Aurora Water embarks on expansion of Prairie Waters

May 8, 2014


From The Denver Post (Megan Mitchell):

Aurora Water has begun construction to expand the city’s Prairie Waters Project for the first time since the natural water filtration and collection system opened in 2010. Projects nixed from the original construction plan kept the $659 million project about $100 million below its initial budget. Now, those projects are being called back up to make sure Prairie Waters stays on track for exponential growth over the next 40 years.

“The expansion part of the project has been planned from the very beginning,” said Marshall Brown, executive director for Aurora Water. “This year, we’re at a place where we can prioritize the growth and look toward the future of system capacity.”
Crews have begun digging six new collection wells in between the existing 17 wells that collect water from a basin near the South Platte River in Weld County, downstream from the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s plant. From there, the water is piped through wells 44 miles south to treatment and storage facilities in Aurora for residential use.

Along the way, the water is pulled through 100 feet of gravel and sand. This 30-day, natural process helps pull large contaminants out of the water.

Two new filter beds will also be installed at the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir this year. At the Binney facility, water is treated with chemicals and ultraviolet lights to make it potable.

The cost of the expansion projects is $2.9 million, said Greg Baker, spokesperson for Aurora Water. He said water tap fees will not be affected by the new wells and filters this year.

“We plan our capital projects (which are predominantly paid for by development or tap fees) well in advance,” Baker said. “We plan for these expenses so that our rates don’t roller coaster based on immediate projects.”

Right now, Prairie Waters is spread over 250 acres in Weld County and is only built out to about 20 percent of its total potential capacity. Baker said the system currently provides 10 million gallons of water per day. At full build-out, Prairie Waters will able to provide 50 million gallons of water per day.

The project itself was conceived in response to extreme drought conditions in 2003.

“Ideally, we would like to have two years’ worth of supply stored in the system at all times,” Brown said. “Aurora’s system varies between one and two years’ worth of storage now.”

The long-term vision for the project involves well development all the way down the South Platte River to Fort Lupton, as well as adding more physical storage components. Aurora Water has already started to acquire additional property for capacity expansion in the future.

Baker added: “As Aurora’s population grows, we will expand into the system to support that growth.”

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Highlands Ranch water rates to go up in 2014

November 30, 2013
Highlands Ranch

Highlands Ranch

From the Highlands Ranch News (Ryan Boldrey):

Following spikes of 2 percent in 2012 and 3.8 percent in 2013, Highlands Ranch residents are expected to see rates go up 6.8 percent this coming year. This year’s proposed increase is due to the district’s involvement with both the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) and Chatfield Reallocation Project, said Bruce Lesback, CWSD director of finance and administration…

“We held off as long as we could before increasing rates to this level for our customers, but it appears both projects are now going forward,” Lesback said.

For CWSD, the two projects are a major step toward cementing a long-term water supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water.

“We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” CWSD General Manager John Hendrick told Colorado Community Media earlier this year. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources.

“We’ve got ample groundwater for droughts, but in wet years we’ll now be able to take in more than we need to and top off our reservoirs with surface water.”[...]

A public hearing was held Nov. 25 on the proposed CWSD budget. The board of directors will vote to adopt the 2014 budget at its Dec. 16 meeting.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Reuse: The WISE Partnership gets approval from the Denver Water Board

August 20, 2013


From the Denver Business Journal:

Denver Water last week approved the WISE partnership agreement that clears the way for the utility to delivery treated water to the area’s southern suburbs.

Approval of WISE, which stands for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, formalizes the regional cooperative water project. The agreement calls for the permanent delivery of 72,250 acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora to members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA).

SMWSA was formed in 2004 from the banding together of smaller water utilities in south Denver.
With the agreement now in place, some of the water that currently flows down the South Platte River and out of the state would be recaptured by Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Waters Pipeline and pumped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. There, the water would be treated and piped to the southern suburbs.

The water delivery will begin in 2016. Members of the SMWSA must have infrastructure in place to move the water from the purification facility. The cost of the water and infrastructure for its delivery is estimated at $250 million over the next 10 years. Each member will independently determine how to finance their share of the project.

The participating members of SMWSA are the town of Castle Rock, Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, Cottonwood Water & Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District, Parker Water & Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District and Inverness Water & Sanitation District.

More WISE Partnership coverage here.

Parker Water and Sanitation District board is evaluating joining with Aurora and Denver in the WISE project

April 29, 2013


From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors will hear a presentation later this month from new manager Ron Redd, who will recommend that the district enter into WISE, the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Pinery Water and Wastewater, the Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, committed to WISE by signing intergovernmental agreements in late March. The agreements will bring nearly 7,000 acre-feet of recycled water to the south metro area…

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board asked Redd to examine the possibility of buying 500, 1,000 or 1,500 acre-feet through the WISE project. He was expecting to receive the results of a cost analysis on April 5 to determine the possible financial impacts. Any rate hikes on customers would likely be implemented incrementally and equate to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year, Redd said, cautioning that those figures are preliminary. The cost of WISE water increases annually over an eight-year period.

It would be relatively easy, Redd said, to move the reclaimed WISE water from Aurora to Parker if the district can come to an agreement to use a pipeline along E-470 owned by East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If the board gives approval, the intergovernmental agreement would be signed by late May…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which contains 5,700 acre-feet of water and was built to store 70,000 acre-feet, will be paid off by the time the Parker Water and Sanitation District takes on more debt to build pipelines to transport the water that will be needed for the future.

Meanwhile, Centennial has inked an IGA with the WISE Partnership. Here’s a report from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

Centennial Water and Sanitation District was one of six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority to sign an IGA this past week committing to more renewable water by way of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership. Through the agreement, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide roughly 7,000 acre-feet of fully treated water annually to participating SMWSA members and deliver it in phases, starting in 2016. As part of the IGA, the participating South Metro WISE entities have agreed to fund new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations. “A region-wide water solution makes more sense than having each water entity fending for themselves to source, treat and deliver renewable water to customers,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making through WISE towards transitioning the region from nonrenewable groundwater to renewable water.”

Hecox said that the agreement helps provide SMWSA with about a third of the necessary water that participating entities will need long-term. From here, work will continue on the Chatfield Reallocation Project as well as of other options and alternatives to bring more water to the region…

For Centennial Water specifically, it’s another step toward cementing a long-term supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water. “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” said Centennial Water and Sanitation District General Manager John Hendrick. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources…

Other SMWSA members committing to the project at this time are Cottonwood Water, Meridian Metropolitan District, Pinery Water, Rangeview Metropolitan District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. Hecox said he expects Dominion, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker water districts to sign the IGA by the end of April. SMWSA members not expected to take part in the IGA include: Castle Pines Metro, Castle Pines North, East Cherry Creek Valley, and Arapahoe.

More WISE coverage here.

New Roxborough Water and Sanitation District water treatment could cost $23 million

January 21, 2013


From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

The Roxborough water treatment plant, at more than 50 years old, has lasted beyond the end of its useful life and, according to the district board, it’s not a matter of whether disaster will strike, it’s a matter of when. The district is waiting to hear from its customers who must decide how to pay for a new facility, estimated to cost as much as $23 million.

The new plant will replace the one purchased in 1972 from Aurora Water, according to the district. The existing plant was built in 1958 and refurbished at the time of the purchase. It has outlasted its expected 30-year lifespan by about 20 years, according to the district board…

Completion of a new facility will cap a long-term water plan that ensures delivery of water to Roxborough residents for the next 100 years, he said.

Moore was instrumental in reaching a 2010 deal with Aurora Water to get water to Roxborough residents in what Moore calls the most comprehensive, sustainable water plan in Douglas County. In the deal, Roxborough signed a 99-year lease with Aurora to buy into the Aurora system for $22.3 million, securing water to serve Roxborough’s build-out population of 3,800 units. The deal does not allow Roxborough to sell water outside of its boundaries, which means the Roxborough plant will not be designed to serve residents in surrounding neighborhoods, including the proposed Sterling Ranch development, Moore said…

The district announced its plans in 2012 and in December sent a questionnaire to customers asking them to select one of three payment options for financing the new plant. Among the options are a $20 monthly hike in water rates, beginning in March or April, which would allow the board to move forward with design and financing in the first quarter of 2013; a $10 fee, which would double to $20 by 2014 and delay the start of construction by about 12 months; or a $5 fee that would increase every six months to a $20 fee by 2014, which would delay start of construction by about 18 months.

The district has about $5 million in capital reserves to contribute to the plant and is aiming for a 30-year note to pay the balance, Moore said.

Moore has been fielding residents’ questions, many of which revolve around the district’s policy to limit outdoor watering during the summer to twice a week. The board has yet to vote on watering restrictions, Moore said. The new plant will have a 4 million-gallon-per-day treatment capacity, double that of the existing plant.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Aurora: Anadarko scores 1,500 acre-feet of fully reusable effluent for oil and gas operations

August 18, 2012


From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

“We’ve always looked at where our supplies are, where our projected demand is going to be, and where we have windows of opportunity. Where we think we have additional supply, we’ll go ahead and lease it,” Stibrich said.

The Anadarko leasing deal was especially high profile because the city agreed to lease water to the company for hydraulic fracturing purposes — a contentious issue that some Aurora residents have vehemently opposed.

But leasing deals have existed long before then, Stibrich said. Those include a 7,000 acre-foot lease to the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, a 4,340 acre-foot lease to Rocky Mountain Energy Company, now owned by Xcel Energy, and leases that are currently being negotiated for the WISE project that will eventually grant water to 11 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties in times when Aurora has additional water…

As of now, Aurora’s water supply is in good shape. The city stores water in 16 reservoirs — of which they own five: Quincy, Aurora, Rampart, Spinney Mountain and Jefferson Lake. The rest of the reservoirs are shared with other cities, for example, Homestake Reservoir stores water for Aurora and Colorado Springs. The reservoirs have a total water storage capacity of 156,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, or enough water to serve two typical households per year. The amount of storage capacity the city has is three times more than the city’s actual need.

The city uses about 50,000 acre feet annually, and the reservoirs were about 85 percent full in May.

The city is continually looking at more opportunities for water storage. Between 2012 and 2014 the city will be working on land easements and begin pre-permitting activities for the development of the Box Creek Reservoir, which they hope will be online and storing water by 2030…

Under the Anadarko water lease, Anadarko is planning to pay Aurora Water to use 1,500 acre feet of “effluent” water per year over five years. The company will be paying four times the market rate for the city’s effluent water, or water that has already been used and treated that would otherwise flow downstream and out of the state. That equals to about $1,200 per acre foot, whereas the market rate is about $350 per acre foot. Anadarko will pay Aurora about $9.5 million over five years for the water.

Back on August 15 an Aurora City Council committee made sure that the city didn’t lease potable water to Anadarko. Here’s a report from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. Here’s an excerpt:

City council members had the discussion after the city received two requests from parties interested in the possibility of acquiring drinkable, or potable, water for oil and gas drilling purposes.

The people interested were not named in city documents or at the Infrastructure and Operations Policy Committee meeting, but committee members said potable water shouldn’t be sold to any entity.

The requests involved using water from city fire hydrants to fill water tankers for use at oil drilling sites, potentially both inside and outside Aurora city limits. The city’s water officials recommended to members of the policy committee that they deny their requests and any future requests for potable water and keep with the city’s current policy against using fire hydrants for any purpose other than fire suppression and system maintenance.

Councilman Brad Pierce said he didn’t think that was an appropriate use of the city’s water…

The discussion comes about a month after council members agreed to lease 1,500 acre feet of “effluent” or used water to Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for $9.5 million over five years. Effluent water is water that has already been used and treated that would otherwise flow downstream and out of the state. The water is sanitary but not potable or made available for public use.

More Aurora coveage here and here.

Aurora: Potential water lease to Anadarko could target utility debt load

July 5, 2012


From The Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is expected to purchase $9.5 million worth of “used” water from Aurora for its oil and gas drilling operations across the state, pending Aurora City Council approval July 9.

Members of council’s Management and Finance committee said the revenues should be used to partially pay off debt from the construction of Prairie Waters, a $650 million project that was completed in 2010 to ensure the city’s residents had enough water during droughts. The city borrowed more than $540 million and raised water rates to pay for the project.

A second option would have been to use the revenue to reimburse taxpayers for helping to foot the bill to construct the project. But committee members decided that reimbursement wouldn’t amount to much anyway. According to Jason Batchelor, the city’s finance director, the credit to the average residential rate payer would be about 95 cents a month.

Councilman Bob LeGare said it makes better financial sense to put the money toward the Prairie Waters project. “Everyone understands paying down your (debt) early,” he said.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Aurora: Peter D. Binney water treatment plant receives national award

April 14, 2012


From the Aurora Sentinel:

Aurora’s Peter Binney Water Purification Facility received the Marvin B. Black Excellence in Partnering Award last month for representing exemplary partnership and collaboration in construction projects like the Prairie Waters Project. The national honor was awarded by The Associated General Contractors of America.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aaron Million: ‘This project would divert less than 5 percent annually out of the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir’

March 10, 2012


Here’s a guest column about the Flaming Gorge pipeline written by Aaron Million running in the Northern Colorado Business Report. Here’s an excerpt:

The argument that no further Upper Basin water projects be developed, which is a position some have taken, by default and in the simplest terms means California, Nevada and Arizona all benefit to the detriment of this region. Colorado faces a massive water supply shortfall, projected to be between 500,000 to 700,000 acre-feet over the next 20 years. New water and new storage, one of Gov. Hickenlooper’s keystone policy objectives and a long-standing objective for Colorado, can basically be accomplished with a pipe connection. This project would divert less than 5 percent annually out of the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is 25 times larger than Horsetooth Reservoir…

…the Flaming Gorge Project has several advantages for a new water supply. The Green River system itself, starting just south of Jackson Hole, has a different snowpack regime, which mitigates risk compared to relying on water from a single source or watershed. Also, global warming models predict the Green’s more northerly region to be wetter than average, while the Colorado River main-stem drainage, the historical focus of Front Range water needs, is predicted to be dryer than average. And the Green River is as large as the Colorado River main-stem, with comparatively little consumptive use and very few diversions.

Without question, the river has major environmental and recreational benefits that require protection…

So why does that matter for this region? It matters because an overall systems analysis on the Green River following implementation of the ROD indicates substantial surplus flows after meeting all the environmental needs of the river. Those surpluses, estimated at several hundred-thousand acre feet in a river system that flows over 1.5 million acre-feet annually, could be used to bring in a new water supply for the South Platte and Arkansas basins, generate new alternative energy, produce hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits, and provide re-use of waters for agriculture to keep the region strong and vibrant.

So the real question is this: If a large river system can be fully protected, and at the same time some of the potential surpluses from that same system alleviate major supply issues elsewhere, isn’t that an environmentally sound and reasonable water supply approach? The question remains unanswered until a rigorous and thorough environmental impact evaluation is completed…

I believe this we need to take this project through its paces. If it is environmentally sound, it should be permitted and built. If not, then stick a fork in it. The truth of a full scientific and environmental evaluation may be hard for some in the environmental community to swallow, but the consequences of not allowing that evaluation to occur remain: A continued bulls-eye on the Poudre, reverse-osmosis plants on the South Platte because of poor water quality, more future dry-up of the agricultural base in this state, and continued pressure on the western high country of our nearby mountain peaks.

The Flaming Gorge pipeline will be the topic of discussion March 14 at the Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Here’s the release via The Chaffee County Times:

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Mark Pifher (Aurora water): ‘We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future’

December 8, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora’s water rights include nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, about one-third of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and water from 1,750 acres of ranches in Lake County. Those rights provide an average yield of 22,800 acre-feet per year — the equivalent of 80 percent of the potable water used by Pueblo each year.

- Aurora also uses the Homestake Project, Twin Lakes, Busk-Ivanhoe diversion and the Columbine Ditch to bring water from the Western Slope through the Arkansas River basin and into the South Platte basin. The average yield of those water rights is about 21,500 acre-feet annually.

- The city can reuse its Arkansas and Colorado basin water imports, and has built the $650 million Prairie Waters Project to directly recapture flows, rather than exchange them.

- Aurora’s South Platte water rights include wells, ranches, ditches and direct flow from the South Platte. They total about 46,000 acre-feet annually.

- Aurora has an agreement to trade 5,000 acre-feet of water a year with Pueblo West from Lake Pueblo to Twin Lakes beginning next year. It will replace a similar agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works that expires this year.

- The Pueblo water board sells Aurora 5,000 acre-feet of water each year.

- Aurora has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to store 10,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo and to move the same amount to Twin Lakes by paper trade.

- The water is moved from Twin Lakes to Spinney Mountain Reservoir through the Homestake pipeline system…

“We don’t have any current plans beyond what we’re already doing,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water. “We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future.”

Instead, the city will continue developing Prairie Waters, a reuse project that pumps sewer return flows through a filtration and purification system, only at about 20 percent capacity so far. Aurora calculates that its average yield from its Arkansas River basin water rights is about 22,800 acre-feet annually. That’s roughly one-fourth of its total yield from its entire system, which includes South Platte and Colorado River basin rights. From a practical standpoint, Aurora does not move all of its water out of the Arkansas River basin each year.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Sand Creek: Aurora comments on the spill and water quality — no effects

December 7, 2011


From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Matthew Allen said Monday a 240-foot trench completed over the weekend is preventing a gasoline-like substance from seeping from the Suncor Energy refinery into Sand Creek and the South Platte River.

The city’s Prairie Waters Project pumps groundwater from the South Platte downstream of the spill back to Aurora for treatment and use in the city’s water system…

Aurora’s water supply is derived primarily from snowmelt runoff in the Colorado, Arkansas and South Platte river basins far upstream of the and unrelated to the toxic spill. Aurora Water officials received notice from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment about an unknown substance potentially in a tributary of the South Platte River on Nov. 28, said Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water…

“While a small percentage (of Aurora’s water) comes from the South Platte downstream of the impacted site, we are not currently taking water from the river because of our typical, seasonal, low water demands,” [Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water] said. “If contamination were to occur at a time when we were using our South Platte River supply, we have numerous protocols in place to ensure that any impact on the river will not affect our drinking water supply.”

More coverage from (Ryan Budnick). From the article:

Matthew Allen, spokesman with the EPA, said work crews have pulled 3,500 gallons of gas-like material during the site cleanup…

The plume of highly-toxic liquid was noticed spilling into nearby Sand Creek in the end of November from a Suncor Energy refinery. Since it was identified, the EPA, Suncor Energy and the State of Colorado have been working around the clock to contain the pollution and clean up its remains.

More Sand Creek spill coverage here. More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Prairie Waters Project Receives Project Management Institute’s Prestigious 2011 PMI Project of the Year Award

October 25, 2011


Here’s the release from the Project Management Institute via Market Watch:

Aurora, Colorado, USA has been challenged by decades of rapid population growth combined with limited opportunities to expand its water supply in an arid environment. This already significant challenge was exacerbated in 2002 by severe, multi-year drought, requiring the city and its water managers to quickly design and implement a long-term solution in response to future water shortage conditions. The Prairie Waters Project, led by CH2M HILL, marked one of the largest water-related public works projects in Colorado in more than 35 years. Its exemplary innovation and completion, two months ahead of schedule and US$100 million under budget, has made it the 2011 recipient of the Project Management Institute’s prestigious PMI(R) Project of the Year Award.

“An urgent water need pushed the city to take an innovative look at ways to achieve not only meeting the community’s water needs quickly, but to preserve the city’s high standards for water quality,” said Larry Catalano, manager of capital projects for the City of Aurora. “The significant complexities of the project included stringent cost constraints, stakeholder involvement, environmental restrictions, and the pressure to execute a project on an exceptionally fast schedule. The project team consistently went above and beyond the call of duty and delivered ahead of schedule and under budget. We are honored that PMI recognized the hard work, collaboration and dedication of the entire team that worked to create the Prairie Waters Project.”

The Prairie Waters Project succeeded in spite of extreme environmental challenges. With only a nine-month supply of water available for a population of approximately 300,000 at that time, city leaders and CH2M HILL were tasked with identifying a sustainable, long-term water supply to protect against future droughts. After reviewing over 50 possible scenarios, the city identified the Prairie Waters Project as the fastest, most cost-efficient and most sustainable way to deliver more than 10,000 acre feet of new water to the city by the end of 2010.

The success of the project, originally projected to cost $854 million, resulted in a newly constructed pipeline, pump stations and a treatment plant that will ultimately deliver up to 50,000 acre feet, meeting Aurora’s needs through 2030. Eight significant stakeholder agreements, 145 land parcels and 44 permits were acquired for approval and completion of the project, which took six years to complete and spanned nearly 40 miles in length. Through the use of skilled project personnel, the rigorous application of project management standards, processes and techniques, and the use of earned value management (EVM) techniques, the PWP was able to cut $100 million from the budget in the design phase without compromising quality and safety, bringing the construction budget to $754 million. Value engineering techniques enabled the team to fast-track the project two months ahead of schedule and an additional $100 million below this amended budget. The project was delivered in October 2010 at just under $653 million.

“The City of Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project clearly illustrates how project management standards and practices, properly applied, can help deliver a solution that is transformative to a community,” said Mark A. Langley, President and CEO of PMI. “This project demonstrates best practice solutions that show agility and effective stakeholder engagement. PMI commends Aurora Water and the entire project team for these outstanding results.”

Aurora Water was presented with the 2011 PMI Project of the Year Award on Saturday, 22 October 2011 during the PMI Awards Ceremony at the PMI(R) Global Congress 2011–North America in Dallas, Texas.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

The Castle Pines Metropolitan District nixes participation in the WISE project

October 19, 2011


From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

In a letter sent Oct. 12 from Paul Dannels, district manager of the Castle Pines Metropolitan District, to Rod Kuharich, executive director of the [South Metro Water Supply Augthority], Dannels said the board of directors decided not to proceed with the project. “Simply stated, the high cost of the Project and the uncertainty of water delivery do not make sense for the District at this time,” Dannels wrote in the letter. “We wish you great success with the Project which appears more feasible for larger users. They can deal better with both the uncertainty of water availability and the high Project costs than smaller users such as the District.”[...]

Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water said the project, dubbed the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, doesn’t require that all 15 entities of the SMWSA take deliveries for the project to be successful. Roxborough and the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District have already indicated that they had other resources they could develop and wouldn’t take water from the WISE partnership, Baker said. “Each member of the SMWSA must assess the value of participation in relation to their individual systems and needs,” Baker said. “SMWSA has indicated that the commitments from many of the other members have already met or exceeded the initial 10,000 acre-feet provided for by the proposed delivery agreement.”

More Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership coverage here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters adds 10,000 acre-feet of supply to treated water supply system over the last year or so

October 15, 2011


From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

“The process from day one has cranked out excellent water,” said Kevin Linder, Binney’s plant supervisor. The facility, with its massive pumps and state-of-the-art machinery, has processed and treated “downstream” water from the South Platte River and Aurora Reservoir as part of the drought-hardening Prairie Waters project. The water is collected from river-bank wells a few miles below the point where treated sewage water is poured back into the Platte. The project broke ground in July 2007 and came online in October 2010 with the goal of collecting water from the South Platte River in Brighton and delivering it to the city through a 34-mile-long, uphill pipeline. Prairie Waters has increased Aurora’s water supply by about 20 percent and delivered 10,000 acre-feet of water over the past year…

The project came to fruition because city officials realized they had reusable return rights in the South Platte River that they weren’t taking advantage of. Reusable return rights allow the city to reclaim water that has been used already. The city has owned those reusable return rights for decades, but until now, there was no mechanism in place to return the water directly from the South Platte River to the city.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aurora, Denver and the South Metro Water Supply Authority embark on the WISE project to share facilities and reuse wastewater treatment plant effluent

October 11, 2011


Here’s the release from the partners.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority make the WISE project official

October 5, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership between Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority was announced Tuesday. The partnership could reduce pressure on agriculture in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins and the need for diversions from the Colorado River.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” [John Stulp, water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper and chair of the Interbasin Compact Committee] said. “I think it’s a unique way to share water and infrastructure. From what I understand, there is built-in drought protection. There are efficiencies and redundancies that can take pressure off ag communities.”[...]

The WISE partnership will improve South Metro water supplies while maximizing the water resources and infrastructure of Denver and Aurora. The agreement is in a 60-day review period and must be approved by all of the parties. South Metro represents 15 municipal water suppliers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties…

The backbone of the partnership is Aurora’s $659 million Prairie Waters project that allows return flows from treated wastewater in the South Platte River to be recaptured and treated. In Colorado, water from transbasin diversions and some water obtain through water rights transfers can be used to extinction. Aurora has built the first phase of Prairie Waters to treat up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year, but it can expand to 50,000 acre-feet per year…

There would, however, always be seasonal capacity in the Prairie Waters project to provide additional water for users in the metro area, because the project is scaled to meet peak demands, [Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water] said. The proposed agreement will sell treated water to South Metro for $5.38 per 1,000 gallons, with minimum guaranteed deliveries of 5,000 acre-feet per year beginning in June 2013. That works out to about $8.76 million annually. After 2020, the amount would increase to 10,000 acre-feet per year. Eventually, systemwide improvements could provide as much as 60,000 acre-feet to South Metro, Pifher said. Denver also would gain a new water supply through recycling its flows through Prairie Waters. In addition, South Metro water users would agree to fund improvements to Denver Water and Aurora infrastructure with $15.4 million over eight years, which is the equivalent to a tap fee. The money would go for interconnections between the Denver, Aurora and other systems. The agreement also includes a $412,000 connection between East Cherry Creek Village and Aurora.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The deal, which would pay Denver and Aurora water utilities $17.4 million a year, is one of the first of its kind in the nation. It lets water agencies that often compete for resources share without merging, and sustain more people without diverting more water from over-subscribed Western Slope rivers. Environmentalists and state leaders swiftly praised the emerging arrangement.

“This type of water-sharing agreement is a critical step toward bolstering water supplies in the southern metro area while better utilizing water resources in Aurora and Denver,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said…

Denver and Aurora would funnel as much as 1.6 billion gallons of purified water a year to suburbs by 2013, increasing to as much as 3.2 billion gallons by 2020. Engineers say necessary new pipelines and hook-ups eventually could send as much as much as 19.5 billion gallons — 60,000 acre-feet a year — to the suburbs. Denver Water, Aurora Water and 13 participating suburbs would have to replumb before the first water could be delivered — which could bloat water bills for residents of Castle Rock, Parker and other communities. Those communities already need more than the maximum amount of water deliverable under the current 22-page contract, said Charles Krogh, past president of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, who represented suburbs through lengthy negotiations. “Our demands now are about 70,000 acre-feet annually,” Krogh said. “This proposal allows us to get in the game for renewable water supplies.”[...]

The replumbing would include a $412,000 hookup between Aurora pipes and an East Cherry Creek Valley pipeline and storage of water in Parker’s new Rueter-Hess Reservoir. To receive water, south metro suburbs would have to install additional pipelines “to connect ourselves all up,” at an estimated cost of $80 million, Krogh said…

South suburbs, if they approve the contract, would be obligated not to divert water from Colorado’s Western Slope.

More coverage from Sara Castellanos writing for The Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority have developed a water delivery agreement that, if approved, would provide SMWSA with up to 5,000 acre-feet of water per year by June 2013, increasing to 10,000 acre-feet per year by 2020 as additional pipeline and other infrastructure are built. SMWSA represents 15 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties. The amount of water delivered annually could eventually expand to up to 60,000 acre-feet per year…

The new supply of fully treated water from Aurora’s state-of-the-art Binney Water Purification Facility will provide much welcomed relief to SMWSA and its members, who have been looking for ways to reduce their reliance on non-renewable underground aquifers, Baker said in a release. It also will reduce the need for the SMWSA members to pursue agricultural water rights in the South Platte River basin in the near term.

More WISE coverage here.

Homestake Reservoir is closed until October 2013

September 22, 2011


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The closure means that no water will be brought over through the Homestake pipeline into Turquoise Lake next year, as work is conducted on the gate. The gate is located in the middle of the reservoir. That should not have a significant effect on the operations of either Aurora and Colorado Springs in the Arkansas River basin. Both utilities have high water storage levels. Homestake accounts for about 15 percent of Aurora’s storage and 10 percent of Colorado Springs’ storage.

“We were 90 percent full as of last week, and we’ll be bringing more water over to keep Spinney, Aurora and Quincy reservoirs more full than usual,” [Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water] said.

Aurora has a 2-3 year supply of water in storage and will rely on its newly completed Prairie Waters Project to fully reuse as much water as possible. Aurora also will be managing its Arkansas Valley water — from rights purchased when farms were dried up in Otero, Crowley and Lake counties — more closely, Baker said…

For Colorado Springs, the situation is different. It relies heavily on the Colorado River basin for the majority of its water, but has sources other than Homestake, including Twin Lakes, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and the Blue River diversion. Homestake provides about 14 percent of the annual supply. “We’ll try to bring over water from Homestake when we are able, but, yes, we expect it to be drawn down for a year,” [Gary Bostrom, chief of water services for Colorado Springs Utilities] said.

More Homestake Reservoir coverage here.

Aurora water comes out on top (again) in a regional taste test this week at annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works Association

September 21, 2011


From The Denver Post:

It was the second time in three years Aurora Water has come away with the top spot. “We employ state-of-the-art treatment technology and have a staff dedicated to providing some of the highest quality water around,” Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water, said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the hard work of our employees when our water comes out on top in a comparative taste-test.”

More water treatment coverage here and here.

Federal funding may become available for the south Metro suburbs, Aurora and Denver to use for the WISE project

August 14, 2011


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Suburban water authorities said the project [Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency or WISE], designed to reduce reliance on dwindling underground water, will cost about $558 million.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said “rural water supply” funds may be available for the project, if it survives a detailed feasibility review. Congress would need to authorize the federal funding, which could decrease the bill passed on to water customers. “What we’re looking at: Is this project capable of being completed? Is the cost-benefit going to work out? Is it going to be beneficial?” Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Peter Soeth said.

Meanwhile, a crucial wastewater purchase deal with Denver and Aurora has yet to be done. How much wastewater could be diverted, and how often, remains under negotiation. The suburbs told federal officials the WISE project would deliver 5,000 to 11,000 acre-feet a year for the first five years, then as much as 37,000 acre-feet a year…

The federal rural water-supply funds could be used because suburbs with populations under 50,000 are deemed “rural,” said Mark Shively, executive director of the Douglas County Water Resource Authority. “We have very aggressively pursued this opportunity,” Shively said. “We’re now about 20 percent into the feasibility study.”[...]

Beyond pipeline construction, the proposed project involves new storage of treated wastewater in surface reservoirs and by injecting it into depleted aquifers. “We have a couple reservoirs we’re looking at,” Shively said. “Between the Chatfield and Rueter Hess (reservoirs) we have a good amount of storage.”

Here’s the report from Reclamation.

More WISE project coverage here.

Aurora: Storage in good shape, Prairie Waters to run all year

July 11, 2011

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

“Aurora’s water supply is in excellent shape this year,” said Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water. “The heavy snows have helped us quite a bit, and we’ll have sufficient water supply throughout 2011.”

Baker says he doesn’t anticipate any changes in water restrictions this year. Aurora’s water supply across its 12 reservoirs is about 88 percent of capacity this summer, compared with 95 percent during summer 2010. Homestake Reservoir, at more than 10,000 feet, is still generating water run-off from the snowpack levels. The Prairie Waters Project will also be online all year, Baker said.
“We’re running that all year long to test it for warranty purposes,” he said. “We’re going to run it this year as though it were a drought scenario so we can test all the components and make sure we get our money’s worth.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Aurora: No 2011 water rate hike

January 11, 2011

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From The Denver Post:

The last time the utility provider didn’t raise its rates was 2001, said Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water. The decision to keep rates the same was made, in part, by cost savings on the massive Prairie Waters treatment facility, which finished ahead of schedule and more than $100 million under budget, he said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Prairie Waters tour

November 21, 2010

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Last week I was the guest of Aurora Water for a tour of the Prairie Waters facilities.

The project’s official rollout was October 8. It consists of an alluvial well system across the South Platte River from Brighton, a 34 mile pipeline to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility at Aurora Reservoir along with future augmentation storage and a planned aquifer recharge and recovery facility.

Here’s a video tour of the project from Aurora Water via YouTube.

The UV pre-treatment caught my eye.

Another cool part of the plant is that it treats both mountain water from the upper part of Aurora’s system along with the more problematic water from down the South Platte. The plant has two separate trains that enable different treatment processes for the two supplies. Finished water is blended just prior to entering the regular distribution system.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

October 29, 2010

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From Water and Wastewater (Lori Irvine):

The city of Aurora recently celebrated the completion of the Prairie Waters Project, an innovative and environmentally friendly water system that was finished ahead of schedule and more than $100 million under budget.

A large Colorado crowd excited to see the completion of the $653 million project gathered Friday, Oct. 8, for the system’s formal dedication. Speakers included Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer, Interim City Manager Nancy Freed, Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher, former Aurora Water Director Peter Binney and CH2M HILL Chairman and CEO Lee McIntire whose company provided design and program management services.

The project is the fastest, most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way to meet Aurora’s water needs and went from design to completion in just five years. Construction broke ground in July 2007. The system includes 34 miles of 60-inch diameter pipeline, three pump stations, a natural purification area and a new water treatment facility that is one of the most technologically advanced in the country.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aurora: Water treatment system background

October 21, 2010

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

The city’s water supply is derived primarily from snowmelt runoff in the Colorado, Arkansas and South Platte river basins. The water is then stored in 12 reservoirs and lakes including Aurora, Homestake, Twin Lakes and Rampart. It’s transported to the city from as far as 180 miles away through pipes, tunnels and pumps. There are nine staff members at the Wemlinger Treatment Plant who have more than 200 years of combined experience in the water quality field, with extensive knowledge in the world of chemistry. “It’s awesome to be associated with so many people who care so much about making really great water,” [Sherry Scaggiari, quality control supervisor] said. “We don’t say, ‘OK, what’s the level we have to meet?’ We say, ‘We are going to do better than that, and we are going to lead the industry.’”[...]

The contaminants in the city’s water are far below the allowable level mandated by state and federal laws. For example, the maximum contaminant level of total coliform bacteria, which is naturally present in the environment, is no more than 5 percent per month. The highest monthly percentage found in Aurora’s water was 0.52 percent, according to the 2010 Water Quality report. Only one sample was found positive for total coliform bacteria out of 2,268 samples. Hard work has paid off for the employees at the Wemlinger Treatment Plant. In 2009, the plant was awarded the “Excellence in Water Treatment” status after undergoing three levels of review by the American Water Works Associations’ Partnership for Safe Drinking Water program. Wemlinger is one of six treatment plants in the country to receive the award.

More water treatment coverage here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters dedication recap

October 16, 2010

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From the Aurora Sentinel:

Hundreds of people attended the Prairie Waters Project opening celebration last week at the Peter Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir…

It is expected to increase Aurora’s water supply by 20 percent and deliver up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year…

“Water projects in the arid west don’t just happen,” said Mark Pifher, director of the city’s water department, at the celebration. “They require the natural resource itself — the water, many permit approvals, technological means to capture that water, to treat it and distribute it, and perhaps most importantly … projects of this nature need the political will to bring them forward from design to fruition. This project possessed all of those attributes.”

More Prairie Waters coverage here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters dedication today

October 15, 2010

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

The project (website here) boosts Aurora’s water supply by 20 percent — about 3.3 billion gallons of water a year. It came in ahead of schedule and $101 million under the original $754 million budget, said Greg Baker, spokesman for the Aurora Water Department. “We’re ahead of schedule and well under budget,” Baker said. “How often does a city get to say that?”

Water equivalent to what Aurora gets from the Western Slope, uses and sends into the South Platte River is pumped out of the river near Brighton, then filtered through a series of gravel and sand beds into a pipeline. The 34-mile pipeline sends the water to a new treatment plant. From there it goes on to city residents and businesses — who use it before its returned to the river. It’s a continuous loop of use and re-use. “It’s one of the most sustainable new water supplies in the Southwest,” said Scott Ingvoldstad, a spokesman for CH2M Hill. “It combines natural purification with a state-of-the-art new treatment facility that uses the latest technology to ensure that Aurora will have a sustainable and high-quality water supply for many decades. “It uses water rights that Aurora already owns and recaptures them in the South Platte River so that they didn’t have to build a new dam on the Western Slope. It’s making the most efficient use of the water rights that they already own,” Ingvoldstad said.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

April 2, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

If it weren’t for an array of metal electrical boxes and some pipes sticking up from the ground, there would be little to indicate that a state-of-the-art water system is percolating under your feet. Driving along the pipeline, which follows E-470 for about half of its 34 miles north to Aurora, you try not to blink or you’ll miss the pump station visible from the freeway. When you reach the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility just below Aurora Reservoir, you’re tempted to walk inside and ask for the park ranger. There’s water cascading down some steps into a clear blue pond — called a forebay. “There’s not much to see until you get into the water treatment plant,” Aurora Water director Mark Pifher apologizes…

“About 90 percent of our water is reusable in the system from all sources,” Pifher said. “Since all sources come through the treatment plant in Denver, we will use them all in the same proportion.” Aurora draws water from the South Platte, Colorado and Arkansas river basins, and reusing more of it through Prairie Waters will cut down on the amount it takes from its sources. Initially, the $659 million Prairie Waters Project will recycle up to 10,000 acre-feet — 3.25 billion gallons — each year.

“The footprint’s there so we can expand it to 50,000 acre-feet as we grow,” Pifher said. That would nearly double Aurora’s water supply from its current yield of about 58,000 acre-feet…

The first water moved through it this week, as workers and engineers tested the lines installed over the past three years. The project is more than 90 percent complete and a formal dedication is planned in September…

Aurora ratepayers will finance about 60 percent of the project, while new growth in the city is expected to pay for the rest. That’s a somewhat unusual mix for a water project, with more cost usually assigned to growth, but the drought hardening aspect of the project benefits Aurora’s current users, who have been under constant restrictions for water use since 2002. Once Prairie Waters is up and running, it will not take any additional employees to run it. The pump stations require periodic maintenance, and the automated water purification plant requires only six operators, Baker said.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

March 19, 2010

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

Once it’s completed later this year, city officials guarantee that Aurora residents will have enough water to sustain them during droughts for decades…

The goal of the project, which broke ground in July 2007, is to collect water from the South Platte River in Brighton and deliver it to the city through a 34-mile-long pipeline, while using state-of-the-art technology to purify the water to the highest degree. When the project is completed in a few weeks, it could increase Aurora’s water supply by 20 percent and deliver up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year…

The project was funded by raising residential water prices and tap fees, and by issuing $450 million in bonds to be repaid over 30 years. The total estimated cost of the project at completion is $659 million, lower than the original projections of $755 million. “We were the beneficiary of an unfortunate deep recession,” said Pifher, who became the city’s water director in 2008 following Peter Binney, who originally conceptualized the Prairie Waters Project. “As a consequence of the recession there were many contractors out there looking for work and they were going to bid as low as they could just to keep their people gainfully employed.”[...]

Much of the project also uses new ideas, Pifher said, not only in terms of the technology that was implemented, but also because the water department found a way to maximize its water rights to the full extent. “The water resource is so scarce today in the arid part of the West that you can’t just go out and appropriate new water,” he said. “So you have to find a way to make use of what you have. That in itself is sort of cutting edge. When you combine all these cutting edge concepts, you do have a state-of-the-art facility and I think this will become the model for similar projects in the West.”

Other counties in the state in search of alternative water sources, such as Douglas County, would also be able to lease some of the excess water that would be produced as a result of the project, he said…

The project begins north of Brighton, off of State Highway 8 and County Road 85, at the site of the South Platte River. The first step in purifying the water from the South Platte River takes place underneath more than 100 acres of open space, where only a few, small man-made structures hint to what’s happening underneath your feet. “If you drove past this, you would never know this is where Prairie Waters begins,” said Greg Baker, spokesman for the water department. “And that was the idea.” More than 22 tunnels were constructed under roadways, waterways and railroad crossings so nearby people, wildlife and environment wouldn’t be disrupted. Water travels from the river through gravel and sand, which are natural filters, to 17 wells located about 300 feet from the river. The gravel and sand act as purifiers that filter out pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Baker said the project was designed so that the filtration systems from Brighton to Aurora would thoroughly remove pharmaceutical products, as city officials expect that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will make that a requirement in the near future. Water samples have already been taken from the wells and studies by the Colorado School of Mines show that about 90 percent of the purification process occurs from the river to the wells. “That’s the neatest thing, as far as I’m concerned,” Baker said. “We’re not using any high technology, we’re not using a tremendous amount of energy to do this, and yet we’re addressing probably one of the biggest issues in water today which is the pharmaceutical industry.”[...]

From the North Campus, the water will flow along the pipeline that largely follows the E-470 highway. The pumping stations are located in Brighton, Commerce City and Aurora, and each station has one 1,250 horsepower pump and one 600 horsepower pump to push the water to Aurora over a nearly 1,000-foot increase in elevation. The water will then flow to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility, where the water is further filtered using 14 ultraviolet reactors and activated charcoal to destroy unwanted contaminants.

More Prairie Water Project coverage here and here.

Aurora: Prairie Waters Project update

March 16, 2010

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From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

Prairie Waters, the city’s new $659 million water-purification and -recycling system, will be completed ahead of schedule and almost $100 million under budget. Project managers attribute the savings to good planning and trimming nonessential features from the plant. They also say the bad economy helped ratchet costs down. Contractors desperate for work submitted low bids for many of the jobs in the construction of the system, Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said. “We took advantage of a strong bidding environment,” he said…

The city has raised residential water prices, nearly quadrupled tap fees and issued $450 million in bonds to pay for the project…

In good-water years, Aurora could lease water to communities such as Douglas County that are searching for new water sources. “Aurora Water has found something that of course will answer their concerns but also something to help the metropolitan area,” said Rocky Wiley, a former water-management planner for Denver Water who now works for a consulting firm. “It’s a viable answer, and it’s wet water,” Wiley said…

Up to 50 million gallons of water a day will be treated at the purification facility. During peak-demand periods, water treated at the facility will be mixed with mountain water and piped to homes.
“You’re always planning for the hottest day in July, when people are watering their lawns, taking showers, washing their cars, when every spigot is open,” Baker said. “We had to make sure our water supply would meet that demand.”

Aurora Water officials expect to dedicate the facility in September and will begin testing the system by December. It is scheduled to be running in full by the late spring or early summer of next year.

More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.

Aurora: City council receives water infrastructure news

January 25, 2010

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From the Aurora Sentinel (Aaron Cole):

According to Greg Baker, spokesman for the city’s water department, much of the city’s current sewage and water pipes are ending their 50-year life cycle within the next 10 years, and may need significant maintenance. “They all have aging infrastructure,” he said. “We’re coming up on a perfect storm in 10 years.”

That perfect storm includes aging sewer mains underneath the city’s streets, as well as other delivery systems within the city.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Aurora: City files for change of use for Busk-Ivanhoe rights, teams with Climax Molybdenum to change Columbine Ditch rights

January 9, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora bought half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water system from the High Line Canal Co. in 1987, following the purchase of the other half from the ditch company by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in 1971. Aurora filed for a change of use decree in Division 2 Water Court in December. Identical applications have been filed in Division 1 (South Platte) and Division 5 (Colorado River) water courts. The project brings water from Ivanhoe Lake, located at 11,500 feet elevation on a tributary of the Fryingpan River west of Hagerman Pass, through a former railroad and highway tunnel to Busk Creek, which empties into Turquoise Lake near Leadville…

{Aurora] has imported more than 3,000 acre-feet per year from Busk-Ivanhoe for the past few years. The Pueblo water board manages the system, which includes two live-in caretakers at Ivanhoe Lake, but Pueblo and Aurora share the water equally. In its application, Aurora states it intends to use the water for all purposes in two basins, rather than its existing decree for agriculture in the Arkansas River basin. Aurora would continue some of those uses, but would also apply water to its delivery and reuse systems in the South Platte basin. Aurora takes the water through the Homestake Project, which it shares with Colorado Springs. In the application, Aurora lists its Box Creek Reservoir, located between Turquoise and Twin Lakes, as a potential storage place, even though it has not been built. It also lists several recharge pits or reservoirs in the South Platte River basin that have not been built.

Meanwhile here’s the lowdown on the Columbine Ditch, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Fremont Pass Ditch Co., owned by Aurora and Climax, filed an application for change of water rights in Division 2 Water Court in Pueblo last month. Identical applications were filed in Division 5 (Colorado River) and Division 1 (South Platte) water courts. The Pueblo water board sold the Columbine Ditch to the Fremont Pass Co. last year for $30.48 million, as part of its financing for the purchase of about 27 percent of the water rights on the Bessemer Ditch in Pueblo County.

The Columbine Ditch, located at 11,500-foot-elevation Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville, is about two miles long and was built to serve irrigators in 1931. It diverts water from three small streams in the Eagle River watershed over the pass near Climax mining operations. The water board purchased the ditch in 1953 to meet long-term needs and changed the decree to municipal and other uses appropriate to its needs in 1993. The average yield of the ditch was about 1,700 acre-feet annually, but because of long-term limits that was expected to drop to 1,300 acre-feet per year. Aurora and Climax are seeking further uses, including snowmaking, wetlands creation and direct reuse among others. They also are asking the court to approve new places of use, including at the Climax Mine, a gravel pit reservoir near Leadville and in the Arkansas or South Platte basins as part of Aurora’s extensive water system.

More transmountain/transbasin diversion coverage here.

National League of Cities: Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Steering Committee annual fall meeting

September 14, 2009

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Here’s a release from the National League of Cities (Carolyn Berndt):

The Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Steering Committee took several steps toward addressing this year’s work plan at its fall meeting in Aurora, Colo. With a full agenda, the committee, led by Chair Claude Mattox, councilmember from Phoenix, focused on: sustainability and climate change; water infrastructure and supply; and product stewardship and waste reduction.

In addition to approving two existing resolutions on climate change, the committee approved new policy language relating to renewable energy and infrastructure siting.

Several speakers informed the discussion. Corey Buffo from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spoke about a green building code initiative to provide local governments with building code information. Joe Goffman from the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee provided an update on the status of climate change legislation in the Senate. Finally, Anders Riel Muller from Baltic Sea Solutions in Palo Alto, Calif., spoke about a new partnership to visually map local climate change initiatives.

After hearing from two speakers on different legislative proposals for funding the nation’s water infrastructure needs, the committee amended and approved an existing resolution on water infrastructure. Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water, also spoke to the committee about Colorado water law, the Colorado River compact and the Aurora Water reuse plan.

Additionally, the committee approved new policy language on electronic waste and a new resolution relating to product stewardship.

Finally, the committee heard from Mike McHugh from Aurora Water about the impact of the mountain pine beetle on Colorado and western forests. Bark beetles were a priority policy issue for the committee in 2008. The committee approved new policy language relating to invasive species.

The committee voted to update and renew current NLC resolutions on water infrastructure, sustainability initiatives, climate change, climate change adaptation, bark beetles and environmentally friendly shoreline systems. Additionally, the committee voted to incorporate a recurring resolution on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program into existing policy.

Aurora Councilmember Brad Pierce hosted the EENR meeting. A number of related field visits were held throughout the meeting, including a visit to the city’s new municipal center, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Plains Conservation Center and the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Plant.

The EENR Policy and Advocacy Committee will meet at the Congress of Cities in San Antonio to review policy recommendations. The committee will meet on Wednesday, November 11, and welcomes conference attendees at the meeting.

Denver, South Metro and Aurora to coordinate and share supply facilities?

July 23, 2009

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Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority are exploring ways that facilities could be shared to optimize supply distribution, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Denver Water, Aurora Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority are preparing a report that would identify how water supply systems could be shared, Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher said. “We’re underutilizing our resources,” Pifher told a joint meeting of the Interbasin Compact Committee and the interim legislative water resources committee. “We’re looking at ways to share our infrastructure, but it may require relief in water law to give us the additional flexibility to make that kind of project work.” By capturing flows that are not used, there would be less pressure in the short term on agricultural water rights. In the long run, there would be reduced costs for storage and pipelines if the water providers are working together, Pifher said…

A study of how the three entities could work together is being prepared and will be released later this year, Pifher added. Together, the water providers supply almost 500,000 acre-feet of water to a population of about 1.7 million. South Metro includes 13 separate water providers that have been looking at their own study of how to jointly use resources better…

Denver Water is in the midst of a 10-year plan aimed at reducing per-capita water consumption by at least 20 percent. It is also looking at possible projects to physically reuse water. Aurora’s $750 million Prairie Waters Project, now under construction, will recapture its return flows from the regional wastewater treatment plant and pump them 34 miles upstream. Return flows from water imported from the Western Slope, from Denver Basin aquifers or taken as consumptive use from ag dry-ups, in some cases, can be reused to extinction under state water law. Most of the water is not physically reused now, but exchanged against native flows. A 1999 study indicated there are about 200,000 acre-feet of reusable water in the Denver Metro area, with about 133,000 acre-feet coming through wastewater plants.

More Coyote Gulch infrastructure coverage here.

Colorado to pony up $4.5 million to Lend Lease

June 3, 2009

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The editors of the Aurora Sentinel believe that Lend Lease’s project could have been save with some state dough and participation in the Prairie Waters Project. Here’s an editorial. They write:

Two things should have happened. Either the project should never have been allowed to get as far as it did, or the state should have intervened to help produce needed water. Even before Lend Lease was chosen as the developer in 2006, state officials were well aware of the lack of available water for the project. In this part of the state, there are two possible sources of water for development of any significance: Aurora and Colorado Springs. The project is really too far from Colorado Springs to be financially feasible. That leaves Aurora.

Aurora is in the process of building its massive Prairie Waters Project, bringing water from downstream of the South Platte River. Part of that plan calls for a future reservoir in the vicinity of the existing Aurora Reservoir, just north of the defunct Lowry Bombing Range project. The state could easily have ponied up in some fashion to share in the expense of Prairie Waters and the new reservoir, but didn’t. Such a partnership could have provided the sustainable water supply that any significant development on this land will require.

Instead, the state allowed the deal to die and now must pay Lend Lease millions for its trouble. What a waste. State land board officials say the work completed by Lend Lease could be helpful for a future project, but there clearly will never be one without a water deal.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


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