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FAQs about Water Cremation

What is water cremation?

The technical term for water cremation is alkaline hydrolysis. It is based on a process discovered by Amos Herbert Hobson that was patented in 1888 in the U.S. Hobson’s goal was to devise a way to return his deceased livestock to his land that would be of most benefit to the soil. He found that adding alkaline compounds such as potassium hydroxide (potash) to water reduced the remains of his animals to bones and a liquid bio-nutrient. The liquid fertilizer, a sterile and pathogen-free substance, could then be applied to the earth. The process has been used for animal remains since the end of the nineteenth century.

The famous Mayo Clinic has been using alkaline hydrolysis for humans since 2005. The number of U.S. states where water cremation is a legal form of disposition is growing. Colorado legalized alkaline hydrolysis as a form of human disposition in 2011. The Natural Funeral, owner of The Water Crematory, had the first client to choose and undergo water cremation in August 2019. 

Why do people choose Water Cremation?

Watch our short video about why people choose water cremation.

Most people choose water cremation because it uses 90 percent less energy than flame cremation and produces no harmful emissions (such as mercury from dental amalgams, which is vaporized during flame cremation). This allows for a natural return to the earth without a formal gravesite permanently taking up space, as is the case with burial. The process of water cremation allows our bodies to nourish the earth. We are transformed into a powerful fertilizer for the soil.

What sets The Water Crematory’s process apart from others?

Water use: The Water Crematory is proud to offer water cremation (alkaline hydrolysis) that uses significantly less water than other systems. We use about a bath tub of water in combination with alkaline compounds, to reduce the physical remains to solid bone remains and a sterile, liquid bio-nutrient. Some systems currently in use require up to 300 gallons for the alkaline hydrolysis process. The time it takes: The system we use is also designed to complete the cremation in about the same time as a flame cremation would take, that is, three or so hours. We donate any liquid remains you do not want to a local farm.

What sets The Water Crematory’s staff apart?

Our staff takes a holistic approach to serving you. We care about your family’s emotional and spiritual needs while providing you with a choice that is a positive legacy for the earth. Collectively, our founders have nearly thirty years of experience as leaders in the movement for natural death care and ecological funeral choice. It is our wish that you will always experience our very personal and personalized touch when we have the opportunity to care naturally for your loved one at death.

What happens when someone dies?

When a loved one dies, there are many emotions to process. In some cases, death is expected, while other situations can be unexpected.

Expected death


We want to emphasize that if death is expected and hospice is already on board, it is important, if at all possible, to create a funeral plan before your loved-one is actively dying, during which time your focus will be quite naturally on being by their side. Make an appointment with our holistic  funeral staff to discuss your wishes, explore options, and arrive at a care plan that is meaningful for you and your family. 

When Death Occurs

Breathe. Repeat.

We encourage families to take the time they need to “be” present with this momentous occasion. Death is a significant rite of passage, not just for the person making the transition, but also for family members whose lives will continue in a different light, without the physical presence of the one who has died. It is a time to honor beliefs and traditions (if you have them) as well as instincts and intuitions. It is important not to rush, and to breathe. 

Pronouncement of Death

If your loved-one’s death is expected, and they are receiving hospice care, you will notify hospice staff that death has occurred, and they will come to pronounce death. In certain cases, a hospice staff person may also be present for the death, and can guide you through this moment. The time of the pronouncement of death will be recorded, as well as the “actual” time of death, if this is known. Hospice will also notify the coroner of the death. Next, you will call The Natural Funeral and notify us that a death has occurred. We will take care of you and your loved one from there by A. Carrying out the arrangements that you have made in advance of death or B. Creating a funeral plan with you as we go. The Natural Funeral will holistically support you and your family during this time taking care of your loved one from the first time you call through final disposition. We can assist with any after-death rituals to honor your loved one, such as a Reverent Body Preparation or a vigil, in home or at our center. 


The Natural Funeral will contact the physician who will sign the death certificate to fill out the information on the cause of death. The physician should sign this within 48 hours of death. The completed death certificate with biographical information will be filed within 5 days of death. The Natural Funeral will obtain the permit for water cremation when the death record is complete and has been entered into the vital records system.

Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

We will ask you how many certified copies of the death certificate you need for notifying agencies that death has occurred. 

Cremation (Water or Flame) or Burial 

Once we have obtained the permit for disposition (which can take a few days), we can establish with you a time for the fire cremation, water cremation or burial and continue to assist with other aspects of your funeral plan, including any memorial, graveside, or other service. 

Unexpected death

If death is unexpected, you will need to call 911. If your loved one has a Colorado MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment regarding their wishes for resuscitation), you will need to make this known to the responders. 

The Role of the Coroner in Unexpected Death 

The coroner acts on behalf of the deceased to determine the cause of death when death is unexpected. The coroner may choose to conduct an autopsy to establish the reason death has occurred.

Contact us to make a plan of care for when your loved-one’s body is released to the next-of-kin. You can inform the coroner that you have chosen The Natural Funeral to assist with funeral arrangements. It may be that the coroner releases the body before concluding the cause of death, in which case, your family will be able to proceed with any ceremonies or rituals. Burial or cremation are possible once we have filed the paperwork, have at least a “pending death certificate” and therefore can obtain the necessary permit. As we would in an expected death, The Natural Funeral will holistically support you and your family during this time taking care of your loved one from the time they are released to us, through final disposition. On a case by case basis, we can assist with any after-death rituals to honor your loved one, such as a Reverent Body Preparation, memorial service, and other services. 

Financial Matters at Death 

You will need to notify various government and other agencies that death has occurred, in order to close out accounts, receive benefits, etc. It is important to take care of these matters in order to avoid identity theft. This list is a helpful guide of agencies and other organizations, which may require certified copies of the death certificate. Our list may not include all the agencies pertinent to your particular circumstances, and we encourage you to do your own research, and ask for support if you need it. 

Survivor’s guide to Social Security Benefits

A One-time Death Payment of $255

This may be paid to a surviving spouse or a child who meets eligibility requirements. You must apply within two years of death. 

Who is eligible?

Social security benefits may be available to the following people:

  • A surviving spouse who is at full retirement age may be eligible for full benefits. The full retirement age for survivors is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956. The full retirement age will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. A widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60.
  • A surviving spouse who is disabled may be eligible for benefits as early as age 50.
  • A surviving divorced spouse (married for at least 10 years) may be eligible for survivor’s benefits. A former spouse doesn’t have to meet the age or length-of-marriage rule if they take care of your child who is younger than age 16 or disabled, and who is entitled on your record. The child must be yours and your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.
  • A surviving spouse who takes care of a child who is younger than 16 or who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits may also be eligible for benefits.
  • Unmarried children, younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re attending elementary or secondary school full-time), may be eligible for benefits at the death of a parent.
  • Disabled children may be eligible for survivor’s benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. Under certain circumstances, survivor’s benefits may also be payable to stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren, or adopted children. 

  • Dependent parents can get benefits if they’re age 62 or older. (For dependent parents to qualify as dependents, the deceased person would have had to provide at least half of their support).
Apply promptly for survivor’s benefits

For some claims, Social Security will pay benefits from the time you apply and not from the time the worker died. You can apply by in person at your local Social Security office or by phone. Call 1-800-772-1213 or TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing (from 7AM – 7PM). 

You will need the following information:

Proof of death — either verbal or written confirmation from a funeral home, or with a death certificate

Your Social Security number, and the deceased worker’s SSN

Your birth certificate

Your marriage certificate, if you’re a widow or widower

Your divorce papers, if you’re applying as a divorced widow or widower

Dependent children’s Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates

Deceased worker’s W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year

The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be deposited directly into your account

To download the full Social Security guide to Survivor’s Benefits, visit For more information on widows, widowers, and other survivors, visit 

Note: Reporting a Death to Social Security

With electronic death registration, Social Security is automatically notified of the death when the death certificate is filed. If you do receive any benefits after the death, you must notify your bank and return any checks for the month in which death occurred. Please note that you must still apply for survivors benefits. 


Veterans' Benefits

Burial at a National Cemetery

Veterans who have been honorably discharged are eligible for free burial in a national cemetery. Note that this is conventional burial and includes the placement of a vault over the gravesite, although the casket may be of natural, biodegradable material such as The Natural Funeral Colorado pine caskets. An honor guard will attend the burial.

Cremated remains may also be buried in national cemeteries, with an honor guard in attendance.

Spouses and dependents of honorably discharged veterans are eligible for free burial with the veteran (even if they pre-decease the veteran). 

For more information on veterans benefits, contact the National Veterans Administration at 1-800-827-1000. For more information on the Fort Logan National Cemetery, 4400 W Kenyon Ave, Denver, CO 80236 in Denver, Colorado, call 303-761-0117. 

For Veterans Funeral Benefits

Veterans who were receiving a VA pension or other VA compensation at the time of death or who meet other requirements may be eligible for funeral benefits (known as “burial benefits”).

The family of the deceased will need to submit funeral expense receipts to the VA and follow the procedure outlined at burials-and-memorials/application/530/introduction

For more information, visit claims-special-burial.asp 

Closing Online Accounts

Most of us have online accounts, so when we die, it is important that those we trust are able to access and manage these in the interests of our personal legacy and our estate. We also want to insure against identity theft. 

Social Media and Information Resources

Personal Information Storage and Remote Retrieval Services

Some people sign up for paid online storage and retrieval services, so those with financial power of attorney (before death) or beneficiaries and trusted friends or family can access logins and passwords and other key information at death. 

Storage and Remote Retrieval Services

There are a number of online sites offering these services. The Natural Funeral does not endorse any of these services, but is providing this list for your reference.

Everplans – Store and Share Everything Important

LifeBank – Collect and Protect Your Personal Information

WebCease – Digital Asset Discovery (Helps executors find online accounts of the deceased)

IdentityGuard – Personalized Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring 

Memorializing or closing other online accounts

Here are links to some helpful sites about dealing with Facebook, social media and other online accounts when someone dies. You may find many more on the internet.

PBS News Hour – Dead and Online: What Happens to Your Digital Estate When You Die

TimeTech – How to Access a Deceased Loved-One’s Online Accounts

HuffPost – Your Digital Inheritance: What Happens to Social Media When You Die? 

Do you have questions about our process?

We’d love to inform you of your options!

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