Denver Water

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Dillon Reservoir, Denver's largest water storage facility

Denver Water serves 1.3 million people in the City and County of Denver, Colorado and a portion of its surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918, the utility is a public agency funded by water rates and new tap fees, not taxes. It is Colorado's oldest and largest water utility.[1]


Denver Water's primary water sources are the South Platte River, Blue River, Williams Fork and Fraser River watersheds, but it also uses water from the South Boulder Creek, Ralston Creek and Bear Creek watersheds.[2]


A five-member Board of Water Commissioners is appointed by the mayor of Denver to six-year terms. This board ultimately controls Denver Water. The Board of Water Commissioners in turn designates a manager who is in charge of day-to-day operations.[3] As of December 2014, the five commissioners were Greg Austin, John Lucero, Paula Herzmark, Tom Gougeon, and Penfield Tate.[4]


The first residents of the Denver area drank water directly from the creek and river. Surface wells and buckets of water sufficed for a while as a delivery system, but they soon proved inadequate. Irrigation ditches were the next step forward.[5]

In 1870, when the rapidly growing community had a population of almost 5,000, the Denver City Water Company was formed. In 1872, with a large well, a steam pump and four miles (6 km) of mains, Denver City Water Company began to provide water to homes. Over the next two decades, 10 water companies fought, collapsed or merged.[5]

As technology progressed, so did the treatment process. By 1906, Denver water was being chlorinated to prevent cholera and typhoid.[5]

In 1918, Denver residents voted to form a five-member Board of Water Commissioners and buy the Denver Union Water Company's water system for $14 million, creating Denver Water. From that time on, Denver Water planned and developed a system to meet the needs of the people of Denver and the surrounding areas.[5]

In 2004, Denver Water completed a recycled water system, which as of 2014 supplied approximately 7,000 acre feet (8,600,000 m3) of water for industrial, commercial and irrigation uses that do not require drinking-quality water.[4]

Plan for the future[when?][edit]

Today, Denver Water harvests 234,000 acre feet (289,000,000 m3) of water a year, which is about one-third of the state's treated water supply. Denver Water uses 2 percent of all water (treated and untreated) in Colorado (265,000 acre feet (327,000,000 m3) per year).[6]

Denver Water also no longer relies on only one option – building new reservoirs – to ensure customers always have the water they need. Instead, it has a diverse plan to meet those future needs: conserve, recycle and develop.

Conserve Denver Water invests millions of dollars into conservation programs to encourage customers to reduce their use. The utility provides rebates to customers who buy water-efficient fixtures, conducts free audits of homes and business that use high amounts of water, provides incentive contracts for large-scale consumers to reduce their water consumption, enforces watering rules and spearheads an award-winning advertising campaign to encourage customers to Use Only What You Need.[7] Customers today are using 18 percent less water than they were before the 2002 drought – and there are 10 percent more of them.[8]

Recycle Recycled water from Denver Water's recycled water distribution system supplies industrial and irrigation customers with nonpotable water, thereby freeing up drinking water for other purposes and reducing trans-mountain diversions. Now, the recycled water system is freeing up enough drinking water to serve roughly 15,000 households; once it’s complete, the system will free up enough drinking water to serve almost 45,000 homes.[9] There are more than a dozen wastewater recycling programs in Colorado, and Denver Water operates the largest recycled water system in Colorado.[8]

Develop Denver Water has begun[when?] plans to expand Gross Reservoir, which would allow the utility to supply customers with an additional 18,000 acre feet (22,000,000 m3) of water each year – the amount of water used by roughly 45,000 homes.[10] Denver Water also is turning gravel pits to water storage sites, which allows it to store and release reusable water to meet downstream water requirements.[11]

See also[edit]


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