Located just southeast of Denver, the town of Parker, Colorado, is home to the Parker Water and Sanitation District's (PWSD's) new Rueter-Hess Water Purification Facility (RHWPF) – a drinking water treatment plant that may change how communities across the country think about producing a sustainable water supply.

Parker Water Tasting
This photo was taken moments after the leadership at Parker Water tasted water produced by the new RHWPF.

Securing a Renewable Source

Parker is one of many communities across the U.S. facing critical water shortages due to declining groundwater levels. Known as the "invisible utility," groundwater helped support Parker's growth from 300 to nearly 50,000 residents in just 34 years—but district leaders anticipated the eventual reduction in supply. Four years after the town of Parker was founded, PWSD implemented a 30-year plan to convert from groundwater to a renewable water supply, incorporating significant infrastructure to capture, store, and treat surface water and reclaimed wastewater.

surface water

The Process of Providing World Class Water

The new network begins by pumping surface water from Cherry Creek into the 75,000-acre-foot Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Through a process known as unintentional indirect reuse, the pump bringing water from the creek to the reservoir also captures wastewater discharge.

The RHWPF is the first plant in the world to incorporate three specific technologies to meet and exceed EPA drinking water standards. First, a coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation chamber uses microsand to enhance particle sedimentation while reducing the chamber's surface area requirements. Next, a recirculating powdered activated carbon (PAC) chamber cuts costs by sending used PAC back through the system. Finally, the treated water is pushed through ceramic membrane filters to remove any remaining particles larger than 0.1 microns in size.

This application of ceramic membrane filters is the first of its kind in the U.S. for use in a drinking water system. They were chosen as a more suitable filtration system for this facility because of their ability to withstand impacts from the abrasive sand and PAC particles used in upstream processes and be cleaned back to like-new condition, allowing them to last far longer than conventional polymeric membranes.

Once the plant's potable water is turned to wastewater by residents, the effluent returns to the same creek where the raw surface water collection cycle begins again.

ceramic membrane filters

A Long-Lasting Alternative

It's taken many years to complete the infrastructure, but now the RHWPF will provide abundant and high-quality water to generations of Parker residents. Though groundwater was an abundant resource 30 years ago, those decades provided enough time to plan, design, and construct this new water collection and treatment system to support today's declining groundwater production levels.