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Report: Rural water crisis looms 

A controversial University of Colorado at Colorado Springs study warning of a coming water crisis in El Paso County was pulled off the university's Web site last week, after a member of the county's water authority identified problems with the study's notation.

"The study had enough mistakes that it should be discredited," says Greg Barber, a member of the El Paso County Water Authority.

The study, "Running on Empty?" by Jacob Stiedemann, a graduate student at the university's Center for Colorado Policy Studies, suggests that booming growth in unincorporated parts of the county, matched with a declining water supply, foreshadows a looming financial crisis for residents and businesses.

The university pulled the report after Barber noticed problems with citations, such as missing page numbers.

Daphne Greenwood, a professor working with Stiedemann, says the problems haven't changed the main thrust of the report, and that a corrected version will be placed on UCCS' Web site sometime this week.

The county, listed with a population of 561,700 in last year's Census, is expected to grow by more than 50 percent in the next 25 years. Much of that growth is projected for the north, which relies heavily, and in some cases exclusively, on prehistoric Denver Basin water under the Front Range. Experts figure that water will fully deplete sometime between 2010 and 2050.

The basin's depletion could ultimately force substantial tax hikes for small communities looking for new sources of water, especially if the communities fail to pool their resources and cooperate, according to an unedited version of the study.

Possible financial crises stalk residents in Park Forest, Security, Academy, Fountain and other water districts, the report states.

For example, the 2,500 residents of Monument would be strapped with a $3,000 annual tax bill for 10 years if Monument needed to finance its own $7.5 million water project.

Barber challenges the study's math. Using the same example, he estimates residents in Monument would pay less than $400 annually.

Barber also says that communities are working hard on the problem, including studying the feasibility of an estimated $45 million Greenwood Ranch reservoir that would meet water needs in rural parts of the county for up to 50 years.

deyoanna@csindy.com

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