Its central administration building at its 34.6-acre campus southeast of downtown, between West Sixth and West 12th avenues just east of the freight railroad tracks, pre-dates the computer age.
Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO, says the administration is the “nerve center” of the organization, and “in the ‘70s, when we built this building there were no computers — now there are.”
The average age of the buildings on the campus is 55 years old, and one of the buildings is 130 years old — an old pump station now converted into a conference center.
So when Denver Water decided that it needed to upgrade for the 21st century, the biggest question was whether the agency should leave its historic location, or stay, Lochhead said.
After a review, the decision was that it was more cost efficient to stay, he told the Denver Business Journal.
So Denver Water is embarking on a four-year, $195 million redevelopment of the campus — and in the process building a showcase for state-of-the-art energy and sustainable water conservation practices, Lochhead said.
Construction is slated to begin in January 2016 and finish in the summer of 2019…
Denver Water has hired Trammell Crow, a real estate developer; Mortenson Construction, which will be the prime general contractor; and RNL Design, which will be the prime architect on the project.
Money to pay for the project will come from the agency’s capital fund, which is supported with bonds that are repaid using revenues from water sales to customers, he said.
Construction will focus first on consolidating equipment, warehouse and maintenance buildings on the north side of the property into new, dedicated buildings on the southern edge of the property, near the Sixth Avenue side. The new administration center will be on the north side of the property, along West 12th Avenue.
Lochhead said Denver Water hopes the new administration center will be certified as LEED Platinum, the highest certification under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council for buildings that have taken steps to cut water and energy usage at the site.
Lochhead said Denver Water wants the new campus to demonstrate state-of-the-art water conservation techniques, including the capture, treatment and reuse rainwater to irrigate landscape on the site.
That will require the agency to seek a water right for the rainwater from the state’s water courts, he said.
Also, the agency wants to build a mini-water treatment plant to collect and treat water used at the new administration building — and reuse that water, such as from toilets and sinks, for irrigation purposes.
And Lochhead said plans also are in the works to tap into a Denver Water pipeline along West 12th Avenue and couple it with a geothermal heating and cooling system for the new administration building.
After the water is piped through the building to heat it or cool it, depending on the weather, the water will be sent back to the larger pipeline for use by customers, he said.
“We want to be financially responsible and we also have a commitment to sustainability, we’re building a campus that will be here for decades, with the water and energy use that mirrors that sustainability,” he said. “These are concepts that we can prove out and others can use.”
On the revitalized campus, graywater, the gently used water from sinks, clothes washers and showers, will be treated and reused in toilets and irrigation, where potable water isn’t necessary.
Stormwater runoff will be minimized and collected for reuse in irrigation. Rainwater will be harvested.
A geothermal well system, tied into a water conduit on 12th Avenue, will allow the utility to “extract energy from our own drinking water,” Lochhead said.
An “eco machine” in the new administration building’s lobby will look like a greenhouse but will be a working biotreatment system, treating wastewater on-site for irrigation or discharge into the South Platte River.
“We think we can be at the cutting edge, to help prove out a lot of the technology and sustainability concepts that can be replicated at other major developments in the city,” Lochhead said.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Major project in southwest Denver wraps up
Denver Water is wrapping up a major project to improve water quality and dam safety at Marston Forebay, the reservoir that feeds into Marston Treatment Plant.
The $12.5 million project, which began in mid-2014, included building a new outlet works on the north side of the forebay. The new outlet is a tower structure designed to draw water from various levels of the reservoir instead of just one, which will allow operators to send the highest-quality water to the treatment plant.
The project also included:
Constructing a platform for the outlet, connected to the dam by a new access bridge.
Excavating an underwater channel for moving water to the base of the outlet.
Removing outlet towers and aging pipes that passed through the north dam.
Reconstructing the north dam’s embankment.
Installing upgraded electrical systems and measurement devices.
Improving the site by installing new pipes, connections and a drain line.
To access the site, crews had to lower Marston’s level by 25 feet, which also allowed us to make improvements to the south dam before we began refilling the reservoir in June 2015. Learn more about the project.
Kassler was a company town, and the company was Denver Water.
The town, named for Edwin Stebbins Kassler, one of the board members of the private company that preceded Denver Water, was established in 1901 as one of the first filtration plants for water coming from the South Platte River through Waterton Canyon.
When Denver was founded, along the banks of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, residents got their water directly from the river or from riverside wells. But that wasn’t the best, or cleanest way to get water. People bathed in it and washed their clothes in it and, as the city grew, the river began to fill with industrial waste. In addition, as more and more residents moved to Denver, the river could no longer provide enough water for residents, especially during a drought.
The solution came at the turn of the 20th Century: go upstream on the Platte, into Platte Canyon, now known as Waterton Canyon. To clean the water, the private company that eventually became Denver Water built the first “English slow-sand treatment system” west of the Mississippi, at Kassler, which could filter up to 50 million gallons of water a day.
Construction on the Kassler system began in 1901. But its distance from Denver, and the fact it had to be in operation around the clock, meant workers needed to be close by. Thus was born the town of Kassler. Workers built a boarding house, a bunkhouse, and eight single-family rental cottages, since it wasn’t only single men who worked at Kassler. They also built an administration building, a barn for the horses and a blacksmith, a schoolhouse with room for eight grades, and something called a measuring house, where engineers governed how much water was pouring down the pipes.
Water was filtered through four sand “beds,” or “cribs,” totaling a bit more than 10 acres. The sand was layered on top of gravel, with pipes beneath. There were cast-iron pipes, still in use today, and wood-stave pipes, which looked barrels, but without ends. Water would flow through the sand, removing particulates, then through gravel and into perforated pipes and then on to Denver in ditches.
Workers had to manually remove silt that emerged from the water and into the sand, labor Geist described as “back-breaking,” though by the 1950s, tractors had taken over cleaning the silt.
Working at Kassler was sometimes a family affair, according to Geist. Generations worked there, with jobs passing down from one generation to the next. One family, the Swans, were among the first to live at the town and also among the last to live there, when the plant was decommissioned in 1985. The last house still standing in Kassler was once their home.
Today, what remains of Kassler is the administration building, the Swan House, and the barn, all used for educational tours. Geist said Denver Water is putting together a plan, based on input from the community, to determine whether the buildings will be restored, set up as a museum, or used some other way.
The final presentation in the series “Colorado’s Water Stories” is 7-8 p.m. Aug. 18 at the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway, in Denver. It’s a chance to meet the people behind the Living West exhibit and hear their stories about water and its importance to the state. The event is free.
Anti-fluoridation activists blitzed the Denver Water Board on Wednesday, pressing their case that adding fluoride to water to cut cavities is harmful “mass medication.”
“Why should we impose it on people?” Fluoride Action Network director Paul Connett said.
Denver is the latest target of a campaign that in the past five years has persuaded 200 cities worldwide — including Snowmass Village, Pagosa Springs, Palisade and Montrose — to stop adding fluoride to water.
Water board members told the roughly 130 activists who packed a hearing that they are reviewing current practices and will make a decision by Aug. 26.
The campaign run by FAN and “We Are Change Colorado” has gained enough traction that Colorado public health director Larry Wolk and Gov. John Hickenlooper launched a counter-attack before the hearing. They issued a statement recommending that all communities add fluoride to water supplies.
Today about 72 percent of Coloradans on municipal systems receive water containing natural or added fluoride…
Activists contend fluoride is “neurotoxic” and weakens bones. They say children are grossly over-exposed. Too much sugar, not lack of fluoride, is the problem, Connett said. They denounced government assertions that fluoride is necessary to prevent tooth decay as propaganda…
In April, federal health officials changed the national standard for the first time since 1962, citing recent studies finding people get fluoride from other sources such as toothpaste. Instead of a range between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter, the feds now recommend a concentration of 0.7 milligrams per liter.
State dental director Katya Mauritson cited a 2005 state study that found adding fluoride saves residents $61 a year for dental care at a cost of less than $2 per customer to utilities.
James Eklund, the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, invoked his Western Slope heritage at a “Summit on the Colorado Water Plan” hosted Saturday in Rifle by the Garfield County commissioners.
“The mantra I grew up with in Plateau Valley was not one more drop of water will be moved from this side of the state to the other,” said Eklund, whose mother’s family has been ranching in the Plateau Creek valley near Collbran since the 1880s.
Eklund was speaking to a room of about 50 people, including representatives from 14 Western Slope counties, all of whom had been invited by the Garfield County commissioners for a four-hour meeting.
The commissioners’ stated goal for the meeting was to develop a unified voice from the Western Slope stating that “no more water” be diverted to the Front Range.
“That argument had been made, probably by my great-grandparents, my grandparents and my parents,” Eklund said. “And I know there are a lot of people who still want to make that argument today, and I get that. But it has not done us well on the Western Slope.
“That argument has gotten us to were we are now, 500,000 to 600,000 acre feet of water moving from the west to the east. So I guess the status quo is not West Slope-friendly. We need something different. We need a different path. And these seven points provides that different path.”
The “seven points” form the basis of a “draft conceptual framework” for future negotiations regarding a potential transmountain diversion in Colorado.
The framework is the result of the ongoing statewide water-supply planning process that Eklund is overseeing in his role at the CWCB.
Eklund took the helm two years ago at the CWCB after serving as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s senior deputy legal counsel, and he’s been leading the effort to produce the state’s first water plan, which is due on the governor’s desk in December.
The second draft of the plan includes the seven points, even though the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, which meets monthly in Glenwood Springs under the auspices of the CWCB, is still on the record as opposing their inclusion in the water plan. That could change after its meeting on Monday.
Not legally binding
The “seven points” seeks to define the issues the Western Slope likely has with more water flowing east under the Continental Divide, and especially how a new transmountain diversion could hasten a demand from California for Colorado’s water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.
“The seven points are uniquely helpful to Western Slope interests because if you tick through them, they are statements that the Front Range doesn’t necessarily have to make,” Eklund said in response to a question. “If these were legally binding, the Western Slope would benefit.”
Under Colorado water law a Front Range water provider, say, can file for a right to move water to the east, and a local county or water district might have little recourse other than perhaps to fight the effort through a permitting process.
But Eklund said the points in the “conceptual framework” could be invoked by the broader Western Slope when negotiating a new transmountain diversion.
As such, a diverter might at least have to acknowledge that water may not be available in dry years, that the diversion shouldn’t exacerbate efforts to forestall a compact call, that other water options on the Front Range, including increased conservation, should be developed first, that a new transmountain diversion shouldn’t preclude future growth on the Western Slope, and that the environmental resiliency of the donor river would need to be addressed.
“We’re just better off with them than without them,” Eklund said of the seven points.
A cap on the Colorado?
Eric Kuhn, the general manager of the Colorado River District, which is based in Glenwood Springs and represents 15 Western Slope counties, told the attendees that three existing agreements effectively cap how much more water can be diverted from the upper Colorado River and its tributaries above Glenwood Springs.
The Colorado Water Cooperative Agreement, which was signed in 2013 by 18 entities, allows Denver Water to develop another 18,000 acre-feet from the Fraser River as part of the Moffat, or Gross Reservoir, project, but it also includes a provision that would restrict other participating Front Range water providers from developing water from the upper Colorado River.
A second agreement will allow Northern Water to move another 30,000 acre feet of water out of the Colorado River through its Windy Gap facilities, but Northern has agreed that if it develops future projects, it will have to do so in a cooperative manner with West Slope interests.
And a third agreement known as the Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding will allow Aurora and Colorado Springs to develop another 20,000 acre feet of water as part of the Homestake project in the Eagle River basin, but will also provide 10,000 acre feet for Western Slope use.
“So effectively these three agreements, in effect, cap what you’re going to see above Glenwood Springs,” Kuhn said.
The Moffat, Windy Gap and Eagle River projects are not subject to the “seven points” in the conceptual agreement, and neither is the water that could be taken by the full use of these and other existing transmountain projects.
“So when you add all that up, there is an additional 100,000 to 150,000 acre-feet of consumptive use already in existing projects,” Kuhn said.
But beyond that, Kuhn said Front Range water providers desire security and want to avoid a compact call, just as the Western Slope does.
“We’ve been cussing and discussing transmountain diversions for 85 years,” Kuhn added, noting that the Colorado Constitution does not allow the Western Slope to simply say “no” to Front Range water developers.
“So, the framework is an agenda,” Kuhn said, referring to the “seven points.” “It’s not the law, but it is a good agenda to keep us on track. It includes important new concepts, like avoiding over development and protecting existing uses.”
Vet other projects too?
Rachel Richards, a Pitkin County commissioner, told the attendees that she would like to see more water projects than just new transmountain diversions be subject to the seven points.
As part of the state’s water-supply planning efforts, state officials have designated a list of projects as already “identified projects and processes,” or IPPs, which are not subject to the seven points.
“We would like to see the same environmental standards, and community buy-in standards, applied to increasing existing transmountain diversions or IPPs,” Richards said, noting that the “IPPs” seem to be wearing a halo.
“They need to go through just as much vetting for concern of the communities as a new transmountain diversion would, and we’re probably going to see a lot more of them first,” she said.
At the end of the four-hour summit on the statewide water plan, Garfield County Commissioner Mike Sampson said he still had “real concerns” about the long-term viability of Western Slope agriculture and industry in the face of growth on the Front Range, but he offered some support for the seven points.
“I think the seven points is probably a good starting position,” Sampson said.
He also said Garfield County would make some edits to a draft position paper it hopes will be adopted by other Western Slope counties.
On Saturday, the draft paper said “the elected county commissioners on the Western Slope of Colorado stand united in opposing any more major, transmountain diversions or major changes in operation of existing projects unless agreed to by all of the county(s) from which water would be diverted.”
But Sampson was advised, and agreed, that it might be productive to reframe that key statement to articulate what the Western Slope would support, not what it would oppose.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and water. The Post published this story online on July 25, 2015.
A pilot program that would leave some of Pueblo’s water on the Western Slope — for a fee — was approved by the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.
The program would pay Pueblo Water about $400,000 over the next two years to leave 600 acre-feet (195 million gallons) in the Colorado River basin. It’s part of an $11 million pilot project to test tools that could be part of a Colorado River drought conservancy plan.
The program is sponsored by the Upper Colorado River Commission, Bureau of Reclamation, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Denver Water, Central Arizona Water Conservation District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
About $2.75 million is set aside for conservation programs in the Upper Colorado states, which are Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Pueblo would contribute the water in a fairly painless way by shutting down the diversion of the Ewing Ditch, which brings water into the Arkansas River basin from Piney Gulch in the Eagle River basin.
The diversion is one of the oldest in the state, constructed in 1880 at Tennessee Pass.
The diversion ditch originally was dug by the Otero Canal and was purchased in 1954 by Pueblo Water. It delivers an average of about 920 acre-feet, but in wet years like this one, not all of the water is taken.
Pueblo’s storage accounts are full this year, with 52,174 acre-feet in storage, equivalent to two years of potable water use in the city. Pueblo’s total water use annually, including raw water leases and other obligations, is usually 70,000-80,000 acre-feet.
Typically, about 14,700 acre-feet would be brought across the Continental Divide, but this year, only about 5,760 acre-feet has arrived from all transmountain sources.
“There’s no place to put it,” Water Resources Manager Alan Ward told the water board this week. “It’s close to as much as we’ve ever had in storage.”
The Ewing Ditch contribution is about 37 percent of average this year, similar to Twin Lakes, which was shut down when the reservoir near Leadville reached capacity in May. Pueblo Water brought over 71 percent of its Busk-Ivanhoe water even though it was trying not to take any, Ward said.
As a professional working to educate Coloradans on the value of water resources, I’m drawn to public process. How are we exposed to civic issues, why should we care about community planning and what are meaningful ways to participate in decision-making? These are powerful questions that can lead to a more engaged citizenry and hopefully, a more sustainable future. So when the opportunity to serve on Denver Water’s Citizens Advisory Committee came to me six months ago, I was eager and honored to dive in.
Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee.
The CAC was created in 1978 as a result of public concern about growth issues and environmental impacts, forming a citizens group charged with representing public interests. There are ten of us from the West Slope, city and suburbs of Denver, amongst others, that advise the Board of Water Commissioners on matters of citizen participation. One…