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City of Grand Junction News

Posted on: July 13, 2022

City of Grand Junction Pursues Grant to Restore Historic Water Plant

building with water tower with words overlayed

The City is applying for a $150,000 grant from the State Historical Fund (SHF) to help fund the $200,000 project to restore the Orchard Mesa Water Treatment Plant, the Grand Valley’s first water treatment plant built in 1939. In support of the new grant application and to help guide the architectural design, the City will be seeking input from the community about the reuse of the historic water treatment plant. Meetings are planned this month for Spyglass Ridge residents and one for the general public will be held on July 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Business Incubator Center at 2591 Legacy Way, Grand Junction, CO 81503.

“We are very excited to consider the potential of retaining the history of Grand Junction Water that is embodied by the original water plant,” stated Troy Reynolds, chair of the Historic Preservation Board. “If we are successful with our grant application and able to restore the building, current and future generations will have an opportunity to understand and appreciate the early challenges of delivering clean water to the community.”

In 2019, the City listed this building and associated structures on its Register of Historic Sites, Structures and Districts with the intent to preserve the building for future generations.

Following the listing of the Orchard Mesa Water Treatment Plan on the historic register, the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF) awarded a $15,000 grant to the City to complete an Historic Structure Assessment.  The assessment established the condition of the structure and what steps need to be taken to preserve it. The 2019 Historic Structure Assessment created a Preservation Plan and laid out a logical and sequential phasing plan for adaptive reuse of the building. Three phases of rehabilitation work plus a final phase to change the occupancy of the building were proposed in the Historic Structure Assessment along with costs to perform each phase of the project. 

The City began community outreach in 2020 by meeting key community members interested in the City’s historic preservation efforts. Participants included representatives from the Grand Junction Historic Preservation Board, Colorado Mesa University, Museums of Western Colorado, Eureka, CSU Extension.  Participants provided letters of support for Phase I of the Preservation Plan.

The City is now reaching out to the general public to get input on the project. The City would like to engage the general public in determining the proposed reuse of the structure and create a road map for the next steps of this project. Specific concepts for input include:

  • Proposed reuse of the building as a water museum and education center 
  • Potential uses of the outdoor spaces immediately adjacent to the building structure 
  • Access roads and pedestrian paths to the facility 

In 1887 Grand Junction began to grow with the arrival of the main line of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in 1887. Originally sourced from the Grand (Colorado) and Gunnison Rivers, the municipal water system was constructed at the turn of the 20th Century. The river water was not a desirable source of drinking water as it was muddy, alkaline, and tasted bad. In addition to these issues, there were reports of intestinal illness caused by the untreated water. After 10 years an alternative water source was found and established on the Grand Mesa via Kannah Creek. The taste and pH of the water was much improved; however, the City began the design of the needed water treatment plant in 1935 to alleviate the issue of disease that continued to be a concern with the municipal water supply.

The historic Water Filtration Plant Building was constructed in 1938 and 1939 with funding from a federal grant under the Public Works Administration (PWA) and City revenue bonds. The two-story brick and concrete building is an example of a common architectural style from the 1930s and Art Deco influences can be seen in some of the details.  

After completion, the plant had the capacity to treat five million gallons of water per day. The facility consisted of two rapid sand filters and associated piping and pumping equipment inside with an adjacent 82,000-gallon backwash elevated tower. The building and water treatment technology were cutting edge at the time.

  • The City of Grand Junction constructed the first water treatment facility in the Grand Valley, to provide safe drinking water to the community. It was partially funded by the Public Works Administration and is also associated with the New Deal programs developed under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 
  • in 1937, the City authorized a bid for the construction of the Water Filtration Plant and a supply pipe upgrade by the Pitometer Company of New York. The Water Filtration Plant began operation in August of 1939. 
  • In 1946 the plant was upgraded by the addition of two filters and the Control House located outside and east of the main building, increasing the plant capacity to 7.13 million gallons per day. A facility for receiving and storing chemicals was also constructed at this time in an addition to the west side of the filtration building. Chlorination equipment was not in the original design of the plant and added in 1941 or 1942. In 1942, aluminum sulfate was used in conjunction with lime to raise the pH of the water. The containers for these chemicals can still be seen in the building. By the 1960s, the water-use requirements of the City of Grand Junction had exceeded the capacity of the plant and the City began looking to increase capacity of the treatment facility. The 1939 Water Filtration Plant was decommissioned in 1969 when the new structure located north of the original facility across the service road, was put into service. The building is an example of a common architectural style from the 1930s and Art Deco influences can be seen in some of the details. The plant is a two-story brick and concrete structure built into the hillside.

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Contact: Sara Spaulding, Communications & Engagement Director | 970-985-8180 or saras@gjcity.org

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