Aurora finalizes water deal with neighboring counties, cities


Aurora City Council members are wrapping up a water deal called the “WISE” project that will eventually grant water to 11 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties in times when Aurora has additional water.

On July 9, council members are expected to approve an intergovernmental agreement between Denver Water and Aurora Water on the technical aspects of the deal, and the water providers involved will finalize their end of the water delivery agreement by the end of the year.

Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority formed a partnership last year called Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency or the “WISE” Partnership.

The goal is to provide the 11 water entities in Douglas and Arapahoe counties a total of between 8,000 and 10,000 acre feet of water from Aurora’s and Denver’s water supplies in the South Platte River. An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, or enough water to serve two typical households per year.

The partnership is crucial for the members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which has historically been mostly reliant on groundwater and deepwater nonrenewable aquifers.

The aquifers and wells are hundreds of feet deep into the ground and extract water as old as the glacial period, Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said.

It takes decades and sometimes even centuries for the water to replenish. Because Aurora’s drought-hardening Prairie Waters project generates excess water each year that would flow to Nebraska if it’s unused, the city agreed to lease the excess to the water authority when Aurora’s residents have an adequate supply.

Baker said the deal also means that the 11 water providers involved in the project won’t be forced to buy water used for agriculture.

“All of them would be out there individually trying to buy a farm and take all the water from it, and we really want to discourage that,” Baker said. “We recognize agriculture is important to our economy, and if we can all work together on this solution we can find ways of not having agricultural impacts.”

Aurora stands to earn some money from the partnership beginning in about 2020, and that money would be used to pay down debt and operating costs for the city’s water system.

The water authority is paying for a $20-million expansion to Prairie Waters, and they are leasing the water at a rate of $5.38 per thousand gallons, which is more than the $5.27 that Aurora residents pay for water rates.

The project has been lauded by officials from around the state.

“(It’s) a terrific example of how to meet future water demands on the Front Range,” said Drew Beckwith, water policy manager at Western Resource Advocates in a statement.

Four water entities including the Castle Pines Metropolitan District have already backed out of the WISE partnership because of cost concerns.

In October 2011, Paul Dannels, district manager of the Castle Pines Metropolitan District said the project is costly and there is an “uncertainty of water delivery” because Aurora will only be giving water to the entities in times when they don’t need it.

The water entities participating in the WISE project include Castle Pines North Metropolitan District, Inverness Water and Sanitation District, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District and the town of Castle Rock.


Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]


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9 years ago

What a coincidence, Dominion water deals, water for fracking and now Aurora through the Prairie Waters Project will be able to provide 11 area water providers with water, all on July 9th. Isn’t nice that Aurora has sooo much unused water.

Was the Praririe Waters Project necessary to drought harden Aurora’s water supply and  to provide Aurora’s futute citizens with water or was that project built so Aurora’s Water Department could become the new metro area water daddy? 

Betty Jean
Betty Jean
9 years ago

Since when does Aurora want to discourage buying farms and taking all their water? Aurora practically invented the term ‘buy and dry’ when they started buying farms in the Arkansas Valley and drying them up by diverting the water to Aurora.


[…] for years to come, but the city’s lease agreements to Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and the WISE partnership would generate money to prepay debt on the […]