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  • Writer's pictureEric Burtzlaff, PE

Denver Tap Fee Savings Through Civil Engineering

Tap fees in Denver are expensive. If you are used to tap fees in the hundreds of dollars in states like Texas, you are in for a surprise from the City of Denver's engineering department and Denver Water.

Using Texas as an example, water tap fees in Central Texas are typically around $500. In Denver, the minimum tap fee (including sewer fee) in City of Denver exceeds $5000!

Hiring a Denver Civil Engineering firm to save you money:

You should always find an experienced civil engineering firm to complete your design plans and using a firm not familiar with Denver Water and Denver Wastewater's requirements can lead to a much more expensive fee bill at construction of your project. As a matter of fact, an inexperienced civil engineering firm can cost a client more than their entire civil budget in water/sewer fees just by specifying that wrong utility design.

Sewer Use and Drainage Fee Breakdown:

Before we dive into money saving design, lets talk about what is at stake. Here's the link to the Denver Sewer Use and Drainage Fees which are the largely variable fee on projects in Denver.

Download PDF • 251KB

As you can see in the attachment, if we have a project with 3 or more units in a building, you are categorized as a "Commercial, Mixed-Use and Multi-Residential" Development and the price of taps goes WAY up. For your reference, any 3-4 unit building will be a 1" minimum tap size and likely pushed towards a 1.5" tap size. This pushes your water/sewer tap bill north of $50,000!

I'd say most infill development lands in the 1.5" to 2" water tap size, but Denver Water can determine that for you using a fixture count spreadsheet. Here's the link to that spreadsheet:

Download XLSX • 168KB

Saving Money through your Civil Engineering Design:

Every time a developer gets hit with a larger tap than they expected. They always ask "how can I reduce the size and fee of this tap?" It's a good question and there's not always a great answer.

If your project's buildings are fee-simple and 6 units or less, you have ace up your sleeve, the Denver Water Manifold system. Using a manifold system allows your project to install individual meters for each unit and be billed as a "residential development". Lets do some math really quickly to see how much savings we are talking about:

Common Example - You have a 2 building, 12 total unit townhome development in Denver. If you used a single tap line, you'd be on the hook for 2 - 1.5" water meters which would push your SUDP fees to $104,500 ($52,250 per building). If you were to use two manifold systems (12 total taps), your fee is reduced to $57,000 ($4,750 per unit). That's an immediate savings of nearly $50,000. While the manifold is a slightly more expensive install, that's still a terrific cost reduction through a simple design decision.

If your project exceeds 6 units and/or commercial, the best course of action is to hire a mechanical engineering firm to provide independent calculations showing a smaller tap size works on larger mixed-use/condo/apartment projects. I've seen that have success from time to time. This article won't focus on that solution but I wanted to highlight that it's an option.

Make sure you hire a Denver Civil Engineering firm who knows the specifics of the City and the design strategies to save you and your project money! Raptor Civil Engineering has the design expertise and experience to help your next project be even more profitable.

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