If you think your water bill is growing too much too fast, imagine what it costs to supply showers, toilet flushes, meal preparation and laundry for a facility containing 1,300 people at any given time.
That's what the El Paso County Sheriff's Office is facing at the Criminal Justice Center.
With Colorado Springs Utilities' water rates expected to double by 2016 to pay for the city's Southern Delivery System and other system upgrades, the county is soliciting bids to retrofit the jail with various water conservation devices, including, according to the specifications:
1. In housing and holding cells, remove the existing flush valves on toilet or combination toilet and sink units, dispose of the devices as desired by the customer, and replace with an electronic
version with a sensor button for the toilet only or a combination of both the toilet/sink unit.
2. In all other areas, replace toilets and urinals with unacceptable gallons per flush with new models
that qualify for the Colorado Springs Utilities Rebate program. Rebate program details are found
3. Install new electronically controlled faucets.
4. Install new 0.5 GOM faucet restrictors in existing Common Area sinks.
5. Install new electronic shower heads. Provide electronic control as appropriate.
6. Install new electronic faucets.
In addition, the county wants to make changes to its laundry operation to conserve water.
Detention Bureau chief Paula Presley says the work is part of a larger conservation project the county is under taking.
We tried to find out how much savings the county expects from the project and how much the county pays per month for water at the jail, but the county folks didn't get back to us.
Bids were due today, after which they'll be analyzed for the "best value."
All of which raises the question of whether we will conserve ourselves into even higher rates. Phase 1 of SDS will cost $2.3 billion, including financing costs, over the next 30 years. But what if water sales decline to the point that rates have to go ever higher to raise the revenue necessary to repay the debt?
Here's what Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman says about that:
"Any kind of conservation effort reduces a customer bill, so it's the right thing to do," he says in an interview. "The less you use, the less you pay. All conservation and demand-side efforts are considered in our long-term projections. So as we have planned for water projects over the last 20 years, all of those conservation efforts have been factored into our water usage projections and our revenue projection.
"The bottom line is to try to keep the bill as low as possible," he adds. "When you're using less, that makes your bill lower. That's the overall outcome that we're trying to achieve."
Although the chief reason for SDS — the Banning Lewis Ranch now being eyed for gas and oil drilling instead of homes — hasn't panned out to deliver thousands of new customers to Utilities, the city has another option for SDS water. In May 2010, the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council, approved a change in policy that allows the city to sell water to areas outside its service area. The city already has struck deals with Cherokee Metropolitan District and Donala Water District, although the contracts are short-term.
Grossman later sent additional comments via e-mail, saying:
Despite the recent slowdown in the economy, El Paso County's population will continue to climb, and there is still a critical need for additional water long term. The State demographer projects the population of El Paso County to increase an average of 1.9% each year over the next 30 years — or from 622,565 people in 2010 to 981,394 by 2040. Our population will increase through infill, increased density or other development. There are approx. 22,000 acres of undeveloped land in Colorado Springs aside from the 18,000 acres of Banning Lewis Ranch land that are in question. And in addition to increased supply, SDS will also provide a backup to our existing aging water delivery system and help protect our community from another drought.
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