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Out with the wood, in with the new

Engineers and operators removed portions of two old 8-foot-diameter wooden pipes.
Denver Water employees Josh Bobbin (left) and Zack Lane remove a portion of two abandoned 8-foot-diameter wood-stave pipes in the High Line Canal.


Denver crews recently removed portions of two abandoned 8-foot-diameter pipes made of wood planks and banded together with steel,

In 1913, these wood-stave pipes were installed at the intersection of High Line Canal and Cherry Creek in south Denver. The pipes ran underneath the creek, moving irrigation water in the canal from one side of the creek to the other.

The only evidence that the two abandoned pipes still existed was that one pipe was starting to become exposed in Cherry Creek.

One of the pipelines also had a 5-foot-diameter concrete pipe inside, which was installed in the 1990s so the High Line Canal water could continue to flow under Cherry Creek. The other wooden pipe was taken completely out of service.

At one time, wood-stave pipelines were considered some of the best, and several had been installed by private water utilities long before Denver Water was established, according to Devin Shable, Denver Water project engineer.

“Today, Denver Water’s water lines are made of concrete, steel, ductile iron or cast iron, which are far more effective to transport water because of the material’s ability to handle higher pressure and resist deterioration,” he said.

While the wooden pipes in this project were in operation into the ’90s, the last wood-stave pipe used to deliver drinking water to customers was decommissioned more than 50 years ago, ending an era of pipe that had at one time carried almost all of Denver’s water.

In 1963, wood-stave pipes in the drinking water distribution system were shut off and abandoned, or replaced with concrete or steel pipes as part of a $1.15 million project to improve the capacity and reliability of the system.

Denver Water operates and maintains more than 3,000 miles of pipe, enough to stretch from Los Angeles to New York.

High Line Canal picture from 1936. View of inlet to the wood-stave pipes crossing Cherry Creek.