Posts Tagged ‘Denver Water’

Fraser Flats gets ready for environmental makeover

Grand County project aims to bring more bugs, bigger trout and better fishing to a stretch of the Fraser River.

By Jay Adams



A stretch of the Fraser River in Grand County is on tap for a makeover. It’s a $200,000 environmental endeavor that marks the first river restoration project led by Learning By Doing — a partnership between East and West Slope water stakeholders aimed at restoring, enhancing and improving the rivers and streams of Grand County.

On Sept. 27, members of the Learning By Doing team toured a 0.9-mile section of the river north of the town of Fraser where the restoration project will take place.

The Learning By Doing team included representatives from Trout Unlimited, Grand County, Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

During the kick-off gathering, the group reviewed plans to rehabilitate the river with Freestone Aquatics — a fisheries consulting company specializing in stream restoration.

Members of Learning By Doing tour the Fraser Flats on Sept. 27

Members of Learning By Doing tour the Fraser Flats on Sept. 27.

“The goal of the project is to enhance this stretch of the Fraser River,” said Jessica Alexander, environmental scientist at Denver Water. “The project will improve the habitat for aquatic life and create a better environment for trout.”

Over the years, the health of the river has declined due to diversions to the Front Range and ranching activities.

“This stretch has reduced depth of water over a wide channel, so we don’t have the healthy fish habitat we’d like to see,” said Katherine Morris, Grand County water quality specialist.

Clint Packo, Freestone Aquatics president, said the natural flow of the river has changed, but the size of the channel has stayed the same. “Instead of having a river that’s wide and shallow, we’ll build a channel-within-a-channel, so water can funnel into a narrower section,” he said.

The new channel will include stretches of fast-moving water, pools and other river features designed to benefit aquatic life regardless of changes in river flows. “All of these features create small spaces for aquatic insects to live in, which will give the fish a sustainable food source,” said Alexander.

Next spring and summer, volunteers will plant 4,000 native plants and bushes along the banks to shade the river and keep water temperatures cool.

The stretch of the Fraser River will be reconfigured to have a narrower, deeper stream channel to improve aquatic life.

The stretch of the Fraser River will be reconfigured to have a narrower, deeper stream channel to improve aquatic life during low-flow periods.

There also will be a newly created public fishing access point to a portion of the river. “This is a good project for the county,” Morris said. “The public access will be great for anglers.”

Construction is set to begin in fall 2017 and expected to take about six weeks to complete. Grand County, Learning By Doing partners, a private landowner and a grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife are funding the project.

“This collaborative project ensures that Denver is able to get its water supply and we still maintain a healthy ecosystem,” said Kirk Klancke, president of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River Headwaters chapter. “This will be a healthier stream and one that fishes really well.”

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.




Denver Water saved my life

Jodi and her 3-year-old German Shepard, Abby, plan on bringing some relief and joy to patients at Saint Joseph Hospital as a pet therapy team.

Jodi and her 3-year-old German Shepard, Abby, spend most Saturdays bringing some relief and joy to patients at Saint Joseph Hospital as a pet therapy team.

One employee’s personal account of battling breast cancer.

By Travis Thompson

This could have been a tale of tragedy. Instead, Denver Water’s Jodi Johnson is sharing her encouraging story, with a simple message: Get your health screenings. It could save your life.

Johnson’s tale begins in spring of 2014, when she was instructed by her doctor to get her annual mammography. As a strong, healthy woman in her 50s, with no indication of medical concerns, it was not something that she ran out to schedule.

Later that year, Denver Water hosted its annual visit from the Saint Joseph mobile mammography van, offering a convenient way for Jodi to check this task off the list.

“I spent the day joking with my co-workers about getting this type of exam while at work,” Johnson said laughing.

In less than 30 minutes she was back in the office with hardly a blip in her schedule. The screening quickly became such a distant memory that she ignored several calls from an unknown number, never thinking it could be the radiologist.

“Finally I gave in and answered,” Johnson recalled. “They wanted me to come in for some more tests, but I figured no biggie, test results always come back OK. Right?”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Jodi was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, commonly referred to as DCIS, a very early-stage cancer that is highly treatable.

In the blink of an eye, she was working with surgeons and counselors on a plan to become cancer-free.  It was an emotional time for Johnson, but strangely, her test results brought her anxiety level down and her reassurance up.

“Everyone I dealt with through this process was so positive. They would say how excited they were for me that we found it so early,” said Johnson. “Not what you would expect when dealing with cancer.”

To schedule a mobile mammography van event, click here. Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph Hospital.

To schedule a mobile mammography van event, click here. (Courtesy Saint Joseph Hospital)

On Feb. 4, 2015 — coincidentally, World Cancer Day — Johnson had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. The surgeon joked that it was the smallest cancer in history.

Thanks to the early detection and treatment, Jodi is now cancer-free.

The experience has Johnson feeling indebted. “I’m forever grateful of Denver Water’s wellness program, which made early detection possible, Saint Joseph’s for the great care and all of those who supported me through this difficult time — especially my kids.”

So, as a way to “pay it back,” Johnson has been working with Human-Animal Bond in Colorado to train her beloved German Shepard, Abby, as a therapy dog to visit hospitals and help people in similar situations.

“I’ve been bringing Abby to the same area I was in and tell patients that I was once in that same chair,” Johnson said with a smile. “If my story can help others, I’m happy.”

Saint Joseph Hospital stresses the importance of early detection, stating, “mammograms detect changes in a woman’s breast health well before an abnormal mass can be felt, but the average five-year survival rate for women who are diagnosed and treated early is 98 percent (where breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages).”

As a happy 98-percenter, Johnson wants to remind us that without the simple step of getting her health screening, she would be telling a very different story right now.

How much water can a reservoir really hold?

With its sophisticated sonar equipment, ‘Reservoir Dog’ presents a clearer picture of our water storage capacity.  

Jason Ellis, survey senior tech, conduct bathymetric survey on Cheesman Reservoir.

Jason Ellis, survey senior tech, conducts a bathymetric survey on Cheesman Reservoir.

By Kristi Delynko

With a likeness to Captain Nemo and his Nautilus submarine, Angelo Martinez expertly steers his vessel — known as “Reservoir Dog” — through Cheesman Reservoir. But unlike Nemo, survey supervisor Martinez doesn’t need a submarine to see what’s at the bottom. Denver Water uses bathymetric surveying, sonar and GPS technology to map the contours of the reservoir floor.

Like the Nautilus — depicted as ahead of its time in Jules Verne’s classic novel — Reservoir Dog houses some pretty sophisticated equipment. The department upgraded its survey instruments this year, allowing the team to more efficiently gather data with a more expansive sonar reach.

In a single day, surveyors can now gather up to 10 million data points — an increase of almost 9 million from previous technologies. This data must then be processed and analyzed. “It’s a lengthy process to work through all the data and ensure it’s accurate before bringing it into GIS software,” said Brad Geist, surveyor.

Angelo Martinez, survey supervisor, explains the remote station the team sets up to ensure a strong signal when Reservoir Dog is out on the water

Angelo Martinez, survey supervisor, explains the remote station the team sets up to ensure a strong signal when Reservoir Dog is out on the water.

Once analyzed, the information can be used by a variety of Denver Water departments, including engineering and planning.

The last time Denver Water surveyed the bottom of Cheesman was in 2013. That bathymetric survey showed evidence of the lasting damage from the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire and 2002 Hayman Fire, when fires charred the land, creating sediment that washes into the reservoir when it rains.

“With the fires damaging the reservoir’s watershed, a large amount of sediment gets washed into the reservoir, which decreases the storage capacity over time,” Geist said. “The data we gather this year can be compared to 2013 to see how this sediment impacts capacity, and in which areas of the reservoir it tends to accumulate.”

As environmental variables change over time, Denver Water planners want to know exactly how much water the reservoirs can hold. Bathymetric surveying is one way to help plan for future storage.

“I’m not sure of any other water utility in Colorado doing bathymetric surveying at this level,” Geist said.

While no sea monsters have been spotted thus far, the team has made some interesting finds at the bottom of the reservoirs, including roads in Dillon Reservoir and an old railroad grade in Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir.

Take a ride with Martinez on Reservoir Dog.

Reservoir Dog, ready for action, at Cheesman Reservoir.

Reservoir Dog, ready for action, at Cheesman Reservoir.

Are we talking about the ‘d’ word again?

Did a hot, dry summer push us closer to drought? Time to check in on the state of our water supply.  

By Steve Snyder

Barely a cloud in the sky at Denver's Cheesman Reservoir. In Colorado, the last few months have been warmer and drier than usual.

Barely a cloud in the sky at Denver’s Cheesman Reservoir. In Colorado, the last few months have been warmer and drier than usual.


It’s one of the most doggone depressing and downright dreaded “d” words you can utter at a water utility.

Fortunately, Denver Water and most of Colorado have enjoyed a nice respite from drought recently. In fact, a string of cool, wet months turned last summer’s Drought Monitor map for our state practically monochrome.

But that was then, this is now. And drought is not a novel idea in Colorado.

Of course, there’s a difference between talking about a drought and actually being in one. So as we start a new water year, let’s review some facts about the state of our climate — and our current water supply.

  • So far this year, Denver’s temperature hit 90 degrees or higher on 55 days. The long-term annual average over the past three decades is only 33 days.
  • This year, the Denver metro area received 12.4 inches of precipitation. Compare that to the long-term annual average of 13.3 inches.
  • While those precipitation numbers are similar, consider when the moisture fell. From January through May, precipitation in our service area was 120 percent of normal. From June through September, that precipitation was only 60 percent of normal.
  • The latest Drought Monitor map for Colorado now shows areas of moderate drought in the state, along with much larger areas that are considered abnormally dry.
  • The three-month forecast for most of Colorado calls for above-average temperatures with only average precipitation.

We watch weather patterns closely because Denver Water gets nearly all of its water supply from mountain snowpack. We collect it as it melts in the spring, treat it and then distribute it to our customers, based on demand.

The highest demand comes in the summer with outdoor water use — and the hotter the summer, usually the greater the demand.

The latest Drought Map for Colorado shows the impact of our recent hot, dry weather. (Photo courtesy of United States Drought Monitor.)

The latest Drought Map for Colorado shows the impact of our recent hot, dry weather. (Photo courtesy of United States Drought Monitor.)

Typically, our reservoirs hit peak levels in late spring and early summer and drain to their lowest levels just before the next spring runoff. Then the cycle starts again.

So after weighing all of those factors, should we be discussing the dreaded “d” word again?

“Drought is always in the back of our minds because we live in a semi-arid climate,” said Lindsay Weber, senior demand planner at Denver Water. “But typically during the fall and winter months, we are looking at snowfall. We track our snowpack to get an idea of how much water it might yield in the spring. If we start to see a shortfall, we have a drought committee that will prepare an appropriate response.”

Right now, Denver Water’s water supply is in good shape. Systemwide, our reservoirs are at higher-than-normal levels for this time of year, thanks to cooler, wetter weather in 2015, along with continued efficient water use by our customers.

So while the short-term outlook is encouraging, most Colorado residents know we can never rest on our laurels, or in this case, our reservoir levels. Climate change, a growing population and a strain on our natural resources will only continue to put pressure on long-term planning for a sustainable water supply. The next drought could be right around the corner.

But for now, the “d” word isn’t front and center in most conversations at Denver Water. Unless of course, we are talking about our Denver Broncos defense. That’s a “d” word we know other people truly dread.

A fine dam relationship — for more than 25 years

Where do Taiwanese engineers go to learn about recycled water? To a trusted resource: Denver Water.

By Steve Snyder

Word gets around.

Denver Water's Dave Brancio shows a delegation of Taiwanese engineers the filter beds at Denver Water's Recycling Plant.

Plant supervisor David Brancio shows a delegation of Taiwanese engineers the filter beds at Denver Water’s Recycling Plant.

When you do something well, whether it’s running a repair shop, a restaurant or even a water utility, people will seek out your expertise.

Even if it means traveling halfway around the world to do it.

A group of engineers from Taiwan recently visited Denver Water’s Recycling Plant to better understand how we provide recycled water to our customers. It was part of a larger information-gathering trip to the U.S. so the Taiwanese engineers can help their government set national standards on water quality.

“As urban development has increased across Taiwan, flooding damage and a deteriorating urban water environment have become public concerns,” said James Guo, Ph.D., a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado Denver, and a primary organizer of the tour. “Denver Water has a strong reputation around the world for its work in recycled water, so this delegation was anxious to learn more. Plus there is a long history between the organizations.”

Taiwanese delegations have been visiting Denver Water since 1991, thanks in part to James Guo’s wife, Lucy Guo, a retired Denver Water employee who worked in information technology for 33 years.

The first Taiwanese delegation to visit Strontia Springs Dam in 1991. (photo courtesy of Lucy Guo)

The first Taiwanese delegation to visit Strontia Springs Dam in 1991. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Guo)

“I’ve helped facilitate a number of visits between Taiwan’s government and Denver Water,” Lucy Guo said. “It all started with a sister dam program with their country. Strontia Springs’ sister dam in Taiwan is Feitsui Dam.”

Wait. A sister dam?

“It’s similar to a sister cities program,” Lucy Guo said. “It promotes knowledge transfers and exchanges between two groups.”

James Guo said the engineers left the Recycling Plant impressed with the many partners Denver Water works with to provide recycled water. And despite the thousands of miles that separate them, James Guo said engineers from both countries are connected by their dedication to water and water quality.

“It’s a great experience for everyone involved,” James Guo said.

And a dam fine concept.

Strontia Springs Dam (left) and Feitsui Dam in Taiwan have been "sister dams" since 1984. (Photo courtesy of Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration)

Strontia Springs Dam in Colorado (left) and Feitsui Dam in Taiwan have been “sister dams” since 1984. (Photo courtesy of Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration)

Searching for solutions to help trout keep their cool

Experiment aims to improve stream health in Fraser River Valley by releasing water intended for the Front Range.

By Jay Adams


The Fraser River Valley in Grand County is known for its scenic views, hiking, biking and fishing, but this summer the valley turned into a high-altitude laboratory for the second year of a landmark experiment.

After water temperatures rose in Ranch Creek — a popular trout-fishing stream in Grand County — Denver Water voluntarily released around 120 acre-feet (40 million gallons) of water into the creek instead of diverting it to customers on the Front Range.

In early August, Denver Water released an additional 40-million gallons of water from its diversions into Ranch Creek over a 10-day span.

Over a 10-day span in early August, Denver Water released an additional 40 million gallons of water into Ranch Creek instead of diverting the water to the Front Range.

The 10-day experiment in August was part of Learning By Doing — a new partnership between Denver Water, Northern Water, Grand County, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and West Slope water groups devoted to protecting the rivers and streams of Grand County.

“We want to see what happens to the stream temperature when we release more water into the creek,” said Travis Bray, Denver Water environmental scientist. “We want to know if extra water makes a difference in temperature and how much water it takes to make a difference.”

Cold water temperatures are critical to sustaining a healthy trout fishery, which is why the Learning By Doing partners are searching for ways to keep water in Grand County streams cool during the warm summer months.

“The most vulnerable streams are on the valley floor,” said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “That’s where the streams flatten out, slow down and heat up.”

As part of the experiment, Denver Water measured the stream flow, stream temperature and air temperature to determine the correlation between all three. Other factors that will be evaluated in the study include shade, land use, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and rainfall.

“We can’t change the weather, but Learning By Doing is helping us find opportunities on both sides of the divide that can make a difference in the health of the rivers,” Bray said.

Denver Water started diverting water from Grand County in the 1930s and currently collects water from 36 streams in Grand County to store in Gross Reservoir for Front Range customers.

Learning By Doing ran a stream flow experiment when Ranch Creek warmed up this summer.

“In the past, we haven’t taken many steps to offset the environmental impacts we cause in Grand County,” Bray said. “With this experiment and through Learning By Doing, we’re changing that.”

Results of the experiment will be used to manage the streams in Grand County after the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is approved and built.

Part of the expansion plan includes Denver Water’s agreement to release 1,000 acre-feet of water (about 326 million gallons) into Grand County streams each year strictly to help the environment. This is water that would have been diverted to the Front Range.

“The environmental pool is one of the greatest gifts Denver Water could give to our rivers and that’s why this experiment is so important,” Klancke said. “The scientific data will tell us the best way to distribute the pool water across the Fraser Valley so it can benefit as many streams as possible.”

The Learning By Doing team will decide how to use the environmental water with the assistance of Denver Water. “We’re looking for opportunities to collect water in a way that has as little environmental impact as possible,” Bray said.

Results from the Ranch Creek experiment are expected next spring. The Learning By Doing team is already planning additional experiments and projects.

“This experiment is what Learning By Doing is all about,” Klancke said. “We’re now looking at problems and truly learning how to fix them by doing something about it.”

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