August 5, 2022
At WRA, our sponsors play a critical role in supporting the important work we need to do for our climate future. And as one of our sponsors, we want to help shine light on the incredible efforts Denver Water stewards as we adjust to live in a future with less water. We are proud to join together to drive positive change across the Interior West.
Denver Water proudly serves high-quality water and promotes its efficient use to 1.5 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918, the utility is a public agency funded by water rates and new tap fees, not taxes. It is Colorado’s oldest and largest water utility and one of Western Resource Advocates’ critical sponsors.
It’s Denver Water’s mission to provide a safe, secure water supply to 1.5 million people in its service area, and providing that water isn’t possible without protecting the natural environment from which it flows. That puts stewardship at the center of what we do. We are excited to support WRA and work with them to drive on-the-ground solutions to the water crisis facing the West.
Denver Water accepted the reality about climate change years ago and is incorporating climate warming into its planning across the organization. Like WRA, we are taking steps to adapt to, and prepare for, a hotter, drier future and a less consistent water supply.
At the same time, we are moving aggressively to cut our own carbon footprint, striving to meet goals for producing renewable energy and reducing dependence on energy sources tied directly to warming temperatures.
Denver Water is adapting to, and addressing, climate change through what it calls “scenario planning.” That means building flexibility into its operations and decisions to prepare for a range of plausible futures climate change could bring. Simply put, those scenarios range from warmer and wetter to hotter and drier.
At the same time, we are building sustainability into our own operations. In 2020, Denver Water met an organizational goal for “net zero” annual energy consumption. That’s to say, we produced as much or more energy than we consumed, and that energy was generated using carbon-free sources: hydropower and solar power. This also goes hand in hand with WRA’s vision of a zero-carbon economy.
Our solar power panels and hydropower generators produced enough clean energy to account for not only its electricity use, but also the natural gas we use for heat. Natural gas burned to supply heat is an energy category that’s not always factored into “net zero” calculations, but Denver Water made a point of including it to create a stretch goal for its effort.
Our recently redeveloped operations complex near downtown Denver was built with sustainability in mind. Each building achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. That includes five buildings that were rated LEED Gold; our main administration building, which houses most of our workforce, earned the top certification of LEED Platinum.
Engineers designed Denver Water’s emerging Northwater Treatment Plant north of Golden to offset all its power use, producing electricity through hydropower. In fact, any excess power produced at the plant will flow to the electric grid and help provide clean power to the region. Several buildings at the plant will be partially underground, reducing the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling.
Denver Water also partners with the U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Colorado State Forest Service in its $66 million Forests to Faucets program, to reduce climate-amplified wildfire risk through forest health projects that protect key watersheds and communities. WRA also recognizes the need for both wildfire mitigation and protecting threatened watersheds. They have written and advised on bills at the state-level in support of these kinds of policies.
Our partnership with WRA sustains the environment and people of Denver and beyond. These are some high-level examples of the way Denver Water incorporates climate change into its actions and planning. We are proud to support WRA and appreciate the practical and results-oriented approach to addressing our climate crisis and protecting the West’s air, land, water and wildlife.