Next Question: "Regarding the downtown water main break -- Why did it take Denver Water so long to turn off the water?? I enjoy your show."
This one showed up in our inbox from Steve Reemts. Thanks for the question Steve, but you know Kyle's more of a beer guy. So we took the question to Denver Water.
"On Saturday, it took about six hours to get it shut off," said Travis Thompson, Senior Media Coordinator for Denver Water. "Every break's unique and you really don't know what you're going to get when you're talking about a pipe that's 130 years old. Our crews ended up needing to back up and turn off 30 valves to get this main break shut off and isolated for our repair crews to actually get in here and do the work."
A 24-inch conduit laid down, likely by someone's great-great grandparents in 1889, burst on Saturday in the higher part of the Lower Highlands. The burst pipe at 29th Avenue and Zuni Street flowed downhill, all the way down 15th Street into downtown (by the way, the oldest pipe is a 15-inch cast iron pipe from 1881).
"It's not like flicking a switch and the water shuts off and you can go in and fix it. We actually have to find those valves and get them shut down," said Thompson.
The valves he's talking about are those manhole covers that say "Water" in the streets. Underneath those covers area valves that require a special device to turn off, so it's not as simple as turning the knob to "off."
"As you can imagine, if the pipe's 130 years old, a lot of those valves are 130 years old as well, so they're not as easy to access or find, especially when you've got water pouring down the street at you," said Thompson. "A 24-inch pipe, that's a lot of water to hold back for these valves, so sometimes you need to back up multiple valves to make sure you get a really clean shutoff."
OK, now that we know why it took so long to shut the water off, how much water leaked out?
Let's start with the good news.
"We only had four buildings out of water because of this main break," said Thompson.
Now the not-so-good news.
"We probably lost upwards of more than 10 million gallons of water," said Thompson. But he quickly followed that with, "conservation is very important for Denver Water."
We asked how much that might translate to in a residential water bill. Any guesses?
At least $41,000. The more affordable water rates you do pay actually help make repairs before water pipes burst and waste 10 million gallons of water.
"Water rates that come into us from the community, what we're doing is reinvesting that in the system and doing proactive maintenance on the system," said Thompson. "Every year we spend about $11 million to replace pipes throughout our system."
Denver Water installs or replaces about 60,000 feet of pipe each year, according to Thompson.
For more perspective, he said that Denver Water uses treats more than 60 billion gallons of water a year. About four percent of that is "non-revenue water" for firefighting, sampling, flushing, leaks, breaks and draining for maintenance and construction. Thompson estimated that to be about $5 million in residential customer use.
Since Kyle is a beer guy, one final comparison. Ten million gallons of water would fill 645,161 kegs of beer. At the half barrel size of 16 1/8-inch wide, if you lined up all those kegs side-by-side, we could do keg stands from the State Capitol to Glenwood Springs.
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