Text Size

Site Search

Water Planning & Distribution

Water Treatment

Click the Fluent Water Facts below to learn more about where your water comes from.


Please update your Flash Player to view content.

Making Water Safe to Use

We typically take clean water for granted. But it is only in the last 100-150 years that we discovered how essential pure water is, especially in the role of preventing disease.

Water treatment occurs before and after use. Water treatment plants process water for domestic or industrial use, and wastewater treatment plants process wastewater before it is discharged back into streams.

Drinking Water Treatment Plants

As a headwaters state, Colorado is fortunate to draw water from upstream of most other users, providing us with high-quality water. Still, metals and minerals may need to be removed, as well as organics and other natural impurities.

Drinking water treatment plants use a series of processes to remove suspended material from raw water. These processes might be chemical, physical, or biological. Chlorine, for example, is typically used as a disinfectant. Treatment aims to remove pathogenic microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and giardia.

Treated water must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), which insures that drinking water meets specific standards. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) adopts, implements, and enforces the standards set by federal law.

Water treatment plants vary in size. Some treat water for a few homes only, while others are massive facilities that treat millions of gallons each day.

Wastewater Treatment Plants

Wastewater is usually a combination of graywater (wash, unused and rinsewater) and raw sewage. At wastewater treatment plants, solid waste, grease, and oils are separated from water. The solid waste becomes treated biosolids, suitable for landscaping and agricultural uses. The water is cleaned using a combination of aeration, microorganisms, gravity, and a variety of chemicals. This water must meet certain standards before it be returned to waterways. Wastewater treatment plants are regulated by state and federal clean water acts.


Stormwater is a relative newcomer in the water treatment world. Stormwater runoff from industrial sources, municipal storm drains, and construction sites can carry many pollutants. Heavy rainfall on sidewalks and parking lots can carry oil from cars and waste from pets into waterways. In Colorado, stormwater is typically managed but not treated.

Infrastructure Makes It All Possible

Transferring water from its source to treatment plants, from treatment plants to users, and from users to wastewater treatment plants requires a massive infrastructure. Pipes, valves, pumps, storage tanks, drains, and sewer lines must all be maintained and monitored. Infrastructure maintenance accounts for a significant portion of a customer’s water bill.

Investigate Your Drinking Water

Large water utilities publish a “Water Quality Annual Report” or “Consumer Confidence Report” each year in compliance with federal law. These reports outline the results of regular water testing and describe the drinking water sources used. Contact smaller providers to request their water quality information.

Additional Resources

Learn more about water treatment and infrastructure in the Winter 2013 Headwaters magazine and the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Quality Protection.

Keep It Clean Partnership: prevent stormwater pollution

Colorado Stormwater Council: http://www.coloradostormwatercouncil.org/

Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority: http://www.semswa.org/

Denver Water’s water quality reports: http://www.denverwater.org/WaterQuality/QualityReports/

Colorado Springs Utilities water quality reports: https://www.csu.org/pages/water-quality-b.aspx

Ute Water Conservancy’s water quality reports: http://www.utewater.org/water_quality.html

Water Origin Resources

The Citizen's Guide to Where your Water Comes From explains how weather patterns and aquifers supply the water we use. Learn more about the intricate distribution systems Coloradans have developed to deliver water to our farms and cities.  Flip through the online version or purchase a copy.

Citizen s Guide  4a40f4c93383c

The Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Transbasin Diversions highlights the history, costs and benefits of these controversial water projects, from both an historic and current point of view. Flip through the online version or purchase a copy.

Transbasin Diversions


1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218