L’eau de pew? Spring brings Aurora scented water

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AURORA | There is something fishy about Aurora’s water. In the past two weeks, the City of Aurora has received 11 calls from people reporting that there is something different about their tap water, said Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water.

“They’re saying that when they first turn on the water, they get this odor from the tap initially, that the water tastes like fish,” he said.

Why is this happening? Baker said it has nothing to do with Aurora’s water quality. Aurora’s water supply comes primarily from the Colorado, Arkansas and South Platte River basins. Around May, the snow melt from the Rocky Mountains runs into those river basins, which in turn feed Aurora’s reservoirs. But with a mild winter and a warm spring, ice and snow are melting earlier this year and causing the water in the reservoirs to literally stir. That’s when the weight of ice melting on the top of the reservoir starts to sink to the bottom and displaces the warmer water upward. 

Fishy WaterBaker said the Rampart Reservoir, located in the foothills of Douglas County near Waterton Canyon, caught city officials off guard by starting its spring stir particularly early this year, causing more organic material to get mixed into the water that is piped from the foothills-based reservoir to Aurora. “It’s a little reservoir of only 1,600 acre-feet. We call it a regulatory reservoir because all of our mountain supply comes through that,” he said.

All of Aurora’s mountain supplies are delivered to the city via the Rampart Pipeline, which feeds Aurora’s three water purification facilities as well as the Quincy and Aurora reservoirs. 

“We’ve adjusted our treatment processes, and we’ve noticed a drop in the calls already,” he said. He said the city also receives these kinds of calls in the fall when algae blooms that appear on the reservoirs after a hot July or August can affect the taste and smell of the tap water.   

For any residents still smelling or tasting something fishy, Baker suggested running the water for 30 seconds. He said that will flush out any old water from the service line. “The fact that we had 11 calls so far out of 79,000 water service accounts means it’s not an overwhelming impact. It’s still great water to drink. Some people just have very sensitive palates,” he said.