Getting a sneak peek at Colorado’s ‘water of the future’
When Colorado pioneers searched for reliable sources of water in the 1800s, they looked to the mountain streams west of Denver’s dry and dusty plains. More than a century later, the state is looking at innovative technology to provide a new source of water to help meet Colorado’s future water needs.
The technology is on display this spring at the PureWater Colorado Demonstration Project — a collaborative effort hosted by Denver Water to showcase the benefits of reusing water.
“The PureWater Colorado Demonstration Project uses water that’s gone through our homes and been cleaned at a wastewater plant,” said Allegra da Silva, president of WateReuse Colorado. “The water then goes directly to an advanced water purification system to remove pathogens and pollutants so it’s safe to drink.”
The process is known as “potable water reuse” in the water industry and has been used in countries around the world for decades. Communities across the U.S., including California, Florida and Texas, are already evaluating or implementing similar drought-resilient projects to supplement their drinking water supplies.
Since the purification process is new to Colorado, regulations to oversee using this technology to produce drinking water supplies for potable reuse are not in place.
“Our goal is to bring together Colorado lawmakers, regulators, water providers and the public to raise awareness about water reuse,” da Silva said. “We want people to understand that this is a viable, sustainable and safe source of drinking water.”
The PureWater Colorado Demonstration Project uses a five-step process to purify water: ozonation, biological filtration, microfiltration, granular activated carbon filtration and ultraviolet light. Watch a video of how the process works here.
Unlike common water purification technologies, the PureWater Colorado does not generate a waste stream of concentrated salt that can be difficult to dispose in states that are not located next to the ocean.
“We’re using purification technology that replicates natural processes,” said Austa Parker, PureWater Colorado’s project manager from Carollo Engineers. “The individual steps are not unique, but the combination of how we’re using them is unique to the PureWater project.”
Colorado is one of the driest states in the U.S., which is why reusing water is an important component of Colorado’s Water Plan — a statewide blueprint aimed at addressing Colorado’s water challenges.
“Taking advantage of this type of technology is a big part of how we’re going to tackle the challenges of water scarcity, drought, growth and climate change,” said Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “By maximizing our water supplies, we can leave more water in our streams and rivers.”
WateReuse Colorado is working with state health officials to develop a framework to create and implement regulations in the future to make sure drinking water produced through reuse technologies is safe for public consumption.
“Some water providers might choose to use this technology in the coming years, whereas others might not consider it a viable option for several decades,” said Abbey Antolovich, water efficiency and reuse manager at Denver Water.
Denver Water supports the technology, but does not anticipate developing a full-scale, water reuse purification system like the PureWater project for 40 years or more, according to Antolovich.
“While no one strategy will solve our state’s water issues, having a diverse portfolio of water supplies will help communities and utilities provide a reliable, locally controlled supply of water to their customers for years to come,” Mitchell said.
The demonstration project will run through mid-April. During that time, the project partners will offer tours for key stakeholders, regulators and others who will be able to sample the water from the project. The water is not being put in any public water systems, but is sent to laboratories to verify process performance and finished water quality.
Some of the purified water produced by the PureWater project will be sent to Declaration Brewery Company in Denver. Declaration has a commitment to sustainability and will create a special craft beer to promote water reuse and celebrate Denver Water’s 100th anniversary .
“Our anniversary is not only about celebrating our past, it’s about looking to our future,” said Kathie Dudas, Denver Water’s marketing manager. “And for our future, it’s important to demonstrate that Denver Water is looking at multiple options to continue to provide our customers with a reliable drinking water supply.”