Breckenridge: 5% bump in water rates to build fund for new water plant

January 22, 2015

breckenridgevailresorts

From the Town of Breckenridge via the Summit Daily News:

For the first time in recent memory, the town of Breckenridge will raise water usage rates by 5 percent for residential and commercial customers across town.

In an effort to both encourage conservation and kick-start funding for a proposed new water plant, the town council last year approved a higher water utility rate for 2015. Historically, water fees have increased at a low pace of 1 percent annually. Beginning this March, the town’s water usage rates will increase by 5 percent and plant investment fees (PIFs) will jump by 10 percent, the steepest hike since 2007, according to town records.

“Rapidly increasing demands, especially in the drought-prone West, are placing an immense strain on this limited, precious resource,” Mayor John Warner said. “It is our duty to address this critical issue for our community.”

The 5 percent rate increase for residential and commercial users will raise the base residential usage charge from $31.26 to $32.81 over a two-month billing cycle, an increase of $1.55. That translates to a $9.30 increase annually per customer.

For customers beyond town limits, such as homes in the Blue River neighborhood, the two-month rate is 50 percent higher, according to the town’s 2011 water plant feasibility study. Those customers will pay $18.60 more per year.

Excess usage rates will also increase in turn. The base rate for maximum usage will drop from 12,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons per two-month billing cycle. Rates for excess usage will increase from $3.11 per 1,000 gallons to $5.00 per 1,000 gallons. These measures were put in place to encourage conservation efforts, according to a town release.

To assist customers with conservation efforts, the town will send individual water usage history reports shortly after the rate increase. These reports will detail two-year usage history for each customer. Town officials hope the reports can help guide and track conservation efforts, and they come paired with a link to water conservation tips on the town website.

Over the past 10 years, water has factored heavily into council discussions about the town’s future. After noting that water is essential to the community’s economy, natural environment and quality of life, the council made water-related issues a priority and in 2014 completed a comprehensive study on the town’s water system, which strongly recommends the addition of a second water plant.

The PIF increase of 10 percent for 2015 is double the historical annual increase rate of 5 percent. This rate hike is the first step for financing a new plant. Only new customers connecting to the municipal system pay PIFs.

The 2014 water study indicated that the town’s sole water treatment plant, a 41-year-old facility, will not be able to meet future demand. As a result, the town has started the process of planning for a new facility that will help the town meet future water demand as the town continues to grow.

While the town has made strides in conserving water and management efficiency, the current water plant is nearing 80 percent capacity. The current plant will not be able to support new customers outside the current service area, which is supplied by private wells with a high likelihood of failure.

Another benefit of a new plant is emergency readiness. In the event of a wildfire, natural disaster or mechanical malfunction at the current plant, a second water plant would provide a critical back-up system.

The study also found that the Breckenridge system supplies high-quality drinking water at a low cost to customers in comparison to other communities in Colorado. Funding currently comes from user fees, tap fees and water system maintenance fees. The upcoming usage rate and PIF increases are the first such increases. The town council and utility department have not yet decided on any future increases.

“The town is working with water system consultants, engineers and water rights attorneys to secure our community’s water future,” Warner said. “Increased water rates are just one part of taking steps to improve our water utility system. The council and staff are aware that increased rates are rarely welcome news, but we believe that our citizens will understand the critical needs for water conservation and system improvements.”

The Breckenridge Water System study and an informational Q&A on the rate increase are available on the town website at http://www.townofbreckenridge.com.

More infrastructure coverage here


State provides $9.5 million for small community wastewater and drinking water system improvements

January 14, 2015

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (Mark Salley):

Fifteen community drinking water and wastewater systems in small communities throughout Colorado will receive a total of $9.5 million to fund planning, design or construction of public water systems or treatment works necessary for the protection of public health and water quality.

Funding for the grants was provided by the state Legislature under Senate Bill 09-165 and SB14-025. Governmental agencies, nonprofit public water systems and counties representing unincorporated areas of fewer than 5,000 people were eligible to apply for grants of up to $950,000.

cdphewastewaterpotablewaterprojects012015

This list is subject to change based on contract negotiations. In the event a recipient cannot accept the grant in whole or part, the available funds will be distributed per the request for application and the small community grant program rules, Regulation No. 55.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Four projects in Teller County intended to improve water quality and wastewater treatment have received a hefty financial boost from oil and gas tax revenues. Colorado water officials recently awarded $9.5 million for 15 grants to small communities across the state – nearly $2.7 million of which will be spent in Teller County.

The money will go toward a mix of projects, including upgrades that could increase water capacity for one subdivision, and improvements that could assuage water quality concerns by some state regulators.

The state fielded 80 applications, making the grants very competitive.

“It was a very popular program this year,” said Tawnya Reitz, a project manager for the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s grants and loans unit.

Tranquil Acres Water Supply, which serves a subdivision near Woodland Park, received $791,198 to upgrade its 1950s-era water infrastructure. It plans to re-drill wells, install new pumps and build a 100,000-gallon storage tank that could help alleviate water capacity issues, Reitz said.

The state awarded $498,870 to help finance water treatment upgrades so the City of Cripple Creek can meet new chlorine residual standards, she said.

The Florissant Water and Sanitation District received two grants, one for a drinking water project and another to better treat wastewater.

A $200,000 grant will help pay for the installation of a new filtration system, Reitz said.

A $950,000 grant is expected to partially finance new pond liners and a sequencing batch reactor for wastewater treatment, she said.

More water treatment coverage here. More wastewater coverage here.


Silt water plant to be powered by sun — Rifle Citizen Telegram

December 26, 2014
Silt water plant solar array photo via the Rifle Citizen Telegram

Silt water plant solar array photo via the Rifle Citizen Telegram

From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Heather McGregor):

Crews are setting foundations, erecting racks and installing solar panels in a wave of activity at the Silt Water Treatment Plant. The 234-kilowatt solar array is slated to be in service and powering the plant by Dec. 31, according to Katharine Rushton, commercial sales associate for Sunsense Solar.

The new solar array will offset 100 percent of the plant’s electrical use on an annual basis.

It’s being financed with a power purchase agreement and renewable energy credits from Xcel Energy, so it cost the town just $3,500 in upfront fees.

The solar system will save the town an estimated $102,000 over the next 20 years, or about 15 percent of the plant’s total annual electric costs, and it will lock in electric rates for 20 years.

Work on the project started Nov. 3. It’s the first of three major solar energy systems being installed in Garfield County in 2014 and 2015 by Sunsense, a Carbondale solar developer and contractor. Together, the systems will add up to 1 megawatt of renewable energy capacity.

Next up after the Silt project are arrays that will power the Battlement Mesa Metro District water treatment plant and Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

The Silt array includes 756 solar panels, each capable of generating 310 watts of electricity. A bank of eight inverters will convert the direct current electricity to alternating current, so the power can be used by the plant’s equipment or fed back onto the Xcel Energy power grid.

Facing a tight, two-month timeline, the crews are closely following each other for all three phases of building the ground-mounted array, Rushton said.

The foundation contractor, Lyons Fencing of Rifle, set the footers. The Sunsense crew erected the framework and solar panels, and is now finishing off the electrical wiring. Expert Electric of Rifle is handling the alternating current aspects of the project.

Sunsense is also partnering with Garfield Clean Energy to install an energy data logger at the plant as part of the project. It will measure electricity use and solar production in 15-minute intervals for display on the Garfield Building Energy Navigator website.

More water treatment coverage here.


Reclamation: Bureau of Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program Seeks Proposals to Improve Water Treatment Technologies

December 17, 2014
The water treatment process

The water treatment process

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking proposals within two funding opportunity announcements to improve water treatment technologies aimed at increasing water management flexibility through new usable water supplies in the United States. The first is for research, laboratory studies and the second is for pilot projects.

Reclamation will make a total of up to $1.4 million available for the funding opportunities. Research and laboratory studies may request up to $150,000 and pilot projects may request up to $400,000. Applicants are required to provide at least a 50 percent cost-share utilizing non-federal dollars. Institutions of higher education are not required to provide a cost-share for research and laboratory studies, but it is encouraged.

The funding opportunities are available at http://www.grants.gov by searching for announcement number R15AS00019 for research and laboratory studies and R15AS00021 for pilot projects. Applications are due on February 16, 2015, at 4:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Eligible applicants include individuals, institutions of higher education, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, public entities and Indian Tribal Governments.

The Desalination and Water Purification Research Program is helping Reclamation and its partners confront widening imbalances between supply and demand in basins throughout the west through testing and development of new advanced water treatment technologies.

The DWPR Program priorities in 2015 are: (1) overcoming technical, economic and social barriers for direct and/or indirect potable reuse treatment, (2) novel processes and/or materials to treat impaired waters, and (3) concentrate management solutions leading to concentrate volume minimization for inland brackish desalination.

To learn more about Reclamation’s Advanced Water Treatment activities, please visit: http://www.usbr.gov/awt/.


Loveland will increase fluoride in water — the Loveland Reporter-Herald

December 9, 2014
Calcium fluoride

Calcium fluoride

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

City officials will increase the amount of fluorine added to the city’s water by nearly 30 percent in the coming weeks, according to a release issued late Monday from Loveland’s Water and Power Department.

The fluoridation of city water had come under scrutiny after a resident noted it had been removed for more than two years because of maintenance at the water treatment plant. When fluoride supplementation resumed in 2013, it was at a lower level than when the plant went into maintenance.

In the statement issued Monday, department spokeswoman Gretchen Stanford said Water and Power Director Steve Adams chose to increase the fluoridation rate of Loveland water from 0.7 milligrams per liter to 0.9 milligrams per liter, a 28.6 percent increase, but not to the original levels before 2010.

Costs of the increased supplementation were not disclosed by the department.

In late September, members of the Loveland Utilities Commission took public testimony, both written and verbal, on the desired level of fluoridation in city water. In October, members recommended the city keep its fluoridation, but their decision was not binding.

“(Adams’) decision is based on information provided to the Loveland Utilities Commission from local health and dental authorities, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and public comments,” Stanford said in the release.

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other agencies recommend fluoridation levels between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter based on the average air temperatures of the site. Loveland is in the 0.9 milligram per liter area. Fluoride in municipal water supplies is linked to decreases in tooth decay and other dental problems.

The ruling appears to be consistent with a Loveland City Council directive from 1952 that required the city to maintain fluoridation “to proper amounts as recommended by health and dental authorities.”

Loveland is not the only community in Larimer County to have discussions about its level of fluoridation.

In 2005, Fort Collins voters had to decide whether to eliminate fluoridation altogether, based on some reports that link the element with health problems. However, that vote failed on a roughly 2-1 margin on 30,000 votes cast.


@AmericanWater’s Mark LeChevallier discusses water utility innovations and treatment technology

December 5, 2014


Water reuse: “It’s not a question of ‘Can we do it?’ We can do it” — John Rehring #COWaterPlan

November 23, 2014

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

Reverse Osmosis Water Plant


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado water providers facing a shortfall…are turning to a long-ignored resource: wastewater.

They’re calculating that, if even the worst sewage could be cleaned to the point it is safe to drink — filtered through super-fine membranes or constructed wetlands, treated with chemicals, zapped with ultraviolet rays — then the state’s dwindling aquifers and rivers could be saved.

Colorado officials at work on the first statewide water plan to sustain population and industrial growth recognize reuse as an option.

“We need to go as far and as fast as we can on water-reuse projects,” Colorado Water Conservation Board director James Eklund said.

But there’s no statewide strategy to do this.

Other drought-prone states, led by Texas, are moving ahead on wastewater conversion to augment drinking-water supplies.

Several obstacles remain: huge costs of cleaning, legal obligations in Colorado to deliver water downstream, disposal of contaminants purged from wastewater, and safety.

Local water plans recently submitted by leaders in five of Colorado’s eight river basins all call for reuse, along with conservation and possibly capturing more snowmelt, to address the projected 2050 shortfall.

Front Range utilities will “push the practical limit” in reusing water, according to the plan for the South Platte River Basin, which includes metro Denver. The Arkansas River Basin plan relies on reuse “to the maximum potential.”

Western Slope authorities in the Gunnison, Yampa and Colorado river basins contend Front Range residents must reuse all available wastewater as a precondition before state officials consider new trans-mountain projects.

The emerging Colorado Water Plan, to be unveiled Dec. 10, remains a general guide, lacking details such as how much water is available. Nor does this 358-page draft plan specify how much of Colorado’s shortfall can be met by reuse.

Water industry leaders urge an aggressive approach. Colorado officials should determine how much water legally can be reused and analyze how this could boost supplies, WateReuse Association director Melissa Meeker said in a letter to the CWCB. Colorado’s strategy “should be crafted to encourage innovation and creativity in planning reuse projects.”

Cleaning up wastewater to the point it can be reused as drinking water long has been technically feasible. Water already is recycled widely in the sense that cities discharge effluent into rivers that becomes the water supply for downriver communities.

Cleaning systems

In 1968, utility operators in Windhoek, Namibia, a desert nation in Africa, began cleaning wastewater and pumping it into a drinking-water system serving 250,000 people.

Denver Water engineers in the 1980s pioneered a multiple-filter cleaning system at a federally funded demonstration plant. From 1985 to 1991, Denver Water used wastewater to produce 1 million gallons a day of drinking water, which proved to be as clean as drinking water delivered today.

Delegations of engineers from Europe and the Soviet Union visited.

“There was a sense we were ahead,” said Myron Nealey, a Denver Water engineer who worked on the project.

But utility leaders scrapped it, partly out of fear that customers would object to drinking water that a few hours earlier might have been flushed from a toilet. They also were struggling to dispose of thousands of gallons a day of purged contaminants — a super-concentrated salty mix that must be injected into deep wells or buried in landfills. [ed. emphasis mine]

So Denver Water has focused instead on recycling wastewater solely for irrigation, power-plant cooling towers and other nonpotable use. An expanding citywide network of separate pipelines distributes this treated wastewater — 30 million gallons a day.

“Reuse is definitely a way to maximize the use of the water we have,” said Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water and former natural resources director for the state.

“We’re in the exploration stage of trying to analyze what are the options for various types of reuse,” Lochhead said. “What’s the most effective? What’s the least costly? What’s the most secure?”

Meanwhile, drought and population growth in Texas have spurred construction of water-cleaning plants at Wichita Falls and Big Spring. Engineers have installed water-quality monitoring and testing systems sensitive enough to track the widening array of pathogens, suspended particles and hard-to-remove speciality chemicals found in wastewater.

A Texas state water plan calls for increasing reuse of wastewater eightfold by 2060. The New Mexico town of Cloudcroft is shifting to reuse as a solution to water scarcity. And California cities hurt by and vulnerable to drought, including San Diego, are considering wastewater conversion for drinking water.

Costs can be huge, depending on the level of treatment. Water industry leaders estimate fully converted wastewater costs at least $10,000 per acre-foot (325,851 gallons).

By comparison, increased conservation, or using less water, is seen as the cheapest path to making more water available to prevent shortages. The most costly solution is building new dams, reservoirs and pipelines that siphon more water from rivers.

Colorado also faces legal constraints. The first-come-first-serve system of allocating water rights obligates residents who rely on diverted water from rivers to return that water, partially cleaned, to the rivers to satisfy rights of downriver residents and farmers.

However, much of the Colorado River Basin water diverted through trans-mountain pipelines has been deemed available for reuse. Western Resource Advocates experts estimate more than 280,000 acre-feet may be available. In addition, water pumped from underground aquifers — the savings account that south Denver suburbs have been tapping for decades — is available for reuse.

Indirect reuse

While nobody in Colorado has embarked on direct reuse of treated wastewater, Aurora and other cities have begun a form of indirect reuse that involves filtering partially treated wastewater through river banks. This water then is treated again at Aurora’s state-of-the-art plant. Cleaned wastewater then is blended with water from rivers to augment municipal supplies.

The most delicate challenge has been dealing with safety — making sure engineered water-cleaning systems are good enough to replace nature’s slow-but-sure settling and filtration.

While industry marketers focus on semantics to try to make people feel more comfortable — rejecting phrases such as “toilet to tap” to describe reuse — engineers are honing the systems.

They envision early-detection and shut-off mechanisms that quickly could stop contaminants left in water from reaching people. They aim for filtration and other advanced treatment sufficient to remove the multiplying new contaminants found in urban wastewater. Cleaning water increasingly entails removal of plastic beads used in personal-care products; mutating viruses; resistent bacteria; synthetic chemicals such as herbicides; ibuprofen; birth control; anti-depressants; and caffeine.

“That’s the whole job of treatment and monitoring, to remove pathogens and other contaminants to where it is safe to drink,” said John Rehring of Carollo Engineers, a Denver-based expert on water reuse.

“It’s not a question of ‘Can we do it?’ We can do it,” he said. “And because of growing affordability and public acceptance, we’re starting to see it implemented.”


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