Providers utilizing the Denver Basin Aquifer are moving towards supply security

Denver Basin aquifer map
Denver Basin aquifer map

From the Centennial Citizen (Paul Donahue and Eric Hecox):

Is our water future secure?

It’s a question on the minds of many in Castle Rock and the entire south metro Denver region — and for good reason. After all, water is what makes our outstanding quality of life possible. If we want future generations to enjoy our communities as we do, we must ensure they have access to a secure and sustainable water supply that meets their future needs.

From conversations throughout the region, we know Castle Rock residents and those in the entire south metro area understand the critical role water plays in delivering the quality of life we desire for our children, in addition to supporting property values, job creation and economic growth.

We know residents are aware the region historically has relied too heavily on declining groundwater supplies and must diversify its supply for long-term sustainability. We know they view water as a top priority for the region and support an all-of-the-above approach that includes conservation and reuse, storage and new renewable supplies.

We also know Castle Rock residents as well as residents across the south metro area value partnership among leaders throughout the region to get the job done in the most economically responsible manner. Working together to secure water rights, build infrastructure and efficiently use storage space helps spread the costs and the benefits to customers throughout the region.

The answer to the question on people’s minds is not clear-cut. While our region is on the path to delivering a secure water future for generations to come, this effort is ongoing and will require continued support from our communities to see it through to the end.

The good news is that we have a plan, and we are executing that plan.

Thanks to innovative conservation approaches, the region has seen a 30 percent decrease in per capita water use since 2000. That means the typical south metro household or business, including those in Castle Rock, is using 30 percent less water than just 15 years ago. Declines in the region’s underground aquifers — historically the main water source for the region — have slowed considerably in that same time period, a testament to efforts across the region to diversify water supplies and maximize efficiency through reuse.

At the same time, major new water infrastructure projects are coming online throughout the region that bring new renewable supplies, storage capacity and reuse capabilities. These include the WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency) Partnership with Denver Water, Aurora and several other regional organizations including Castle Rock Water, the Chatfield Reallocation Project, Rueter-Hess Reservoir, the Northern Project and Castle Rock’s Plum Creek Purification Facility, to name a few.

The 13 members that make up the South Metro Water Supply Authority provide water to 80 percent of Douglas County and 10 percent of Arapahoe County. Together, they are partnering among each other as well as with local government leadership and water entities across the region and state to execute their plan to secure a sustainable water future for the region.

Since becoming a member of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Castle Rock Water has helped lead implementation of the WISE project, new water storage reservoir projects and other regional renewable water supply efforts. WISE water will be available to Castle Rock residents by 2017 and even earlier for some of the other South Metro residents. A project like WISE represents as much as 10 percent of the renewable water needed for both current and future residents in Castle Rock.

The members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Castle Rock, each have long-term water plans. Through partnerships, these projects are made possible by sharing in the needed investments and other resources when completing the time-consuming task of acquiring additional renewable water and building the required infrastructure.

This collaboration is supported by the state and is in line with the Colorado Water Plan. This regional support has been critical in providing feasible strategies to ensure water for future generations.

Is our water future secure? No, not yet. But we’re well on our way to getting there.

Paul Donahue is the mayor of Castle Rock and has served on the town council for eight years. Eric Hecox is the director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a regional water authority made up of 13 water provider members that collectively serve more than 300,000 residents as well as businesses in the south metro Denver area. South Metro Water’s membership spans much of Douglas County and parts of Arapahoe County, including Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Parker and Castle Pines.

Rueter-Hess dam and reservoir offer hope for thirsty Colorado communities — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado water planners facing a projected 163 billion-gallon statewide annual shortfall by 2050 now are aiming to emulate water-stressed Parker (population 50,000), which labored for three decades to build its 185-foot-high Frank Jaeger dam, reservoir and plant. Parker’s leaders were driven by a desire to enable population growth up to 120,000 people without pumping more from dwindling underground aquifers.

Parker officials began their project in 1985 after anticipating a water shortfall as suburban development exploded. Longtime Parker Water employee Frank Jaeger scouted sites, filed for permits and obtained rights to divert water. Town leaders initially planned a reservoir to hold 16,200 acre-feet of water.

At first they focused on flooding Castlewood Canyon State Park. Courts rejected this.

Jaeger then negotiated with landowners for the current site, between Parker and Castle Rock. Environmental studies started in 1997. Designs were done in 2002. Construction began in 2004. In 2008, Jaeger and other suburban officials decided to make it a bigger reservoir, holding 75,000 acre-feet.

The reservoir was completed in 2012. And an adjacent water-cleaning plant last summer began operating — bringing reservoir water to residents who long have relied on declining underground water.

Any state push to build reservoirs will require determination and patience, said Jaeger, now retired. “You’ll need state sponsorship,” he said. “And you’ll need somebody who is going to stay around for the whole deal. They’re going to take a lot of heat.”

More dams and reservoirs likely would cost hundreds of millions and, if off the main stem of a river, require huge amounts of electrical power to pump water.

Parker installed five grid-powered motors — three 1,250 horsepower, two 500 horsepower. These move water from headwaters of Cherry Creek, at a diversion point near Stroh Road, through a 3-mile, 48-inch-diameter steel pipe that runs up a 250-foot-high hill before it reaches Rueter-Hess.

Then there’s the matter of obtaining enough water to fill Rueter-Hess, factoring in annual evaporation losses of about 3 percent.

Parker secured limited junior rights to surface water and, in May 2011, began diverting to fill the reservoir. When senior rights holders call for water in dry times, Parker’s diversions must stop. Today, Rueter-Hess holds 21,000 acre-feet.

The water treatment plant uses state-of-the-art filtering and chemical treatments to remove algae and minerals such as phosphorus so that the reservoir water is safe.

As Parker Water’s team formally opened the plant last month, [Ron] Redd said state planners will need to get started soon.

“It took Parker Water 25 years,” he said. “They’ll probably need more storage than what they are indicating. … You’re never disappointed with more storage.”

Rueter-Hess Water Purification Facility celebrates grand opening in Parker, CO — WaterWorld

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provided regulatory approval for the first-time use of ceramic membrane filters for a drinking water system in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Dewberry)
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provided regulatory approval for the first-time use of ceramic membrane filters for a drinking water system in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Dewberry)

From WaterWorld:

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the Rueter-Hess Water Purification Facility (RHWPF) — located in the town of Parker, Colo., southeast of Denver — officially celebrated the grand opening of tours for the facility.

The water treatment plant, which serves a community of approximately 50,000 residents, uses new technologies that have enabled the Parker Water and Sanitation District (PWSD) to convert from rapidly declining groundwater sources to a renewable water supply, including surface water, groundwater, alluvial well water, and reclaimed wastewater.

Designed by Dewberry, the RHWPF is the first plant in the world to incorporate a trio of cutting-edge technologies to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards. The process includes three key stages:

A coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation chamber using microsand to enhance particle sedimentation while reducing the chamber’s surface area requirements.

A recirculating powdered activated carbon (PAC) chamber cutting costs by sending used PAC back through the system, increasing the amount of contact time between PAC particles and dissolved organic compounds for a more aggressive and efficient treatment.

The treated water being pumped through ceramic membrane filters to remove remaining particles larger than 0.1 microns in size and any remaining microsand or PAC.

In the first such application in a drinking water system in the U.S., the 600 ceramic membrane modules were specifically chosen for their ability to withstand impacts from the abrasive sand and PAC particles used in upstream processes and then be cleaned back to like-new condition. The ceramic membrane filtration system is anticipated to last much longer than conventional polymeric membranes.

“The ceramic membranes are very durable and can withstand impacts from sand and powdered activated carbon, which is very abrasive,” said Alan Pratt, PE, Dewberry project manager for the design of the RHWPF. “The ceramic membranes can be cleaned back to a new condition, whereas polymeric membranes typically deteriorate over a life of six to 10 years and need to be replaced.”

The completion of the 10-MGD RHWPF (expandable to 40 MGD) is part of a visionary, multi-phase plan for the water district, where district leaders had long recognized groundwater as a diminishing resource within the rapidly developing area. The new network features a 50-CFS pump station that brings surface water from nearby Cherry Creek and Cherry Creek alluvial wells into the 75,000-acre-foot Rueter-Hess Reservoir, completed in 2012.

Water stored in the reservoir flows by gravity into the RHWPF. After moving through the two ballasted sedimentation chambers and the ceramic membrane filters, the disinfected water is pumped into the PWSD’s distribution piping network for use by customers. Wastewater is returned to nearby reclamation facilities and then to Cherry Creek for reuse.

In addition to Dewberry, the project team included Western Summit Constructors, Inc. as the primary contractor, Garney-Weaver for construction management, and Kruger, Inc. for the ballasted sedimentation and ceramic membrane filter technologies. “The ability for us to turn many different water qualities into a high-quality potable water supply has been made possible only with the combined effort of many different companies coming together,” said PWSD District Manager Ron Redd. “Dewberry, Western Summit and Kruger have all worked very hard to make this plant a reality.”

Parker opens new water treatment plant

The water treatment process
The water treatment process

From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Roughly 10 percent of Parker’s water is now going through a state-of-the-art treatment plant near Rueter-Hess Reservoir.

After a few initial hiccups, including the failure of a pump and issues with the feeding of chemicals used to rid the water of impurities, the $50.7 million treatment plant opened in mid-July following three weeks of testing.

Soon after, a handful of Parker Water and Sanitation District officials took their first drink of water processed through the sophisticated system of pumps, pipes and filters.

“We wanted to make sure everything was solid before we sent it out through the system,” said Ron Redd, district manager for Parker Water. “It tasted good!”

Construction began in 2012 on the treatment plant, which has been billed as an integral part of shifting from a reliance on nonrenewable groundwater in aquifers to renewable surface water. It incorporates many of the newest technologies and eventually will be able to process 40 million gallons per day. The first phase of construction spawned a facility that can churn out about 10 million gallons of treated water per day.

The new treatment plant processes 1.5 million gallons of the 12-million-gallon average needed to satisfy daily summertime demands, Redd said…

Four employees are based out of the treatment plant…

Approximately 20 percent of the total construction costs went toward ceramic filters that are more durable than traditional plastic filters and expected to last from 20-25 years.

“What’s different about this plant is it’s a fairly state-of-the-art facility,” Redd said. “It’s gathering a lot of attention from across the country and the world because of the technology we’re using. We’re anticipating lots of phone calls and (requests for) tours.”

Castlewood Canyon Flood August 3, 1933 — Mark Afman

Click here to go to the History Colorado website for “Where were you when the dam broke?”: Castlewood Canyon Booklet Collects Flood of Memories. Here’s an excerpt:

On the evening of August 3, 1933, Elsie Henderson’s urgent voice raced down the Sullivan Telephone Exchange’s wires, outpacing Cherry Creek’s northbound floodwaters. Notified by a Douglas County sheriff that Castlewood Dam had burst and that everything along the stream’s path from Franktown to Denver was in danger, the operator told farmers and ranchers to gather their families and head for higher ground.

At that time, rural telephone customers often shared single wires called “party lines.” The telephone company assigned phone numbers made up of unique ring patterns to each customer (for example, one short ring followed by two long rings). Elsie, one of only two people available to operate the Sullivan switchboard that night, alerted people with one long ring, the universally recognized sound for an emergency. She and fellow Sullivan Exchange employee Ingrid Mosher worked through the night and into the following afternoon, saving lives, livestock, and property. Though five thousand fled the lowlands, only two people died in one of the worst floods in Colorado history.

In time, Elsie’s deeds might have been washed downriver and forgotten. The story survives thanks to George Madsen, a friend who took the time to answer a 1994 letter from Castlewood Canyon State Park staff requesting personal reminiscences about the flood. Madsen, a former telephone company employee, wrote down his own memories, along with the stories told to him by Elsie and Ingrid years earlier. Dozens of other Coloradans answered the call too, typing their recollections on legal-sized sheets of paper headed by the question, “Where Were You When the Dam Broke?” In 1997 Castlewood Canyon State Park staff members assembled these memories into a compelling book called, The Night the Dam Gave Way: A Diary of Personal Accounts.

More Cherry Creek watershed coverage here.

Fishing to be a big part of Rueter-Hess recreation — The Parker Chronicle

Rueter Hess Reservoir
Rueter Hess Reservoir

From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Parker Water has begun the first phase of a fish-stocking program that will excite anglers for years to come.

The district’s initial purpose in stocking the reservoir is to follow through with an aquatic vegetation management plan, required by the district’s environmental impact statement.

“The reservoir’s volume has now reached a point that we are comfortable with implementing the stocking plan,” said Ron Redd, district manager.

The approved fish-stocking strategy was developed by Aquatics Associates Inc., with the initial plan being implemented from 2015-19. The recommended phased approach is to first stock the reservoir with forage species, including fathead minnows and bluegill.

Each stocking phase, at an anticipated cost of $27,000-$29,000, will span four consecutive years, with populations expanding on their own as the reservoir increases with size. Other game fish will be introduced in 2016 or later, including, but not limited to, channel catfish and rainbow trout. Stocking largemouth bass in 2017 will help to maintain a balanced and successful fishery.

The fishery biologists at Aquatics Associates predict that in future years, the reservoir will be able to support up to 20-pound rainbow trout.

To find out more about recreation at Rueter-Hess Reservoir, click here.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.

South Platte Basin: Road de-icer and Cherry Creek

De-icer application via FreezGard
De-icer application via FreezGard

From (Brandon Rittman):

Denver’s Cherry Creek got saltier over the past decades, with chloride levels on pace to pose a danger to fish in the city’s iconic tributary of the South Platte River…

Cherry Creek’s winter average rose closer to that threshold, measuring 174 mg/l between 2006 and 2010, which is up from a wintertime average of 122 mg/l during the 1990 to 1994 seasons – a jump of 43 percent.

The USGS says as more areas become urbanized, the use of rock salt on roads and sidewalks increases, making its way into streams.

More importantly, the data shows the problem compounding year over year because stream systems are not able to flush out all of the salt during the warm months.

The effect is a higher baseline of salt content each year, allowing the levels to inch upward each cold season in urban areas.

Salt compounds like magnesium chloride and rock salt are highly effective at decreasing the hazards of icy surfaces.

“Deicing operations help to provide safe winter transportation conditions, which is very important,” the study’s lead author Steve Corsi said in a press release. “Findings from this study emphasize the need to consider deicer management options that minimize the use of road salt while still maintaining safe conditions.”

There are few true alternatives to road salt, and other treatments can come with their own pollution problems. For instance, applying sand to roadways can cause air pollution when cars grind the material into dust.

The USGS study found similar increases over the time period in other areas of the country, with the most severe chloride pollution levels measured in midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.

Salt applied in winter is a concern year-round. The study concludes, “elevated chloride concentrations in these streams through all seasons have implications on long-term exposures to chloride for aquatic organisms.”

The average summertime chloride level in Cherry Creek rose from 62 to 101 mg/l during the time periods in the study.

By contrast, the study found streams in less-developed areas of Wisconsin and Oregon were able to maintain average chloride levels measurable in single digits.

More water pollution coverage here.