Digging new water sources

In the 1930s, farmers in northeast Colorado suffered from the Great Depression, droughts and dust storms that crippled their ability to farm. The tipping point rested on insufficient water supplies to survive the agricultural season. A creative solution has been proposed to collect Western Slope Mountain water from the upper Colorado River and divert it to the Front Range and plains of Colorado to provide water, primarily for agricultural purposes.

What is now known as the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) project was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. It was hailed as an innovative idea that served many Front Range communities well. However, 85 years later, the city of Firestone recognizes the limitations of C-BT and takes the alternative water supply into its own hands.

C-BT is Firestone’s sole source of water and has been the primary provider of water rights for most cities, towns, and municipal water districts in northern Colorado. Its reliable, high-quality water supplies have been essential for new development projects and expansion efforts. Yet, after decades of dominance, C-BT’s water shares are running out.

Changing priorities

When the C-BT project began supplying water in the early 1950s, municipal users owned approximately 10% of the 310,000 C-BT units. In 2020, more than 70% of the same 310,000 units are owned by municipal and industrial users. Meanwhile, the northern Colorado water market has become one of the busiest water markets in the western United States – with annual water sales of more than $60 million. dollars, which includes raising prices to buy limited water shares of C-BT.

While Firestone’s water supply includes 22.3 million gallons per day (MGD) from C-BT and the Windy Gap Reservoir, the city has made a historic decision to divert some of its water supplies from C- BT to create new, more affordable water distribution alternatives. Firestone plans to accomplish this by converting irrigation water to residential tap water by building a flexible water treatment plant that could adapt to current and future water sources.

To embrace a new level of independence and control over water, Firestone’s plan began over 20 years ago when its population was approximately 2,269. Over the past 10 years, the city’s population has increased by 60%. To accommodate this growth, Firestone’s 2020-2050 Water Action Plan includes a $50 million investment to diversify and process its raw water portfolio.

The first stage of the plan includes the purchase of land, the construction of a new water treatment plant and a deep injection well site to produce 1.5 MGD. The second step is to increase the capacity of the treatment plant to 2.25 MGD between the years 2025-2030. The final stage aims to maximize treatment capacity to 5 MGD by 2050 to serve an additional 10,000 households.

Water Declaration of Independence

Construction of the Firestone St. Vrain Wastewater Treatment Plant (SVWTP), scheduled for construction in April 2023, will capture and treat local alluvial water from St. Vrain’s Creek, a tributary that runs through the town and has always served as a source of irrigation water for local farmland.

Firestone engaged experts from Colorado Civil Group, LRE Water and Plummer to include reverse osmosis (RO) in the plant design. Reverse osmosis will reduce high bromide concentrations in source water and help the city adapt to the composition and treatment requirements of future source waters.

If true surface water sources are brought to the plant, the pretreatment system can handle higher suspended solids and turbidity. If additional sources have lower bromide concentrations and no individual constituents requiring RO removal, there are pipes and valves to allow partial bypass of the RO trains. Workaround provisions are also included for calcite contractors, to allow flexibility in the stabilization treatment.

Overall, the plant is designed to be strong, flexible and resilient, with the goal of delivering the highest quality water to Firestone customers now and in the future.

“We are actively implementing innovative strategies to develop and expand our raw water storage reservoir,” said AJ Krieger, City Manager of Firestone. “Our plan includes a requirement for our development partners to contribute to Firestone’s water infrastructure costs, which means we can make smart growth decisions that pay for themselves.”

Design Triumphs

The new water treatment plant will allow Firestone to do something it has never done before: capture reusable water.

C-BT requires water to be returned to its previous level of supply to fulfill its obligation to supply water to downstream users. Water collected from St. Vrain’s Creek is classified as reusable water that can be collected, treated, and returned for use in Firestone.

This creates new opportunities for city leaders to develop long-term sustainable water alternatives with a facility designed to incorporate the latest water treatment protocols. This includes the use of chlorine dioxide, coagulation, 3-stage flocculation, sedimentation using plate settlers, pressurized ultrafiltration (UF) membranes, reverse osmosis, control of corrosion using calcite and orthophosphate agents and/or disinfection using gaseous chlorination.

The project also includes a 0.5 MG welded steel raw water storage tank, below ground chlorine contact clear water well, backwash recovery system with geotubes , a lined pond and recycling pumps, an approximately 20,000 square foot metal building and a 1.0 MG water storage tank finished in welded steel. LRE Water and Plummer collaborated to evaluate RO brine disposal options; and the facility intends to use deep well injection disposal. Construction is expected to be completed in April 2023.

As new sources of raw water are developed and demand increases, plant capacity will also increase. By adding additional pumps, UF trains and building the RO skids now, the plant can be expanded to 2.25 MGD within the building’s existing 20,000 square foot footprint.

Then, by constructing a parallel flocculation and sedimentation train, further expanding the UF and RO units, and adding 10,000 square feet of additional building space, the SVWTP can achieve the processing capacity of up to 5 MGD of here its target year of 2050.

Financial security

As part of Firestone’s water action plan, the city will sell residential water taps from its new water treatment plant to developers, using the money to reinvest in building infrastructure. city ​​water.

“This landmark decision provides the city with greater independence and control over water while creating new revenue streams to pay for responsible growth and development,” said Firestone Mayor Bobbi Sindelar. “Our plan has already generated millions of dollars in new revenue through two new water agreements that were recently signed. We are also negotiating additional agreements that will produce the same results in terms of financial security and smart planning.

The decision to create redundant water supplies and embrace a new level of water independence sets Firestone apart from other cities whose fate is still tied to C-BT’s declining water shares and the price spike. Firestone’s Water Action Plan can serve as a model for other communities to develop their own water independence. WW

About the Author: Katie Hansen has served as Director of Marketing and Communications for the City of Firestone since 2018. She has spent her career in local government, over the past 10 years in various marketing and communications roles. communication. A native of Colorado, she holds a marketing-focused business degree from Colorado State University and an MBA from Regis University.

Posted in water world review, March 2023.