Denver by the Data, Vol. 7: Water

Denver by the Data is a quasi-monthly, data-driven belly flop into different topics of importance, inevitability and infamy to the city. We're diving into the city's water statistics this week.
Colorado's oldest and largest water utility, Denver Water serves 1.4 million people in the metro area, about 25 percent of Colorado's population. It supplies that big market with just 2 percent of the state's water.

Collection, Distribution & Usage

The utility's collection system spans 2.5 million acres in eight counties and nearly 700,000 acre-feet in 15 reservoirs,

Denver Water's three primary treatment plants -- Marston, Moffat and Foothills -- have a combined capacity of 715 million gallons a day.

The distribution system includes 3,000 miles of water mains, 23 pumping stations and 30 underground reservoirs in the city.

Denver Water supplies water to nearly 200,000 different accounts in Denver city limits as well as 19,818 fire hydrants. Nearly half of the demand is residential, and about a quarter is business and industry.

Sprinklers and other outdoor applications make up a full half of residential water usage. Toilets are second (12 percent), followed by showers (11 percent), washing machines (9 percent), faucets (8 percent) and leaks (5 percent). Dishwashers and baths are each 1 percent.

The water-recycling system has a capacity of 30 million gallons a day, and will free up the drinking water of 43,000 households when complete.

The average metro Denver resident uses about 80 gallons of water a day, down from 104 in 2001.

That's a lower number than any other major city in the West besides Albuquerque.

Denver Water's target usage: 30 gallons per resident per day

Data from Denver Water and The Denver Post

Precipitation & Streamflow

Average annual rainfall in the city: 15.54 inches

Average annual snowfall: 55 inches (which melts into about 5.5 inches of water)

Wettest day in Denver history: Sept. 13, 2013 with 6.47 inches of rainfall

Wettest month: Sept. 2013 with 13.89 inches

Denver's June 1965 flood started when 14 inches of rain fell in three hours south of Castle Rock. Plum Creek's streamflow jumped from 150 cubic feet per second to 150,000 cubic feet per second, the deluge inundated the South Platte River in Denver and flooded two-thirds of the city's industrial area.

As the city saw 10 inches of rain in two days.

Normal flow of the South Platte River in Denver: about 150 to 1,000 cubic feet per second

Peak flow of the South Platte in Denver during the 1965 flood: 40,300 cubic feet per second

Cherry Creek normal flow: about 20 to 80 cubic feet per second

Peak flow of Cherry Creek during 1965 flood: 39,900 cubic feet per second

Surface area of Sloan's Lake, Denver's largest lake: 177 acres

Water World

North of Denver in Federal Heights, Water World is America's largest publicly owned water park. It is a part of the Hyland Hills Park and Recreational District.

Number of total attractions: 50

Number of gallons in Water World's Thunder Bay wave pool: 1.4 million

The big picture

An annual average of 13.7 million acre-feet of natural water flows originates in Colorado.

About 61 percent (8.4 million acre-feet) exits the state. Of the remaining 5.3 million acre-feet, nearly 89 percent of that water goes to agriculture in Colorado, or 4.7 million acre-feet.

Roughly 7.5 percent goes to municipalities and 3.8 percent goes to industrial uses.

Data from State of Colorado

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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