Water, Water Everywhere in Leadville Today
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Big. Evans. Reservoir. The name itself evokes a scene straight out of an old west movie. But for those who live in Leadville Today, Big Evans Reservoir is one of the last stops for that tasty, cold tap water that residents enjoy. Last summer, Parkville Water District made an historic $530,000 upgrade to the bypass system at Big Evans. Leadville Today (LT) was there to document the improvements that will assure there will be many more glasses of Colorado’s best drinking water to come.
Sometimes as a journalist, the task at hand is to interpret highly technical data into information that is relevant to readers. What does the project mean to them, and how does it affect their lives? To that end, this is a story about a “wooden bypass flume constructed by Leadville miners more than 130 years ago” which has been replaced by “two 4’ high-density, polyurethane pipes, 350 feet in length, book-ended by intake and discharge concrete-encased structures.” But for Parkville’s 5,000 customers, it’s just GOOD news!
This is the third, and final (for now!) in Leadville Today’s Water, Water Everywhere series. Part One discussed Parkville Water District’s senior water rights, and Part Two took readers on a tour of the Canterbury Tunnel, an ancient – and warm – water source that Parkville brought back into the system in 2012. Today’s post deals with Leadville’s surface water supply, which feeds into the water treatment plant on E. 7th Street and eventually into your faucet.
Look east of Leadville, up towards the Mosquito Mountain Range – that’s where you will find the headwaters for Parkville Water District. Two of its three reservoirs – Mountain and Evans Gulch #2 Reservoir sit way up in the basins, above timberline. The fresh mountain snow and rains captured by these reservoirs, eventually feed into Evans Creek which meets up with Big Evans Reservoir, the last surface water source before entering into Parkville’s water treatment plant.
Fortunately, the higher lakes are above timberline and less susceptible to debris clogging up their flows. However, as their water filters into Evans Creek, it picks up speed, especially during spring run-off, and grabs at tree branches and willows, along with old timbers left over from Leadville’s historic east side mining district, creating makeshift dams along the way. Up until last summer’s upgrade, that unpredictable debris-laden surge of spring run-off water would be exactly the kind of thing that would keep Parkville’s General Manager Greg Teter up at night; and for good reason.
“Two spring run-offs ago (2014),” said Teter, “there was a surge of water that came down Evans Creek and overwhelmed the (wooden bypass) flume at Big Evans, leading to an erosion in our dam.” Not only did the incident make Parkville officials push the flume upgrade project to the top of its priority list, but the state engineer’s inspection most likely helped sway grantors from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to approve $300,000 towards the $530,000 final price tag for the improvement.
In fact, when you see the old flume, it’s almost incredulous to think that up until last summer (2016) this bypass structure was in place in Leadville’s local water system.
The original flume was built in 1903, designed to bypass the dirty run-off water around Big Evans Reservoir, so that the drinking water supply didn’t get contaminated when there was high turbidity. Eventually the old structure proved it was no longer capable of doing that as spring run-offs became more intense and the costly annual patch jobs to the historic bypass were no longer doing the trick.
“Instead of coming up and doing $10-20,000 worth of repairs each fall on the old wooden flume, it was finally replaced. This new structure should not require any maintenance at all,” stated Teter in an exclusive Leadville Today interview in October 2016 when the project came to completion.
The new pipes are twin 4’ diameter, high-density polyurethane pipes, which have been installed one alongside the other. The two hundred feet pipe pieces were welded together by a fusion process which involves heating up the two ends of the pipes creating a suction which pulls the two pieces together under pressure, welding them together when it cools. This process ultimately manufactured the two 350′ twin pipes which replaced the rickety-old, falling apart flume
The new bypass system is designed to carry 200 cubic feet of water per second, which the old wooden flume simply could not do. In fact, the new pipes include a baffle system which dissipates the energy of the high velocity water during runoff.
So how much water does Parkville need to meet customer demand, especially during peak usage times?In July 2016 Leadville’s only water district averaged a million gallons of water a day for its entire system which serves 5,000 customers. Big Evans Reservoir has the capacity of 21 acre feet of water or about 7.5 million gallons of water. In other words, there is plenty of room for expansion to the distribution system.
As Leadville and Lake County look toward the future, anticipating another “boom” in their cycle, it won’t be this utility that holds up the footsteps of progress. In fact, it’s more like “cheers! and a job well done,” to the staff and board of Parkville Water District, Wheeler & Associates (Parkville’s long-time engineering consultants), Mountain Structures, Inc. and all of the familiar faces working the project last summer.
There is a great benefit to financing Leadville projects with grants, as long as it’s done responsibly, and in an on-time, on-budget manner of accountability and transparency. The Big Evans Bypass Flume Project is a shining example of how to do it right! So thanks to the CWCB who provided the financing via the Arkansas (and state) Basin Roundtables with a $300,000 grant, as well as a $180,000 low-interest loan, 10% of which comes out of Parkville’s capital reserve budget.
The new bypass system was designed by Wheeler and Associates, Parkville’s long time engineering consultants whose familiarity with the water distribution system and Big Evans Bypass Flume situation allowed them to provide a top notch design without a lot of fact-finding, billable hours. The design bid was put out to four counties and eventually awarded to a Leadville company, Mountain Structures, Inc., a general contractor that specializes in steel and concrete construction. There were many local faces running the equipment, providing needed jobs in town.
“I’ve been thinking about this project for about ten years now,” concluded Teter as he watched the first flow of water come through the new Evans bypass flume last October.
The dream is finally realized, and now Teter will have to find something else to keep him up at night. However, when you manage THE oldest water system in the state, there’s plenty of things to accomplish that. But for now, it’s job well-done!
It’s also worth noting Parkville Board Member Rego Omerigic’s major time commitment in bringing this project to the completion. A dedicated, long-time Leadville resident and community activist, Omerigic’s dedication to helping Teter see the project through, weighed heavy on its completion. Hat’s off!
The Parkville Water District Board of Directors meets the second Thursday of every month at 5:15 p.m. at the Parkville business office at 2015 N. Poplar Street (next to Pizza Hut) in Leadville. The public is encouraged to attend.
Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company that publishes two news sites: Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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