Turning Waste Water into Snow

Working Snow Cannon

The city of Aspen, Colorado has a plan to turn waste water into snow for local ski resorts.

Aspen’s sanitation plant typically treats waste water to where it’s almost as clean as drinking water. The treated waste water is then released into the Roaring Fork River.

What if that clean water were to be used again before sending it back to the environment? Aspen city officials have nearly completed a plan to do just that.

Buttermilk, a local ski resort, is the location of the X Games. It takes tens of millions of gallons of water each year to produce the snow features used in the games. Local golf courses also use large amounts of water for irrigation for the greens. The city irrigates the sides of roadways for beautification projects and public safety.

The Aspen Reuse Water Diversion would allow the city to send up to 1.5 million gallons of water each day – nearly 550 million gallons of water annually – for irrigation and snowmaking purposes. That’s 1.5 million gallons of water that would not be drawn out of local creeks to disrupt wildlife, fisheries, and recreation further down the river.

More and more cities are seeing the wisdom of using their already treated waste water for secondary purposes, such as irrigation or industry. Some places have even gone the extra step of treating the waste water to be used as drinking water.

Using treated waste water saves money over discharging the treated waste water, withdrawing fresh water from a stream or aquifer, then treating that water before use. After the waste water is used as irrigation or snowmaking, it will naturally enter the water cycle. In other places, using waste water for irrigation may even recharge aquifers.

Working snow cannon photo via Shutterstock

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Author: Heather Carr

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