Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Water king in the making

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Just so you know, Colorado Springs Utilities is starting to dole out water to special districts. A new policy adopted in mid-2010 allows the city to extend service outside the city limits without an annexation agreement.

In an area where water is scarce but necessary for new development, Colorado Springs sits on a gold mine. It's been forward-thinking and acting for decades to ensure adequate water supplies in what might be the largest city in the nation that doesn't sit on a coast or a river.

That means the city must pipe water in from elsewhere, such as the Western Slope and Pueblo Reservoir to the south.

Springs Utilities works to repair a transmountain water pipeline not long ago.
  • Springs Utilities works to repair a transmountain water pipeline.

The city has a multi-year agreement to supply up to 1,000 acre feet of water per year to Cherokee Metropolitan District, a mostly residential district east of Powers Boulevard. An acre foot is one foot of water over one acre, or 325,853 gallons.

Now, the city has a new deal, as stated in a recently released Utilities memo:

During this reporting period, Colorado Springs Utilities entered into a Water Service Agreement with Donala Water and Sanitation District. The contract is a three year full service contract with minimum deliveries of 100 AF in 2011 and 200 AF thereafter and an annual maximum delivery of 1,000 AF. Colorado Springs Utilities staff continues to discuss possible special water contract arrangements that comply with this policy prohibition with other interested entities.

Donala lies east of the Air Force Academy and was formed to serve Gleneagle. Dependent on groundwater, a finite source, the district is beating the bushes to find surface rights and says on its website, "November 2008 the District purchased a 711-acre ranch (Willow Creek Ranch) near Leadville for the purpose of obtaining the water rights. The District is currently pursuing a Change of Use ruling in the State courts, and hope to have the water available in 2011."

Then, there's this report about Donala's attempt to secure a more long-term source.

So far Springs Utilities' agreements have been short-term, three years or less, which lets the city sell excess water at, we assume, a profit while being a good neighbor to districts who need it.

And the city also sells water to others in the Arkansas River valley, according to the memo:

Pursuant to the Water Management Plan, Colorado Springs Utilities makes spot sales of surplus water to agricultural and environmental users in the lower Arkansas River valley, such as farmers on the Colorado Canal and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Surplus water consists of water that Colorado Springs Utilities cannot store or exchange in a manner that is beneficial to its customers. As of August 1, 2011, spot sales of surplus water have generated revenue of $100,200 this year.

Former City Councilor and Utilities Board member Randy Purvis used to worry about getting too generous, because when it comes time to shut off the valve to serve our own citizens here in the city, the Springs will be viewed as the bad guy who closed the tap, he said.

With the Southern Delivery System pipeline project under construction to bring water here from Pueblo, it will be tempting for the city to sell the excess water that at one time was contemplated to be used by residents of the Banning Lewis Ranch. The ranch, as we now know, might not be developed for residential and commercial use, but rather for oil and gas drilling.

Seems that water-wheeling and -dealing has become a spectator sport, and can get only more competitive as time goes by.

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