The city has two water treatment plants, treating approximately 6 billion gallons of drinking water per year. Drinking water is delivered through 450 miles of pipeline to homes and businesses within the 26 square mile service area (see map) and is used for drinking water, irrigation, and firefighting. Average water use is 10 million gallons per day in the winter and 28 million gallons per day in the summer.
Betasso Water Treatment Plant is located in the foothills west of Boulder and treats water from Barker and Lakewood Reservoirs, which are fed by Middle Boulder Creek and North Boulder Creek. Betasso is currently being renovated to replace aging equipment and support updated treatment processes. Learn more here.
Boulder Reservoir Water Treatment Plant treats water from Boulder Reservoir and the Boulder Feeder Canal (May through October), which are operated by Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Boulder Feeder Canal delivers water from the upper Colorado River via Carter Lake.
Water treatment is a multi-step process. Large debris such as sticks and plants, are screened from the water before it is piped to the water treatment plants. To remove smaller particles, aluminum sulfate is added to the water as a coagulant. The Betasso water treatment plant uses a gravity settling process to remove the coagulated particles. At the Boulder Reservoir water treatment plant, dissolved air flotation (DAF) technology is used to remove the coagulated particles from the water. During the DAF process, the particles bind to micro oxygen bubbles injected into the water, which then float to the surface, and are removed from the water prior to further treatment. After coagulation and settling/DAF treatment, the water flows through a dense layer of sand, anthracite, and gravel, filtering the smallest remaining particles from the water. The final steps of the water treatment process include disinfection (with chlorine), corrosion control to adjust the water alkalinity and minimize corrosivity to pipes, and fluoride addition for dental health.
Touring the water treatment plants provides customers with a better understanding of where their drinking water comes from and how it is treated prior to distribution. Free tours are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two weeks notice is required. To schedule a tour, please submit the "Tour Request Form" below on this webpage. Please note that tours at Betasso Water Treatment Plant are not available until after the capital improvement projects have completed.
- Tours can accommodate a minimum of 5 and maximum of 20 visitors per available tour guide.
- Requests for larger groups will need to be approved by management to ensure safety and the group may be split up into smaller groups.
- Single individuals will likely be added to the next available group tour.
- Tour days and times may vary based on staff availability and facility priorities.
- Tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Requested dates are not always guaranteed.
- A standard tour may take at least one hour to complete and requires walking throughout the tour.
- A full, in-depth tour may take up to two hours and can include a half-hour presentation, followed by a walking tour. This is based on availability of operators.
- Attire: closed-toe shoes only. Please no heeled shoes, sandals or flip-flops. Dress appropriately for outdoor conditions. You will be touring an industrial site and there is some walking outdoors.
- Tour groups that arrive unprepared or without the required number of chaperones may be denied a tour.
- The City of Boulder adheres to strict ‘no smoking’ and ‘zero waste’ policies. Please, no smoking, littering, eating, or drinking during the tour. Plant staff can advise on local meeting spaces suitable for group lunches before or after the tour.
- Restrooms and drinking fountains are available on-site at the beginning and end of the tour.
- Please do not touch the equipment without permission.
- Staff reserve the right to end a tour at any time. Safety is our first priority.
- Questions are welcome and encouraged!
School Group/ Youth Tours
- The minimum participant age is 9 years-old (fourth grade)
- Chaperones are required for school/ youth group tours with participants who are 18 years of age and younger.
- Grades 4 and 5: 1 chaperone for every 5 students
- Grades 6 through 8: 1 chaperone for every 8 students
- High school: one chaperone for every 10 students
- Chaperones will be expected to manage the participants to ensure optimal safety.