Denver Water explores aquifer storage options
November 9, 2016
Water and water issues are never far from the forefront of things in the high country. While our discussions in Grand County often focus on things like diversion percentages and environmental impacts to local watersheds trans-basin diverters like Denver Water and Northern Water spend much of their time, and long-range planning, focusing on water storage.
This year Denver Water (DW) has been exploring a new paradigm in water storage, storing diverted water in underground aquifers similar to reservoirs to be pulled from at a later date. In 2015 DW drilled four research boreholes at select locations along the Front Range. This fall DW has plans to drill four additional boreholes to begin testing a process formally called, "Aquifer Storage and Recovery" (ASR).
The fairly complicated process is simple enough to understand. Boreholes are drilled into underground aquifers. When water levels are above what can be stored in surface reservoirs excess water is pumped into the aquifers through the boreholes.
"There are years when our reservoirs fill and spill," stated Bob Peters, Water Resource Engineer for Denver Water. "Those are the years when we would take water from our distribution system and store that water underground."
Denver Water does not know if the ASR system will work or if the organization will even pursue the project beyond the research and study phase they are currently working through. According to information from DW the concept has been proven to work in other locations in Colo. but added additional study is needed on the viability of the project. "Our study will help us determine if pursing this is a smart investment on behalf of our ratepayers," states DW's website.
Since early Nov. crews have been working to drill into the Colorado Basin, a series of multiple aquifers covering an area roughly the size of Conn. located beneath the high plains along the Front Range. The large drilling rigs, which have been spotted at locations around the Denver area, look very similar to the rigs used for hydraulic fracking but are in fact quite different.
Denver Water expects to spend the remainder of 2016 and into 2017 working on the feasibility study for the ASR program before investing in an potential pilot well site. The DW website states, "At this point it is premature to speculate when ASR could be implemented."