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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Where does your drinking water come from?

The water you are drinking may have traveled more than 50 miles before it reaches your house. Water enjoyed by the residents of Westminster begins life high in the Colorado mountains on the Continental Divide, and travels from Clear Creek to Standley Lake via a series of ditches.

As spring and summer temperatures in the high country increase, melting snowpack translates to increased flows in Clear Creek and the eventual start of the streamflow season. This annual event means that Westminster, along with its partners in Standley Lake, can start filling reservoirs from ditches carrying that runoff water. In most years, there is sufficient runoff in Clear Creek to fill Standley Lake.

To get the water from Clear Creek to Standley Lake, Westminster has ownership in several ditch companies. Many of the state’s ditch companies were created over 100 years ago to move water from rivers and creeks to mining camps and farms, and cities now use these ditches for municipal water needs. Westminster’s ditches include the Farmers’ High Line Canal and Reservoir Company, the Church Ditch Water Authority, and the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation. These ditches transport a majority of the city’s water to Standley Lake, and run almost all year long, even in the winter months.

In the off-season when ditches are not flowing, ditch company staff work on infrastructure projects to ensure the smooth operation of measuring devices all the way from Golden to Standley Lake. When the ditches are first turned on for the year, staff remove trash and tree limbs that accumulate along the way so that water flows smoothly and no impurities reach Standley Lake. Westminster water quality staff monitor and test the water all year along its journey to Standley Lake to make sure that water that enters the lake meets the highest standards. If there are a lot of impurities in the creek, city staff can make the decision not to take that water into Standley Lake until the quality has improved.

Colorado water law governs how much water each user owns and how much they can take. State water commissioners actively monitor each water basin to make sure the correct amount of water withdrawn by each water user is the amount they are entitled to take. All year long, full-time ditch company staff continually adjust the intake gates from Clear Creek to the ditches to meet the commissioners’ directives.

So as you pour yourself a fresh glass of Westminster water today, take a moment to look out your window towards the Rocky Mountains and picture the amazing journey your water has taken!  Down mountains, through streams, collected into lakes and delivered through pipes…and shepherded along the way by the helping hands of dedicated Westminster employees.

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