WATER SUPPLY: Aurora Water?s Sustainable Water Supply System Complete

The City of Aurora, Colo., recently celebrated the completion of the Prairie Waters Project, an innovative and environmentally friendly water system that was finished ahead of schedule and more than $100 million under budget.

A large Colorado crowd excited to see the completion of the $653 million project gathered Oct. 8 for the system?s formal dedication. Speakers included Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer, Interim City Manager Nancy Freed, Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher, former Aurora Water Director Peter Binney and CH2M HILL Chairman and CEO Lee McIntire, whose company provided design and program management services.

The project is the fastest, most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way to meet Aurora?s water needs and went from design to completion in just five years. The system includes 34 miles of 60-inch diameter pipeline, three pump stations, a natural purification area and a new water treatment facility.

Designed to protect the city against drought, like the one in 2002 that left Aurora with only a nine-month supply of water, the system is a forward-looking project that uses a sustainable water source by recapturing river water. Aurora, like many other cities in the state, gets most of its water from mountain runoff, but it?s difficult to predict how much water will be delivered from year to year. Prairie Waters provides the solution.

The project begins in Brighton, where water is pulled from the South Platte River. Riverbank wells pull the water through sand and gravel to perform the initial cleaning process. Water is then pumped to Aurora where it is treated with multiple water purification steps at the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility, including an advanced ultraviolet oxidation process that is among the largest application of UV oxidation in the world. The plant can treat 50 million gallons of water each day.

Binney, the former Aurora Water Director and the driving force in the development of Prairie Waters, said that the water solutions from the 19th and 20th centuries would not address the needs of the Aurora community and many others facing water crisis. It took a creative, sustainable, environmentally conscious approach, utilizing both natural treatment and cutting edge technologies, to deliver the needed solution.

Although Aurora Water utilized some traditional funding mechanisms ? $213 million in cash and net bond proceeds of $367 million ? the department also sought, and received, funding from some unique sources. The environmentally friendly nature of the project allowed Aurora Water to create partnerships with conservation agencies who applauded the city?s efforts to design a sustainable project that protected wildlife habitats during construction and use its water resources responsibly. That helped the department secure a low interest $75 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

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