Colorado Springs Utilities, along with Denver Water and the city of Aurora, all reuse a significant amount of water after it has gone through a treatment plant.
It’s called non-potable water and as such is not acceptable for public consumption, cooking or bathing.
The wastewater system collects all the water from homes and businesses, then treats it to conditions set by the state health department. In most treatment centers throughout the state, the treated, non-potable water is then released back to the river or source whence it came.
In Colorado Springs, Denver and Aurora, that water is recaptured and reused to water golf courses, public parks, cemeteries and the like.
The systems do not extend to residential uses.
“The cost is extremely prohibitive to build such a system,” said Steve Berry of CSU. “Most customers would not tolerate the rate impact.” A system would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he added.
“It would be a tremendous challenge to put the pipe in the ground,” Berry said.
The non-potable system in Colorado Springs provides a capacity of 13 million gallons a day during the summer.
The Colorado Springs system has 26 miles of distribution pipelines that stretch to Bear Creek Regional Park, Kissing Camels Golf Course, Patty Jewett Golf Course, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, El Paso County, Memorial Park, Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado College, Valley Hi Golf Course and others. This program was put together beginning in 1961.
Utilities’ charge for non-potable water is significantly less than for treated water.
Aurora’s non-potable system is used to irrigate parks, said Greg Baker, manager of public relations for the Aurora Water Department.
“It’s 5 million gallons a day we can save from potable use,” Baker said. The city’s irrigation season stretches from May 1 through Oct. 30.
“It makes perfect sense,” Baker said. “We don’t always want to apply potable water for irrigation.”
Denver’s non-potable system has a current capacity of 30 million gallons a day, expandable to 45 million gallons a day. The distribution system includes more than 50 miles of pipe with two major pump stations and storage tanks, according to Denver Water’s website.
The system began operating in 2004, and when the recycled water system build-out is complete, Denver Water’s recycled supply will account for about 5 percent of the city’s total water volume annually, according to Travis Thompson, media coordinator for Denver Water.
Denver uses its recycled water year-round, and the non-potable water is used at parks, golf courses, Xcel Energy, schools, the Denver Zoo and others.