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All of the City’s drinking water is treated at the Baseline Water Treatment Facility on Baseline Road. The facility uses conventional treatment processes to produce water that meets state and federal requirements. The main treatment process steps include addition of coagulants that help remove small particles through gravity settling, filtration, and chlorine disinfection. Additional processes such as the use of activated carbon to reduce taste/odor and pH adjustments to reduce pipe corrosion occur as needed. The City provides regular water quality monitoring to ensure effective treatment. Monitoring results are published annually as part of the Consumer Confidence Report, available online.
The City is required to disinfect water before it leaves the treatment plant and maintain sufficient chlorine levels in pipes and tanks to prevent bacteria growth. Chlorine levels are monitored at multiple locations across the City to ensure that they stay between the minimum and maximum levels established by the State of Colorado and the EPA. The system is also regularly monitored for bacteria at multiple locations. The amount of chlorine remaining in the water when it reaches a home can vary depending on the how long water is in the system before it reaches the tap. Chlorine will dissipate if drinking water is left in an uncovered container in the refrigerator overnight.
Prior to being treated, the City’s water flows through creeks and ditches and is stored in reservoirs. These features function as a home to fish, wildlife, and aquatic vegetation. As water levels and temperatures vary over the course of the year, those ecosystems change.
In the spring, reservoirs fill with cold mountain snowmelt that has minimal plant material, but may be high in minerals picked up as runoff flows rapidly through creeks and ditches. During the spring and fall, temperature changes can cause reservoirs to “turn over” with cooler water sinking to the bottom and warmer water rising to the top. During the warm summer months, algae blooms can develop and then die off. In the fall, vegetation in and around the reservoir may die off or go dormant. In the fall leaves enter the reservoir and begin to decompose. During late summer and into winter, reservoir levels are drawn down as customer demands exceed stream flows. Each of these seasonal changes has impacts on the characteristics of the water that is delivered to the City’s water treatment facility.
The water treatment process filters out harmful materials and includes a disinfection process to prevent bacteria and organic materials from growing once water leaves the plant. Activated carbon is also used to help reduce any residual taste and odor. Even with treatment, there are subtle changes in water chemistry that can be detected by the human palette. Some people may also notice the process adjustments that are made to address source water variations, such as slight variations in chlorine levels.
Storing drinking water in the refrigerator can help reduce the variability of taste and odors due to changes in the City’s source water. Colder water releases less water vapor in to the air which impacts perceptions of variation in smell and taste. Storing water in the refrigerator also allows residual chlorine to dissipate. Running water until it turns cold before filling a pitcher will help flush out building plumbing and bring in fresh water from the City system.
If water is frequently rusty brown/orange that may be an indication of an issue with home plumbing or a hot water heater. Issues in the City’s pipe system such as broken pipes, construction activities, and fire hydrant use can produce temporary discoloration that can get into building fixtures. Removing faucet screens and running the water for several minutes until clear typically addresses this issue.
White water is typically caused by small air bubbles, which will dissipate in a few minutes. If the white water is caused by flakes that don’t disappear, this may be caused by a deteriorating dip tube in a home’s hot water heater.
Mildew can form in sinks, showers, toilets, or areas with stagnant water. Clean fixtures regularly and fix leaks to reduce mildew and mold growth.
The City of Lafayette’s water comes from mountain snow melt delivered to the City through a variety of creeks and ditches stored in local reservoirs, and treated at the Baseline Water Treatment Plant. The characteristics of the water delivered to the treatment plant vary depending on the water source, temperature, mineral content, and algae/vegetation. Treatment processes are regularly adjusted to ensure that health and safety requirements are met, but some customers may notice taste differences just as you might when traveling to a different city.
Most Front Range communities rely on multiple water sources and do experience some level of variability in water taste and odor over the course of the year. Having multiple sources is important in ensuring reliable water supply in the event of a drought or natural disaster.
Hot water releases water vapor that may make any taste or smell more evident. It is a good practice to use the cold water tap for drinking and heat it as needed. Hot water is more likely to contain metals or other materials dissolved in building plumbing and hot water heaters.
A variety of home filtration devices are available ranging from water pitchers to expensive whole house systems. Filter manufacturers generally provide data on their product removal rates for different types of contaminants. The City’s Consumer Confidence Report provides data on Lafayette’s water quality that may be useful in assessing the benefit of specific home systems.
The City has a number of efforts underway to improve the quality and consistency of drinking water. A first step is to increase our communications around source water changes so that customers can be confident that water is safe to drink. Modifications to the water treatment process are currently underway that are anticipated to improve efficiency in addressing impacts of summer algae blooms and should be completed in the next few weeks. The City is participating in several regional water projects that will both increase overall reservoir capacity, but also provide water from high mountain storage that is less susceptible to seasonal variability. The City also anticipates the need to build a second water treatment facility in the near future to address capacity limitations. This will provide an opportunity to explore new treatment technology and increase operational flexibility.
Before contacting the City, we recommend that you allow water to run for at least several minutes. If an issue goes away once water in the building plumbing is flushed out and new water is coming from the City main, then it is generally an indication of a possible problem in the home. The City cannot assess or repair home plumbing. If an issue persists, please submit your Taste & Odor concern to the Public Works Department through the web form or by calling 303-661-1277 and a water treatment operator will help assess the problem.