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Innovation at Denver Water leads to prestigious award

New Northwater Treatment Plant construction wins AWWA’s Innovation Award.
Crews work on Denver Water’s Northwater Treatment Plant. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Denver Water’s Northwater Treatment Plant continues to take shape next to Ralston Reservoir, north of Golden in Jefferson County. 

It is well past the 50% construction completion mark and this year will surpass a major milestone of 2 million hours worked.

The project team was recently honored by the American Water Works Association, the largest organization of water supply professionals in the world, as the recipient of the 2022 AWWA Innovation Award. This award is given to utilities that have inspired or implemented an innovative idea, best practice, or solution to address a challenge facing the industry. 

The awards committee specifically called out Denver Water’s sustainable, scalable and streamlined design approach to the Northwater Treatment Plant project.

“From the moment we began planning this project, we used five key values to drive innovation and delivery of the project,” said Pete McCormick, project manager for the treatment plant project. 

“Sustainability, adaptability, continuous improvement, team diversity and shared infrastructure have been at the heart of everything we’ve done so far. And this award from the AWWA recognizes those efforts.”

Northwater Treatment Plant project team members showcase the progress made in the pipe gallery of the Filter Building on site.

Specific to each of those five values:

  • From a sustainability perspective, the Northwater Treatment Plant's hydroelectric capability was designed to make the facility a net producer of energy. The project has already been awarded an Envision Gold certification from the international Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, and is working toward the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification for the operations building on-site.
One of the Northwater Treatment Plant’s two 10-million-gallon storage tanks. The design called for the tanks to be partially buried to blend in with the surrounding environment. Photo credit: Denver Water.
  • From an adaptability perspective, the focus quickly became safely staying on schedule through the COVID-19 pandemic. Denver Water’s major partner on the project and the project’s construction manager at risk, Kiewit, proactively implemented a "construction family" approach, which was designed to limit the contact workers would have outside their own work groups. This resulted in no cross-family COVID outbreaks, no site shutdowns and a project that stayed on schedule.

Read how Denver Water in 2020 hit its “net zero” annual energy consumption goal.

  • From a continuous improvement perspective, the project team embraced Lean principles in planning, design and construction. At 30% design completion, Denver Water scaled down the water treatment capacity of the plant from 150 million gallons per day to 75 million gallons per day. This resulted in a capital savings of about $80 million. The plant capacity still can be increased as demand increases in the future.
The 1,000-acre site gives Denver Water the flexibility to expand the Northwater Treatment Plant in the future when needed. Photo credit: Denver Water.
  • From a team diversity perspective, the owner’s representative, Jacobs, early in the project assisted Denver Water in implementing the goal of keeping the design team local by dividing the effort across multiple discipline-specific firms. The project team split the design into eight separate design packages to provide a diverse array of expertise. Jacobs also collaborated with Denver Water and the project construction firm, Kiewit, to conduct an extensive Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise analysis and outreach program to harness the local expertise needed to meet the wide array of skills needed for the project.

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  • And from a shared infrastructure perspective, the project team prioritized innovation and collaboration with surrounding communities to streamline services, share infrastructure and ensure a resilient regional water system. This included partnering with Arvada and North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District, both of which receive water from Ralston Reservoir. Denver Water replaced multiple outdated pipes across the project site with a single, new conduit to convey raw water to the Northwater Treatment Plant, as well as to Arvada and North Table Mountain.

“This is one of the most ambitious projects Denver Water has ever undertaken,” McCormick said. “But regardless of the size of the project, these values that drove this project are foundational to everything we do.”

Pete McCormick, right, project manager for the Northwater Treatment Plant construction project, accepts the American Water Works Association’s 2022 Innovation Award for how Denver Water approached the project design in a sustainable, scalable and streamlined manner. Photo credit: American Water Works Association.