By Kris Polly In the last half-decade, more than 40 million acres of land in the United States, mostly in the West, have been burned by wildfire. These wildfires affect water quality, send ash and debris into reservoirs, and create the conditions for destructive floods and landslides. In this issue, we talk to professionals from several Colorado water agencies about how they are responding. In our cover story, Municipal Water Leader Contributing Editor Jeff Kightlinger interviews Denver Water CEO and Manager Jim Lochhead about progress on the utility’s largest-ever capital development program, which includes the construction of a new water treatment plant and the raising of Gross Dam, as well…
The San Juan Water Commission (SJWC) delivers water from the Animas–La Plata (ALP) Project to 11 municipal water retailers in the northwestern corner of New Mexico. In this interview, Executive Director Aaron Chavez tells us about how the commission is addressing concerns related to drought, power costs, and endangered species and about his role as president of the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA).
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (SECWCD) is soon to begin construction on the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC), a 130‑mile pipeline with spurs that will bring water from Pueblo Reservoir to 39 communities and 50,000 people east of Pueblo, Colorado. In this interview, Chris Woodka, the district’s senior policy and issues manager, talks about what got the project on track and what it will mean for communities in the Arkansas River basin.
In 2020, Colorado’s two largest wildfires burned more than 400,000 acres in the watersheds serving the city of Greeley and most of northern Colorado. The fires made the river water too dirty to treat, and for 45 days, the city turned to its reservoirs and a water swap with agricultural users for its water supply. Events like these demonstrate the importance of prefire preparation; postfire mitigation; and above all, resiliency. In this interview, Sean Chambers, the director of Greeley’s Water and Sewer Department, tells us about the city’s efforts in this regard.
In recent years, wildfires have burned millions of acres in the Mountain West. When those wildfires burn critical water supply watersheds, they can degrade water quality and cause erosion and flooding for months and years. In this interview, Eric Howell, the forest program manager for the watershed planning section at Colorado Springs Utilities, tells Municipal Water Leader about how the agency works with state and federal partners on fire prevention, suppression planning, and postfire mitigation.
After a wildfire in a watershed, water utilities are faced with an expensive recovery process as well as issues like erosion and the entry of sedimentation into reservoirs that can continue for decades after the last ember is extinguished. In this interview, Municipal Water Leader speaks with Christina Burri, who leads Denver Water’s watershed planning efforts. Through programs such as the From Forests to Faucets partnership, Denver Water and its partners have invested $66 million since 2010 in forest health and wildfire risk reduction projects to protect its 2.5‑million-acre water supply watershed.
Denver Water serves 1.5 million people in the city and county of Denver and the surrounding suburbs. In this interview, Municipal Water Leader Contributing Editor Jeff Kightlinger talks with the utility’s CEO and manager, Jim Lochhead, about its plans to serve its customers in the face of climate change and booming population growth. A project is underway to expand Gross Reservoir to increase the city’s storage capacity. In the future, Mr. Lochhead says, to use less water, Denver Water will need to be proactive and work with agencies that manage wastewater, storm water, and land use.
Since 1980, weather and climate disasters in the United States have cost more than $2.195 trillion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That price tag is only expected to rise. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering With Nature (EWN) initiative seeks out and scales up nature-based solutions to these growing threats. In this interview, Municipal Water Leader speaks with Todd Bridges, the Army Corps’ national lead for the EWN program, about how everything from constructed wetlands and dunes to natural seawalls can protect communities from flood, drought, and other effects of climate change.
Process Wastewater Technologies (PWTech) is a small but rapidly growing company working on combined sewer overflow and sludge dewatering technologies. One of its leading products is a volute dewatering press that can be used by wastewater plants to dewater sludge, vastly simplifying the task of disposing of it. In this interview, we speak to Business Development Manager and Regional Sales Manager Chris Hubbard about PWTech’s solutions for the wastewater industry.
Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) delivers treated and raw water to 43,000 customers across a 1,500‑square-mile service area stretching from the Sacramento suburbs in the west to Lake Tahoe in the east. With California continuing to suffer from severe drought, PCWA is urging its customers to cut water use by 20 percent, and it is providing rebates and pushing out public service announcements (PSAs) to encourage efficiency. In this interview, Linda Higgins, PCWA’s deputy director of customer services, tells Municipal Water Leader about the creative methods the agency is employing to promote its message of conservation and efficiency.