Posts Tagged ‘Denver Water’

Is your water service line made of lead?

This easy, do-it-yourself check of the pipe that brings water into your home is a good place to start.

By Dana Strongin


To check your service line’s material, use a key or coin to scratch the pipe’s surface, as NPR shows here.

When it comes to the risk of exposure to lead — and its serious health impacts — there’s more than one place to look. Since lead was once used in everything from gasoline to household plumbing to paint, the toxic element can be found in many places in our community.

And while there’s not lead in the water Denver Water delivers to your home, the risk of lead leaching into clean water increases if you have lead pipes or plumbing fixtures.

If you’re wondering whether your drinking water is contributing to your risk for lead exposure, the first place to check is your service line, the pipe that connects your home to the water main in the street.

National Public Radio created an interactive online tool to help residents take on this task, but it’s best to see this tool as a starting point.


This interactive tool from National Public Radio walks you through a few easy steps to check your water service line for lead.


“While we encourage you to check your line by doing this simple “scratch” test, keep its limits in mind,” said Steve Price, a civil engineer who coordinates Denver Water’s efforts to reduce the community’s lead exposure. “This test tells you what you can see, but you still can’t see what’s buried underground.”

It’s not unusual to learn a service line contains two or even three different metals, because many have been replaced in sections with various materials over time. If yours is made of lead or galvanized steel, we encourage you to replace it. Galvanized pipes, if connected in tandem with a lead pipe, can attract and later release lead particles into drinking water, potentially affecting the quality of your water.

“Any time two metals come together, that point becomes more corrosive,” Price said. “The pipe is more likely to corrode and release particles attached on the inside, including iron — which causes discoloration — and lead.”

So why not just call Denver Water to ask what your service line is made of? Here’s why: Denver Water doesn’t own the service lines. You do. So we don’t have records of exactly when and where plumbers and builders installed lead pipes. In many cases, you may not have these records either.

To get a more definitive answer, consider hiring an experienced, licensed plumber for service line testing and, if applicable, replacement work. You can also take other steps to reduce your risk of lead exposure, including requesting a water quality test for lead from Denver Water.


More stories about lead:

Why is all that water pouring into the street?

Flushing stagnant water out of our hydrants, all in the name of high-quality H2O.

By Steve Snyder


Steve Lovato gets the same question all the time.

“Why are you wasting water, especially if we’re in a drought?”

As a system quality supervisor for Denver Water, Lovato is charged with flushing more than 3,000 hydrants and blow-off valves in our distribution system. That means he opens hydrants all around the metro area — letting lots of water rush out onto the streets.


“These hydrants sit at the end of a water main, so water isn’t constantly circulating like in other parts of the system,” said Lovato. “When water sits in a pipe too long, the quality isn’t as high as when it leaves our treatment plants. Flushing the hydrants brings that water quality back to where we want it.”

So every year from April to October, Lovato and his team open hydrants to get rid of stagnant water, but not without a lot of preparation first.

“We look at the size and length of the water mains before we go out, so we have a good idea of how much water it will take to flush a particular area,” Lovato said.

On average, about 1,000 gallons of water is flushed before the water is back to Denver Water standards. That amount represents a very, very small amount of our total annual consumption — about 0.01 percent.

But as you can imagine, opening hydrants in a busy area tends to draw a crowd, so the crews put up signs and hand out informational pamphlets explaining what Denver Water is doing and why.

And boy, do people love to watch.

“We have kids come up to play in the water,” Lovato said. “We have people who fill buckets to put on their gardens and lawns.”

And yes, people ask him why we’re “wasting” so much water.

“They have a lot of questions, but when we tell them we are making sure they have high-quality water, they are very accepting of what we are doing,” Lovato added.

As the hydrants spew water, Lovato watches for clarity, while testing the temperature and water-quality levels. When everything meets Denver Water’s standards, Lovato seals the hydrant and moves on to the next stop. Each hydrant takes about 10 to 15 minutes to flush. But the impact is more lasting.

“It’s important to make sure people have great quality water,” Lovato said. “That’s the thing I love about my job.”

Stay hydrated, Denver. We’ll be there to help.

This summer, our water trailer delivered thousands of gallons of refreshing H2O to more than 20 community events.

Denver Water employees set up a hose with a nozzle to mist hot fans with water at the NFL Kickoff event in Civic Center Park, which was a hit, especially with kids.

Denver Water employees set up a hose with a nozzle to mist hot fans with water at the NFL Kickoff event in Civic Center Park, which was a hit, especially with kids.

By Travis Thompson

One of my most cherished childhood memories is standing along the river banks with my grandpa, eagerly waiting to hook “the big one.” Baked by the hot sun bouncing off the water, we spent many of those days sitting in the shade, telling jokes and rehydrating.

My thermos was filled with water, grandpas with milk. Yes, milk.

While he had a hankering for milk, I think most of us would agree with Anchorman Ron Burgundy when he proclaimed, “milk was a bad choice,” on a hot day.

One thing we should all agree on, however, is that fluids are a must when the temperature rises.

Last week, Time magazine highlighted the importance of hydration in an article, “Why Hillary Clinton (And You) Should Be Drinking Water Regularly,” citing that Clinton doesn’t regularly drink water.

Turns out most Americans don’t either. Many of us become dehydrated “by not drinking enough fluid — usually water — to replace what you lose.” And while that may seem obvious, the story cites a 2013 study that found 75 percent of Americans may be dehydrated and highlights the factors that play into dehydration, such as climate and physical exercise — especially in the heat.

Denver Water’s water trailer was debuted during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when it was used to hydrate convention goers at various events, including one at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, pictured here.

Denver Water’s water trailer first appeared during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when it was used to hydrate convention goers at various events, including one at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, pictured here.

So you can imagine why Denver Health and other emergency responders were concerned about the conditions for the NFL Kickoff event at Civic Center Park on Sept. 8. With temperatures projected to be in the 90s and thousands of fans packing into the park for the highly anticipated live performances by Dierks Bentley and OneRepublic, the City of Denver called on Denver Water for assistance.

It’s a good thing they did. We needed every drop from our 200-gallon water trailer, as well as countless refills of 5-gallon water jugs scattered around the park, where we served more than 6,000 cups of cold water and filled hundreds of water bottles for hot and thirsty attendees.

But this isn’t the first, or last time Denver Water was on hand with refreshing H2O to help our community celebrate safely. With about 15 events each year — and more than 20 this summer — Denver Water has been bringing its 19-foot water trailer to events since its debut at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The trailer is a great way to keep Denver hydrated while throwing in a little education about our most precious resource, explained Tyler St. John, Denver Water’s summer marketing coordinator, in his story, “Life in the water trailer.”

“The best part is, we’re able to do it in a meaningful way, by helping to ensure festival-goers are safe from the exhaustion of spending the day in the heat,” said St. John.

As the dog days of summer transition to the chill of early fall, the water trailer is down to its last few events. But we’ll be back at it next summer, among the tents and booths at the many Denver-area festivals.

Even if you take a page out of my grandpa’s book and bring your own milk for refreshment, stop on by the trailer — we’ll toast to hydration with you.



Denver schools take aggressive approach to lead

Comprehensive testing program this fall will collect and test more than 3,000 water samples.

By Jay Adams

If there’s a silver lining to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, it’s that it sparked a nationwide discussion about lead and drinking water. As kids head back to class this fall, school districts across the country are taking a closer look at plumbing and water fixtures in their schools.

In Colorado, Denver Public Schools recently kicked off its own ambitious lead-testing program.

To ensure water samples are collected correctly and consistently, DPS developed its testing program in partnership with Denver Water, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency and Denver Environmental Health.

“This is the most comprehensive lead testing program we’ve ever done with DPS,” said Zeke Campbell, Denver Water’s director of water quality and treatment. “We’re hoping to inform schools, students and families about lead and bring awareness to this important issue.”

There’s no lead in the water that leaves Denver Water’s treatment facilities and travels in water mains to schools. But lead can enter drinking water when it passes through plumbing fixtures, lead service lines and pipe solder that contain lead.

“We want to be proactive and ensure the water in all of our facilities is safe and meets EPA drinking water guidelines for schools,” said Trena Deane, DPS executive director of facility management.

Denver Public Schools is collecting more than 3,000 water samples at all of its schools this fall.

A Denver Public Schools staff member collects a water sample from a drinking fountain. DPS plans to collect more than 3,000 samples from all 160 schools.

A DPS sampling team began collecting water on Aug. 23 from drinking fountains, kitchen food prep sinks, lounge sinks and any other fixtures that provide drinking water to students and staff. The samples are then sent to Denver Water’s water quality lab for analysis.

The district’s 160 schools will collect more than 3,000 samples, and Denver Water will analyze them all — a process expected to continue through the end of 2016.


DPS is collecting the samples early in the morning, following EPA guidelines. That time provides the most accurate test for lead, as water has been sitting stagnant in the pipes for at least 8 hours.

The school district wants to collect samples from all of its elementary schools by the end of October and the rest of its schools by the end of the year. After Denver Water conducts the tests, DPS will post the results on its website as they are completed.

The EPA recommended that the schools collect the samples while school is in session to mimic what it’s like when a student fills up a water bottle or takes a sip from a drinking fountain.

“Due to the age of some of the buildings, we do expect we’ll find some lead levels in the schools,” Campbell said. “It’s similar to what we’re finding in homes in our service area.”

The EPA recommends schools take action if lead levels are 20 parts per billion or above. DPS is taking the added precaution of fixing problems if lead is found at or above 15 ppb at any fixture. One part per billion is equivalent to a single drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Linda Rosales, water quality specialist, tests DPS samples for lead at Denver Water's laboratory.

Linda Rosales, water quality specialist, tests DPS samples for lead at Denver Water’s laboratory.

If a test finds lead levels at or above 15 ppb from any fixture, DPS will replace the fixture, add a water filter or replace the plumbing to make sure lead exposure is reduced.

“DPS really did its homework to make sure they had a complete plan in place to find any sources of lead that might be coming from fixtures, faucets and plumbing,” said Melissa Elliott, director of public affairs for Denver Water. “The DPS plan is a model for how schools across the state and the country should go about sampling and testing for lead.”

The district already has water quality procedures in place to help ensure the freshest water supply possible, even in its older facilities.

For example, DPS routinely flushes water through the pipes at older schools after summer and holiday breaks, getting rid of stagnant water that may have been exposed to lead plumbing for days, weeks or months.

“As we test the schools, this is also a good time for families to test for lead in their homes,” Campbell said. “Lead is a community issue and when people are informed, they can make informed decisions.”

DPS sent informational letters to parents at the beginning of the school year and will post results for each sample at Parents with questions can reach out to DPS at

Denver Water provides free lead tests for its customers, as well as additional information at

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 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.”


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.

The tunnel (next to the tunnel) that no one knows

One brings trains through the Rockies. The other has been delivering much-needed water for 80 years. 

By Kim Unger

My Facebook feed has a tendency to run rampant with advertisements and click-bait articles, but one piece making the rounds was worth the read.

The story, posted on a blog called Only in Your State, was about the Moffat Tunnel, a marvel of early 20th century engineering that appears to be a bit of secret.

Many people know about the Eisenhower Tunnel, the highest point in the Interstate Highway System. The Moffat Tunnel is lesser known, but just as important, the author writes.

From concept to total completion, it took 30 years to construct a railway to chug right under the Continental Divide, connecting travelers from Denver to Winter Park, Colorado, and beyond to Salt Lake City.

The Moffat water tunnel, partially lined with steel, can deliver up to 100,000 acre-feet of water annually.

Industrialist David H. Moffat Jr., a railroad guy and visionary who conceived the plan as a way to boost trade and commerce for the city and the West, once said of his project: “I had no ideas of greatness when I undertook the building of the Moffat Road. I wanted to do it for the good of the state and nothing more.”

David Moffat (1839-1911) spent an estimated 14 million dollars building the railroad to Rollins Pass.

David Moffat (1839-1911) spent an estimated 14 million dollars building the railroad to Rollins Pass.

Moffat died in 1911, long before his vision was completed, but the work continued. Workers dug through gneiss, granite and schist-filled mountain to build the rail line, while others built an access tunnel alongside the main one.

When the work was completed and the first train ventured through the tunnel in 1928, the service tunnel took on a new life.

The tunnel was partially lined and, in 1936, brought the first flow of water from the West Slope (where 80 percent of the state’s water originates) to the booming Denver metro area. For more details on the history, check out “A tale of two tunnels: How the Moffat Tunnel conquered the divide.”

The 6.2 mile tunnel runs parallel to the famous railroad tunnel.

The 6.2-mile Moffat water tunnel runs parallel to the famous railroad tunnel.

Workers lived in camps on each end of the tunnel and worked up to 90 hours a week. Twenty-six men lost their lives during the construction. For the surviving families of the workers, the tunnel represents a culmination of work and a monument to those who gave their time and lives to a cause that helped Denver become a growing city.

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.

For a peek into that past, check out our story on Gloria Ryan, whose father worked as an electrical engineer on the tunnel project.


Of course, the effort had its share of funding issues, delays and ownership transfers. In 1996, Denver Water purchased the water tunnel to safeguard water supplies in the north system for future generations. Today, the 6.2-mile-long water tunnel is still in operation.

“The Moffat Tunnel has been a critical part of the water system since the Dust Bowl,” said Cindy Brady, water resources engineer. “It’s amazing how much vision the early planners had. More than 80 years ago they developed the Moffat Tunnel as clean, reliable water supply, making it a big part of the reason Denver is great today.”

The east portal's open channel emerges from underneath the Continental Divide.

The east portal of the Moffat water tunnel emerges from underneath the Continental Divide where it feeds into South Boulder Creek .

Labor Day the Denver Water way

Employees work 24/7 to keep the water flowing.

By Denver Water staff

The need for water doesn’t shut off on weekends or holidays — including Labor Day. So while many folks are enjoying a day off from work Monday, employees from disciplines across Denver Water will be on the clock.

Whether responding to a main break or performing daily tasks that can’t skip a day, we have many employees who cover shifts 24/7 to ensure our customers always have clean, safe water to drink.

Learn who they are.

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