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Thursday, November 5, 2020

Almost 25% of water and sewer infrastructure assets are past their designed life

Almost 25% of water and sewer infrastructure assets are past their designed life

Westminster’s $4 billion water and sewer system supports every facet of our daily lives, but it needs to be maintained. The city’s goal for maintaining this infrastructure is simple: take care of what we own and maintain current levels of service.

Every two years, the city studies the condition of its raw water, drinking water, wastewater and reclaimed water infrastructure to prioritize repairs, invest ratepayer funds as efficiently as possible, protect public health and maintain reliable service.

There are currently 700 water and sewer assets out of a total of 2,600 that are past their designed useful life, according to industry standards. “Assets” is a general term for segments of pipes, pumps and other equipment that are used to deliver safe drinking water and sewer services.  Similar to the tires on your car being designed to last 40,000 to 60,000 miles, “designed life” is the estimated life expectancy for each asset.

Out of these 700 items, a little over 10 miles of drinking water pipes are past their designed life which could lead to more frequent water main breaks. About 125 miles of sewer pipe in the city also need to be replaced before they fail and cause sewer backups or sinkholes.

The water storage tanks near City Hall were built in the 1960s and are structurally deficient. The largest asset past its designed life is the Semper Water Treatment Facility which was built in 1969. Although staff work extremely hard to keep Semper operational, delivering safe, high-quality drinking water 24 hours a day, it is more cost effective to replace the facility with a new one.

As the city’s infrastructure has aged, City Council has adopted rates to provide the revenue for more projects that repair and replace assets to continue delivering safe water and sewer services. Some recent and current examples include:

  • The $32 million Big Dry Creek Interceptor Sewer Project is repairing the existing large sewer pipe and installing a new section of pipe in the northern part of the city.
  • The High Service Pump Station, which delivers 80% of the city’s drinking water, is currently being rehabilitated at the cost of $15 million.
  • An $8 million project in 2021 will replace one of the water storage tanks next to City Hall.
  • The WATER2025 program, at a cost of more than $100 million, is on track to begin construction of a new water treatment facility and associated pipelines in 2023.

Aging infrastructure and increasing water rates are a challenge across the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers grades Colorado’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure at C-. Nationwide, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is graded D and D+, respectively.

The city is a leader in knowing the condition of its infrastructure and taking action to maintain it.

Council is currently holding a series of study sessions to discuss water and sewer infrastructure, rates and future community engagement. Learn more at www.cityofwestminster.us/2022rates.

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