Friday, February 19, 2010

Water war not over for parks

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 5:16 PM

UPDATED: This blog post was updated to include a quote from Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman

Vice Mayor Larry Small says Colorado Springs Utilities' offer to discount water to parks this summer is okay as far as it went, but he's on a crusade to secure a better deal, even if it makes deeding the city's water rights for parks' exclusive use.

At Wednesday's Utilities Board meeting, Utilities proposed discounting water to parks in exchange for strict conservation measures. The result would be to net parks about 18 percent more water than in the past, enabling the city to water at 2008 levels.

Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman says if the parks department were to fully maximize the rate, they would see a 30 percent discount in the rate it otherwise would pay.

Although the Utilities Board, which doubles as the City Council, told Utilities to draft a rate case for the discount, Small wants more.

"If we don’t put water in those medians, we stand to lose those historic elm trees we have," he says. "In April I'll try to get Council to fund the difference from reserves, and then I want to go back to Utilities and wring out a better solution. Why not give 4,000 acre feet of water to parks. That would serve the need of all the future parks on the books today. That would give them a 25-year water solution."

Small said Utilities says it can't do that, because the water rights are pledged as collateral against debt. "No business does that," Small says. "You only pledge the equity you need to cover the debt. I want a legal review of that issue."

Small says his water-rights giveaway would significantly reduce parks' watering costs, and protect against losing $6 million in turf, not to mention $100 million worth of trees and scrubs.

"I want them (Utilities) to step up to being part of the city, instead of standing out there like they’re not even associated with the city," he says.

He doesn't buy Utilities' argument that it's looking out for Utilities customers by not giving away water.
But those same customers are residents of the city, Small says. "It’s the same people."

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