Guest Column | July 9, 2024

Making Computer Systems Go, To Bring You The Flow

By Jay Adams

Behind the scenes with Denver Water’s industrial controls team that helps send water to your tap.

An old proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” 

It also takes a village of people with a variety of skills to bring water from the mountains and send it to customers' taps.


Denver Water’s industrial controls team taps into the skills of IT professionals to ensure a safe, reliable water supply for 1.5 million people in the Denver Water service area.


“People may not think about how computers and IT help get water to their faucet, but we use a variety of industrial controls across Denver Water,” said Brian Marshall, an industrial controls technician at Denver Water.

The team designs, builds and maintains computer and networking systems that help operate and monitor various operational processes used in the delivery and treatment of water.

Steven Rittenhouse, an industrial controls technician, works on a computer system used in the water treatment process. Photo credit: Denver Water

“Think of industrial control systems like the thermostat in your home. When you push buttons on the thermostat controller, it sends a signal with instructions to the air conditioner or furnace in your house to send out heat or cool air,” said Drake Dennert, IT manager at Denver Water.

Using industrial controls allows Denver Water to operate and monitor various processes efficiently to ensure a safe and secure water treatment and delivery system.

“There's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep all of these computer systems running,” said Zach Carlson, an industrial controls engineer at Denver Water.

“Our job starts with creating the programming for the system. We also design, build and install many of the components. We also do all of the maintenance, upgrades and repairs if there's ever an issue with the equipment.”

Zach Carlson, an industrial controls engineer, uses programming and electrical troubleshooting skills every day working at Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

Each day for the industrial controls team is different.

Team members can find themselves working anywhere in Denver Water’s system, from the utility’s main Administration Building near downtown Denver, to its water treatment facilities, pump stations, reservoirs — even its operations at Denver International Airport.

Industrial controls team members Zach Carlson (left) and Brian Marshall visit a variety of locations across Denver Water from the mountains to the city. Photo credit: Denver Water

The group is also responsible for managing Denver Water’s radio communications systems, which was what attracted Marshall to the organization after he spent time in Afghanistan while serving in the U.S. Army.

“My military background showed me a lot of different avenues of work that can be done, and it definitely leads into leadership experience and working with a vast group of people,” Marshall said.

“Coming into Denver Water, I really found a place of camaraderie that's similar to working in the military.”

Brian Marshall, an industrial controls technician, specializes in radio communications at Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

Team members also enjoy working around new computer systems and technologies. Working on industrial controls systems requires knowledge in programming, networking and electronics, while also being a mechanic who can troubleshoot problems.

“I am extremely proud of the work we do here,” Carlson said.

“I take the job very seriously and I take a lot of pride in the fact that I am helping to deliver the water that I drink, that my wife drinks and that all of my friends and family drink.”

Denver Water’s industrial controls team members, from left: Zach Carlson, Brian Marshall, Steven Rittenhouse and Drake Dennert. Photo credit: Denver Water