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Science & Nature

WISE Water Project Will Benefit Several Entities

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Image \u002D DenverWater\u002DWISE.jpgFrom Denver Water

Seventeen entities, including Denver Water, have joined forces on a project that will supply area residents with more water while minimizing the need to buy new water rights.

A proposed partnership called WISE, which stands for Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, is moving forward. If approved, the partnership will provide new supply by combining unused capacities in Aurora Water’s Prairie Waters Project with unused water supplies from Denver and Aurora. Then, during the years Denver and Aurora don’t need all of that water, the 15 Douglas County entities that make up the South Metro Water Supply Authority will be able to buy the unused water to help reduce their reliance on nonrenewable groundwater. 

The partnership has not been finalized and much work remains. But if all goes as planned, Aurora Water and Denver Water will start capturing their unused water and selling it to South Metro in the next few years. This cooperative effort is rare in Colorado, where water is divvied up based on a first-in-time, first-in-line style of water rights (prior appropriation). WISE is different.
After the 2002 drought, Aurora Water knew it needed to move quickly to find more water supplies. With another horribly dry year after 2002, customers would’ve been in trouble.

So Aurora, which is one of the largest water providers in the state, built the Prairie Waters Project, a $653 million project that began operating in fall 2010 and is increasing Aurora’s water supply by 20 percent.

The project allows Aurora Water to collect South Platte River water it owns from wells near the river’s bank just north of Brighton. The water is then piped 34 miles south to a new purification facility near Aurora Reservoir, where it is treated and delivered to Aurora customers.

Such a massive project required an immense amount of infrastructure. And during the winter, when there isn’t such a demand on the system, Aurora doesn’t need all of its water or facilities.

Denver Water saw Aurora Water’s underused infrastructure as an opportunity to capture reusable water in the South Platte for a new reserve supply that can be used during emergencies.

At the project’s completion, Denver Water expects to capture about 15,000 acre-feet of unused supply — enough to serve almost 38,000 homes. When Denver Water doesn’t need that emergency supply, it plans to sell the excess to South Metro, which relies heavily on nonrenewable aquifers and wells.

Denver Water contributes occasional articles and tips to rmpbs.org for saving water – and saving money.

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