Aurora, CO, Prairie Waters Project

Prairie Waters Project for Aurora, Colorado

Prairie Waters Project, Aurora, Colorado

Aurora, Colorado, United States

Project owner: Aurora Water, City of Aurora

Project type: Drinking water and wastewater

Budget: $500 million-$1 billion

Project description: Like other cities in the arid west, Aurora needs drought protection. The Prairie Waters Project was a fast track response to a severe drought and collapse of a municipal water system that served 300,000 people. During 2003, the city was months from needing to ration water to maintain a dwindling supply decimated by regional drought. Aurora Water was asked by city leaders to ensure that it was capturing all the water the city currently owns in wells near the South Platte River's bank for use by Aurora residents. The water collected is piped 34 miles to a new purification facility near the Aurora Reservoir where it is purified and then used by Aurora citizens. New delivery processes were developed to manage the project; it combines natural purification with advanced engineering solutions. The facility features softening, advanced ultraviolet light oxidation, granular media filtration, and granular activated carbon and is designed to work in conjunction with the project's natural purification area, where water percolates with the natural sand and gravel found along the river. Because this process purifies the water naturally, there is no waste that must be discharged back into the river and it greatly reduces the demand on more energy-intensive filtration. Colorado's volatile water market makes purchasing additional water resources time consuming and expensive. Not only is the project cost effective through developing already owned water resources, but other design and operation features work together to maximize the use of city funds. The Prairie Waters Project delivers water to the city fast and on time, and uses water from the South Platte River, which will be available even when other supplies are low.

How it satisfies the "triple bottom line" approach (economic environmental, social), including innovative aspects: 
Economic:  The project was completed in 5 years for $660 million. This was significant because it was delivered ahead of schedule and $100 million under budget.
Environmental:  The Prairie Waters Project doubled the utilization of the city's water portfolio without new dams or transfers of water from agricultural areas without significant environmental impact. 
Social:  The project protects the city against drought while meeting its future water needs.

Categories of innovation: Community and stakeholder engagement, resource management, water resources

Additional resources for information:
Overview map of project (PDF):
Aquifer recharge and recovery system schematic:

For more about this project: Mark Pifher, Aurora Water Director, Aurora Water;, 1-866-262-0715 or 303-739-7477

Submitted by: Mark Pifher

Date submitted: March 4, 2011

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