Water, Water Everywhere: PART ONE
This is PART ONE in a series
By Kathy Bedell ©Leadville Today
Once the run-off season starts in the high country – whether it’s early, late or right on time – you can bet that conversations turn to water: how much of it there is, where it’s headed and who has the right to use it.
So, as the rain falls and the temperatures rise, along with water levels, it seems like a good time to check in with Parkville Water District’s General Manager Greg Teter and see what’s new and what concerns he has for this late spring run-off.
“My biggest concern – the thing that keeps me awake at night – is the turbidity that comes with spring run-off, said Teter in an interview with Leadville Today.
Turbidity, as it’s known in the water industry, is all the sediment, particulates, and dirt that is picked up along the way from eroding riverbanks. The murkier the water, the higher the turbidity. All you have to do is take a look at any alpine stream or river during this time of year, and its muddy brown color is a clear indicator of high turbidity.
So what’s the big deal? Isn’t a water treatment plant supposed to take in and treat the water, to filter out all of that turbidity? Well, yes and that’s just what the Big Evans Water Treatment Plant does. However, if there’s enough turbidity in the spring run-off water, so much so that the plant would be challenged to filter it to state specifications, then it could activate an alarm system, that could shut down the plant and Parkville Water District customers’ access to water for a period of time.
While it’s a highly unlikely scenario, as the gauges inside the water treatment plant slowly creep their way up, so does Teter’s heightened awareness of the effects of spring run-off.
And if there are going to be any issues, they usually come in the middle of the night, explains Teter. That’s how long it takes the turbidity laden run-off to make its way down from Mosquito Pass as the mid-day sun heats things up in the high country. Water quality issues generally arise at midnight.
However, when you consider all of the recent Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) technology that has been implemented into the Parkville water system in recent years, maybe Teter should be sleeping a bit better. This highly complex system not only allows Parkville’s system to be monitored remotely, but it also alerts Teter to changes in turbidity or water flow.
Regardless, when you manage the primary water system in Lake County, responsible for over a million gallons of water being piped through THE OLDEST system in the state, you might suffer from insomnia this time of year
“It (spring run-off) usually comes the first week in June, it hardly ever runs into the second week, but it’s late this year,” explains Teter.
But the Parkville crew is ready for it. In fact, the private utility company is more prepared to handle any water situation – from heavy run-off to droughts to waterline compromises – than it has been since its inception back in 1860. Water monitoring systems like SCADA system use wireless technology to assist with water management, including enhanced security and improved reliability. In short, if something spikes or drops, Teter and his crew are notified via email, text message and phone call immediately, and can address the situation right away. Being able to stay out in front of situations is a game changer when it comes to water and public safety.
Another area where Parkville Water District is using new technologies is on a recently installed master flow meter. If you’ve been up E. 7th Street lately you may have noticed some work being done at the shack located about 500 feet below the Big Evans Water Treatment Plant. This upgrade will allow Parkville to get a better idea of water usage, as well as loss, within the system. Ultimately, some simple math (metered water outflow, less metered customer usage) should help define exactly how much water is being lost due to leaks, dead-end pipes and other seepage issues. It’s a solution Parkville has been working on for a while; this new flow meter should shine a more accurate light on the subject.
There’s little doubt that new technology in the water industry has allowed smaller distributions systems like Parkville to monitor and manage the business of water, while keeping operating costs within budget and rates to consumers in mind.
In PART TWO of this series, Leadville Today takes a look at a recent milestone success for Parkville: The Canterbury Tunnel and what its recent re-activation has meant to Leadville’s water supply. Stay Tuned.