishing conditions,” Dorsey said. “That’s why this canyon is on every fisherman’s bucket list.”

Rain drops keep falling in my barrel

Legalization of rain barrels saves water while teaching us how to operate our own water systems.

By Jimmy Luthye and Jamie Reddig

In case you haven’t heard, rain barrels are now legal in Colorado. As of Aug. 10, 2016, Coloradans can use up to two 55-gallon rain barrels per household.

Now, rain barrels certainly won’t solve everything when it comes to Colorado’s water supply gap. They simply can’t store enough water to make a huge difference. But every drop counts in a geographic area with a climate as unpredictable as Colorado’s.

And just as important as the water saved is the education rain barrels provide. Indeed, using rain barrels equates in many ways to managing and operating your very own, fun-sized water system, complete with rooftop watersheds, downspout rivers and tunnels, barrels-turned-reservoirs and garden hose pipelines.

Check out our infographic to illustrate the metaphor and show how you can learn to manage a water system of your own. And for even more information about how to get started, the Colorado Division of Water Resources has you covered.

Now all we need is some more rain!



Working in tandem

Water resource engineer, Nathan Elder, brings the beauty of bicycling to the visually impaired.

Nathan Elder and Susan Gengler, former administrative assistant in the Planning Department for Denver Water, in front of Union Station after a ride from the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton, along the South Platte.

Nathan Elder and Susan Gengler, former administrative assistant in the Planning Department for Denver Water, in front of Union Station after a ride along the South Platte River.

By Kristi Delynko

For Nathan Elder, nothing beats cruising the South Platte bike trail, or racing around the 50 miles of trails surrounding Dillon Reservoir, feeling the wind in his face and seeing the beauty surrounding him.

And sometimes, he takes someone with him.

Elder, a water resource engineer at Denver Water, volunteers for Eyecycle, a not-for-profit volunteer run organization that pairs sighted riders with visually impaired and blind adults on tandem bikes.

“I love riding, and it’s great to be able to share that experience with someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to ride outside,” Elder said. “It’s great to see the stokers – the riders in the back – get outside in the fresh air and enjoy themselves.

“Many of them cycle inside on stationary bikes, so being able to help them get outside to ride is really rewarding,” he said.

Elder joined Eyecycle about five years ago, when he came across their booth at a Denver Century Ride event. He now serves as the organization’s vice president, focusing his energy not only on leading rides, but also on recruiting volunteers, performing bike maintenance and helping the organization raise funds.

He’s a master of mountain and road bikes, but before joining Eyecycle, Elder had never ridden a tandem. “It’s definitely different,” he said. “It’s much heavier, slower and harder to maneuver.” Eyecycle provided the short training he needed to become a captain, and Elder has been guiding trips ever since.

Nathan Elder and Susan Gengler starting their ride at Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton.

Nathan Elder and Susan Gengler starting their ride at Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton.

Constant verbal communication is the key to a successful ride, he said. He lets the stoker know when they need to slow down, stop or turn. And in between providing directions, Elder enjoys chatting with his fellow riders.

“I get the opportunity to get out and ride and meet new people, and our stokers get to experience the thrill of outdoor riding,” he said.

In addition to many 15- to 20-mile rides each season, Eyecycle also helps riders participate in longer events, like the MS 150 – a two-day, round-trip ride between Denver and Fort Collins to benefit Multiple Sclerosis. Eyecycle riders also have participated in Pedal the Plains, the Cheyenne Sunrise Lion’s Club Ride for Sight, Ride the Rockies and other popular biking events.

“It’s great because they can get out and ride in these events to support other causes and really feel they are making a difference,” Elder said.

So, what do you need to volunteer? Not much, he said

“If you have a water bottle and a helmet, you can be a volunteer,” he said. The group’s fleet of tandem bikes are all donated, many by Davinci Designs, a local company that specially builds bikes for this purpose.

“The bikes are really custom. They have independent pedaling, meaning each rider can go at his or her own speed. This is great for a new rider who may not be as comfortable riding, or one who may need to coast a bit more,” Elder said.

Visit the Eyecycle website for more information. After a short training, you’ll be out and about on Colorado’s beautiful trails, giving the ride of a lifetime to a blind or visually impaired person.

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:


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