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Denver Water a two-time winner of national sustainability award

Peer utilities across the United States highlight utility’s work to protect ecosystems, communities and climate.

The importance of protecting water, the communities that rely on it and the ecosystems that supply it, is embedded in Denver Water’s mission. 

And the utility’s efforts toward sustainability were recognized in early October by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, a group representing the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the United States. 

At the association’s annual meeting, held in Denver this year, Denver Water received the group’s 2021 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award. It was the second time Denver Water’s efforts were recognized. The utility also won the award in 2018.

Denver Water was among four utilities recognized by their peer utilities for innovative and successful efforts in economic, social and environmental endeavors.

Denver Water was honored with the 2021 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies for its multiple efforts around an ethic of sustainability. It’s the second time Denver Water has won this national award. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“AMWA’s 2021 award winners are innovative water systems helmed by visionary executives and committed workforces who create sustainable utilities. In addition to delivering affordable and high-quality water and top-notch customer service, the systems provide exceptional environmental protection and resource management,” said AMWA President Angela Licata, who also is the deputy commissioner for sustainability in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

Solar power panels being installed during the construction of Denver Water’s new Administration Building, part of the utility’s sustainability efforts. Photo credit: Denver Water.

“We are always making improvements to how we operate because working in a sustainable manner ensures we will continue to deliver clean, safe water to the 1.5 million people who rely on us every day,” said Kate Taft, Denver Water’s manager of sustainability. 

“We are honored that our efforts were recognized by AMWA, as so many of our peers across the nation share our focus on sustainability.” 

Read more about Denver Water’s sustainability efforts

AMWA recognized Denver Water for its efforts to improve operations and protect its surrounding ecosystem and communities. Among that work, AMWA noted that Denver Water has set formal goals to reduce carbon emissions, maintain a net-energy neutral operations, expand the use of renewable energy in its day-to-day work, and improve green infrastructure. 

The group also highlighted Denver Water’s work through the Lead Reduction Program to protect customers from the risk of lead from customer-owned pipes and plumbing getting into their drinking water. The program, launched in 2020, will replace the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 customer-owned lead service lines over the course of 15 years. 

Denver Water CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead accepts the 2021 AMWA Sustainable Water Utility Management Award from AMWA President Angela Licata and AMWA Vice President John Entsminger, at the group’s annual meeting in early October in Denver. Photo credit: Denver Water.

The group also focused on another aspect of Denver Water’s award-winning efforts, its From Forests to Faucets partnership with other government agencies to support work that reduces the risk of damage in the watershed from wildfires, including the planting of more than 1 million new trees. 

Along with Denver Water, the group honored three other utilities for their management efforts:

  • Knoxville Utilities Board also was named for its sustainable management efforts. 
  • Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust received the 2021 AMWA Platinum Award for Utility Excellent. 
  • Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority received the 2021 Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance. 

Denver Water’s sustainability efforts include: 

  • LEED certification for the buildings involved in the overhaul of Denver Water’s Operations Campus, a 34.6-acre complex on West 12th Avenue near downtown that has been the site of different Denver Water operations since 1881. 
  • Creating a sustainability guide that outlined goals for Denver Water from 2018 through 2020, and updating that guide to set down new goals to guide the organization from 2021 through 2025. 
  • Starting a waste diversion program that, since its beginning in 2018, has diverted nearly 94,000 pounds of waste from the landfill by composting. That’s nearly 47 tons.
  • Supporting efforts, such as Resource Central’s Garden In A Box program, that have helped  Denver-area customers plant more than 100,000 square feet of low-water gardens — instead of turf — to save water and create beauty around their homes.