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Innovation

Aurora Water is the state leader in water conservation, reuse and innovative water solutions. We have to be. Aurora is the third largest city in Colorado, yet it’s not located by a major water source. The city relies on a complex and cohesive system of conservation, reuse and storage to ensure our community has the water it needs today and tomorrow.

To stretch valuable water supplies, the city implemented permanent water conservation measures nearly 20 years ago. Aurora was an early adopter of using reclaimed water for irrigating parks and golf courses and is the first city in Colorado to capture and treat reused water for drinking water. Through the Prairie Waters System – the largest water reuse facility in Colorado – 95 percent of the city’s water can be reused to the point of extinction.

By the numbers, Aurora leads state in conservation and reuse

Aurora’s customers have stepped up to the plate to lead the state in water reductions. Customers have slashed water use 36 percent since the early 2000s, and as a result, Aurora has the lowest water use per person per day along the Front Range. Referred to as gallons per capita per day (gpcd), Aurora’s rate today is 115 gpcd is well below a conservation goal of 129 gpcd by 2050 stated in the Colorado Water Plan.

Aurora also has the highest reuse rate in the state thanks to the pioneering Prairie Waters System, which provides the city up to 10 million gallons per day – returning high-quality water to the homes from which it came.

Mining for innovative water solutions

Because Aurora Water was not founded until the mid-1950s, the city’s water rights are junior to many other Front Range Municipalities. Aurora has to be innovative in securing and storing water. In 2018, the city entered into a precedent-setting purchase of mine water from the abandoned London Mine, located near Alma, in Park County. This water is stored in a natural underground reservoir at the mine and therefore does not take water from streams and rivers in the area. London Mine provides Aurora and additional 1,411 acre-feet of reusable water annually. Using mine water is a win for the city, the environment (water doesn’t come from streams or rivers and reduces the potential for acid mine drainage) and agricultural water users because this water doesn’t impact any river basin or existing water rights.

Partnering with agriculture and recreation

One-quarter of Aurora’s water is supplied by the Arkansas River. Water for recreation and agriculture is very important in the upper and lower Arkansas basins. In the Lower Arkansas Valley, which starts below Pueblo Reservoir to the Kansas border, row crops and hay crops are a major economic driver. In the Upper Basin, which extends upstream from Pueblo Reservoir, ranching is the major agricultural water user and this part of the river is renowned for gold medal fishing and world class white-water rafting.

Aurora has agreements with Upper Arkansas recreation and fishing groups that ensure enough water is released from high-mountain reservoirs to meet the needs of fish and recreation alike. In fact, during drought years like this one, water releases from reservoirs on the upper South Platte and Arkansas rivers help keep recreation companies in business and also cool river temperatures so fish are not as stressed.

Aurora has agreements with farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley that ensure an adequate water supply for crops and ongoing reclamation of lands no longer used for farming. In a deal with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Aurora agreed to not buy and permanently transfer water from the Arkansas River Basin for 40 years. Aurora agreed to leasing restrictions of taking water in only 3 years out of 10.

Here are highlights on how Aurora became a state leader in:

Conservation

Reuse

  • Since 1968, Aurora has used reclaimed water to irrigate parks, golf courses and landscaping at city buildings.
  • Prairie Waters is the largest potable reuse system in Colorado. Came online in 2010.

    • Delivers up to an additional 10 million gallons into the system

    • Uses the most advanced purification technology in the country
    • The only facility designed specifically to remove substances such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products

      • Natural processes including riverbank filtration and aquifer recharge and recovery basin to remove contaminants

      • High tech like Ultraviolet Advanced Oxidation

Future Goals

Aurora is not resting on its laurels. The city has identified a goal of further reducing water consumption another 10 percent by 2040.

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