We are excited to present our 2014 Annual Report summarizing our progress over the past year and what’s ahead for 2015. In this introductory video below, Executive Director Eric Hecox offers an overview of our plan to secure a sustainable water future for the South Metro region and how you can get involved.
We remain focused on the three pillars of our plan: efficiency, partnership and investment. While we have made enormous strides, there is more work to be done. To be successful, we must have continued support from our communities for the investments we are making.
As more and more Coloradans rely on stable-to-diminishing water supplies, all water basins have a common interest in working together to meet the state’s future water needs. The West Slope has a tangible interest in efforts by communities in the South Metro area of the Front Range to find a path to a more secure water future while minimizing the need to look to the West Slope for supplies.
The South Metro Water Authority’s 14 water-provider members deliver water to more than 300,000 residents in Douglas County and Arapahoe County in an area that is growing in both population and economic importance.
Historically, the region has relied too heavily on nonrenewable groundwater aquifers. This raised concerns that this region would be forced to look to the West Slope for new supplies.
A study completed in 2003 confirmed that the aquifers on which the region was relying were not sustainable and recommended a combination of conservation, reuse and other strategies to address the problem.
The strategy begins with conservation. South Metro water provider members have reduced per capita water consumption by 30 percent since 2000 and continue to innovate to reduce water use. South Metro water providers serving Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch are among only three in the state that put customers on a water budget that tracks use by household. Throughout the region, water providers are incentivizing smart water use through turf replacement and other conservation measures.
South Metro Water members are also leaders in the state in water reuse. Two members — serving Inverness and Meridian — reuse 100 percent of collected wastewater. New state-of-the-art treatment plants have come online in recent years that significantly increase our region’s ability to reuse water.
The 2012 Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and West Slope water providers gave the opportunity to broaden regional collaboration and expand water reuse.
The agreement also allowed Denver Water, Aurora Water and South Metro Water to enter the innovative Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) Project. The WISE project involves capturing and re-using treated Denver and Aurora wastewater from the South Platte River that would otherwise flow downstream.
West Slope water providers agreed to allow Denver Water to extend its service area to the South Metro region through the WISE project in exchange for other measures — to reduce the impacts of existing transmountain diversion on the West Slope and limits on the ability of both Denver Water and the South Metro water providers to pursue future transbasin diversions.
To learn more about South Metro Water’s efforts to secure a sustainable water future, go towww.southmetrowater.org.
Eric Hecox is director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Hannah Holm contributed to this column. This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go towww.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or Twitter at Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.
Last week I discussed the South Metro Water Supply Authority’s “all of the above” approach to solving the problems articulated in CFWE’s 2007 Citizen’s Guide to Denver Basin Groundwater. A critical part of our plan in creating a secure water future is storage. As we pursue surface water storage such as the Chatfield Reallocation Project and Reuter-Hess Reservoir, we are also pursuing the implementation of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) throughout the South Metro area.
ASR, as defined in the 2007 Citizen’s Guide, is the storage of water in a suitable aquifer through direct injection in a well when water is available and later recovery of the water from the same well when it is needed.
ASR has been successfully implemented in portions of the Denver Basin for more that 20 years. South Metro Water and several of our members are actively exploring options to broaden this practice to store renewable water during times when it is available for later use in years of drought. Some advantages of ASR compared to traditional surface storage in reservoirs include reduced infrastructure and permitting costs, lower evaporation loss and, typically, greater public acceptance.
Centennial Water and Sanitation District, serving Highlands Ranch, was one of the first providers in the state to pursue ASR, and has been successfully implementing it since 1994. They currently have 25 wells equipped for ASR and have stored more than 14,000 acre-feet, almost a year’s worth of supply for Highlands Ranch. Centennial Water continues to expand and explore ways to optimize its ASR program.
Given this success, and the fact that renewable water supplies are becoming available to the South Metro area through the WISE Project partnership, theChatfield Reallocation and other projects, South Metro entities are in a unique position to execute local and regional ASR. ASR as part of a large-scale conjunctive use plan can help change the use of the Denver Basin aquifer system from an unsustainable base supply to secure and sustainable drought supply.
Building on Centennial Water’s success, several other South Metro entities are pursuing pilot projects within their local areas to test how ASR would work with specific renewable water supplies in specific wells within their service area. East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District (ECCV), the Town of Castle Rock, Rangeview Metropolitan District, and Pinery Water and Wastewater District are studying and pilot-testing and have plans to incrementally expand ASR within their existing well fields.
For its part, the South Metro Water Supply Authority is conducting its own pilot ASR project, using grant money from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The pilot, expected to begin in 2016, will evaluate the viability of injecting water from the WISE Project into the Denver Basin Aquifer through an existing well and then pumping it out as needed. This information will help members better identify how ASR with WISE water might fit into long-term plans.
Whether implemented individually by South Metro entities or as part of a regional ASR program, there is great potential for ASR in the Denver Basin Aquifer system. South Metro Water estimates that existing well fields may have more than 100 million gallons per day (MGD) of capacity available for ASR without dramatically impacting current well field operations.
As renewable water supplies come into the South Metro area, ASR can play a significant role in creating a secure and sustainable water supply for the region.