Case Study: Castle Pines Metropolitan District, CO


Castle Pines Metropolitan District Background

CPMD is a water and sanitation district located northwest of Castle Rock, Colorado. This special district manages, operates and maintains water, wastewater, storm drainage, and street systems for nearly 1,682 homes and businesses in the Castle Pines Village community.

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The District uses an average of 1080 acre-feet of water each year and 100% of this supply is from groundwater. CPMD is currently transitioning to renewable water sources with a goal of reaching 75% supply in the next few years.

CPMD has had a water conservation program in place since 2007 that includes: equipment rebates, educational programs, outdoor/indoor water audits, and more. CPMD employs a full time water efficiency specialist who plans, implements, and administers these programs.

The District uses statistical data analysis to evaluate water conservation program performance. At the conclusion of the irrigation season, CPMD conducts a comprehensive evaluation that measures changes in water consumption for conservation program participants. The analysis, normalized for weather and other factors, determines water savings on an account by account basis.

th cpmd2These evaluations help the District understand which programs are delivering the best return on investment, which programs need to be changed to improve results, and which should be discontinued.

An ancillary benefit of measuring water savings for each customer is that CPMD was able to launch a performance-based rebate program. Customers receive rebates based on actual water savings generated from improvements they make to indoor appliances, their irrigation systems, or landscape changes. This program ensures CPMD only pays when customers save water.


The Organizational Challenge

Like other water utilities in the western U.S, the District is facing mounting water supply issues . The State of Colorado requires water providers of certain sizes to submit, and receive approval of, a water conservation plan. CPMD's plan outlined some aggressive water savings goals and the District was making significant strides in achieving them. But the organization recognized that the amount of water it was saving from existing programs was being negated by leaks and other inefficiencies in the system.

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We track very closely our District-wide water savings that result from our water conservation programs. It was clear we needed to do something to help all of our customers use water more efficiently, and that involved more individualized guidance.
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    -- Emily Coll, Water Efficiency Specialist, CPMD  
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Several properties in the District had suffered catastrophic leak situations. In one case, a pipe froze and then burst inside a bank-owned property valued at several hundred thousand dollars. The outgoing owner had discontinued the electric and gas service prior to a cold spell where temperatures dropped below zero. When temperatures warmed up, water started gushing throughout the home.

By the time the leak was detected, 660,000 gals. of water had passed through the meter. Standing water saturated the home for so long, that black mold proliferated and the home had to be condemned.

Although this is clearly an extreme example, many of the District's customers had experienced leaks in the past. As a result, CPMD decided to target two areas of concern:

  • Demand-side leaks
  • Irrigation efficiency.

CPMD was very aware that the feedback loop for notifying customers after a water-wasting event occurred, was too long. The District bills on a thirty day cycle. If a customer experienced a leak on the 15th day of the month, that leak would normally run for another 15 days before the District would see it on a high bill report, or as much as 20 days before the customer learned of the problem on his/her water bill.

In addition, the District knew that over-irrigation throughout the community was common, and with better guidance and information, customers could reduce their water usage and still have healthy, lush, vibrant landscapes.

To address these issues, the organization needed a better feedback mechanism to more quickly identify when leaks and irrigation problems were happening. The District also wanted to proactively notify customers so repairs could be made and irrigation cycle times changed.

Moreover, many homes in the community are "second homes." Identifying problems and then reaching out to homeowners when they're traveling, would provide a needed customer service.


The Solution

CPMD and AmCoBi implemented a demand-side leak detection and irrigation efficiency program using the AquaHawk Alerting™ software platform. What could be described as a "poor man's fixed network," the District proceeded to collect meter reads twice a week using its mobile meter reading system. AquaHawk was used to analyze the data.

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Initially, we were concerned that the workload required to drive our meter route twice a week would be too much. We discovered, however, that the effort was worth it because the data we were gathering were so valuable. We had a substantial impact preventing unnecessary losses and our customers really appreciate the level of service we deliver.
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    -- Emily Coll  
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Usage data is compared to historical values, weather information, and a variety of other factors to determine when leaks or over-irrigation had happened. After the data have been analyzed, a list of flagged properties is sent to CPMD identifying those accounts that need further review or to be contacted.

AquaHawk detected a variety of issues including:

  • A malfunctioning water softener with its autofill valve stuck open. Quick notification and repair saved an estimated 135,000 gals. of water
  • An irrigation clock incorrectly programmed to run several rotor zones for 60 minutes each day by the customer's landscaping company. Potential savings = 358,416 gals.
  • Numerous leaking toilets caused by flappers not sealing properly
  • A broken pressure reducing valve on a customer's hot water heater that led to an increase in pipe pressure (as high as 120 psi) and a 29,000 gallon leak
  • A pipe leaking behind the wall of a master bathroom. The furnace and the hot water heater had broken
  • A leak in a basement crawl space that led to the loss of 174,000 gals. in a few days. The homeowner was unaware of the problem because of its hidden location
  • An irrigation meter that had not been properly "blown out." It subsequently froze and cracked.
  • By committing to gather usage data every 3-4 days, CPMD was able to deliver timely feedback to customers. Their approach was a cost effective alternative to deploying a standard fixed network--Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI systems can be read on a daily basis, remotely.


The Results

The results of CPMD's program have been outstanding. The District estimates it has prevented the loss of more than 4 million gallons of water--enough to supply 41 homes for a year. Customers have responded favorably as demonstrated by the following comments:

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I don't know what I would've done without Metro's help taking care of my leak while I was away.
As a Property Manager, I have found tremendous value in Metro's new leak detection program. Metro discovered two of my properties were using much more water than usual. One property would have suffered extensive damage if Metro hadn't identified the leak and notified me.
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The program has helped reduce over-irrigation and make significant strides towards achieving the District's water conservation goals. It also encouraged CPMD to invest in a fixed network for the entire community so usage data could be collected more frequently and the leak detection process accelerated.