Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Colorado Springs Utilities Board tackles how or whether to stretch its water supply

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 2:31 PM

click to enlarge This map shows the reach of Springs Utilities' services into surrounding areas and military bases. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • This map shows the reach of Springs Utilities' services into surrounding areas and military bases.
This week's Independent features a cover story that delves into the scarcity of water in our region and whether regionalizing Colorado Springs Utilities water supplies and delivery systems might make sense. We also takes a look at how one district dealt with dwindling water supplies, and Springs Utilities sales of water to outsiders.

Colorado Springs City Council, sitting as the Utilities Board, took up those questions on Aug. 21, beginning a process that will span the next eight months and lead to policies that will dictate how and whether outlying areas will be able to avail themselves of city water and wastewater service.

A few highlights of the Aug. 21 commentary from board members:

David Geislinger:
I'd like to see a real deep dive into what are the practical limitations of the areas around us going forward — the enclaves, the external groups.... Whether it’s 60 to 150 years from now, sooner or later I think they’re going to be coming to Utilities. And it’s incumbent on us now to say, "If you want to come to us then, these are the things you need to start doing now." What type of requirements do we want to put on now? 
Wayne Williams:
Seeing the long history we have of various cooperative agreements, while I don’t feel bound by what past Councils did, I want to be informed about what they did. I’m curious as to when we made the agreements, whether with Green Mountain Falls, Cascade or Manitou Springs, what the terms were and what the drivers were. As we look at potential other agreements, what’s our history been? To what extent did they [pay a premium] informs where we go forward. Utilities customers paid for certain development costs, so I want to make sure our current customers and citizens are treated fairly and not disadvantaged in the process. But I also recognize that when our neighbors lose water and can’t drink, that has impacts on Colorado Springs, and a large portion of our sales tax, for example, comes from our neighbors who live outside the city limits.
Richard Skorman:
We may decide down the road to help some of the outlying communities [with water and wastewater service]. Are we going to be putting more volume into Fountain Creek because of it? I just want to understand if there’s an implication of the volume and flow of Fountain Creek and some of these districts that are outside of that basin.
Don Knight:
The decisions we make here — 20 years from now I hope the people sitting here will be thanking us and not cussing us out. I’m glad you’re doing this whole thing. As you went around the region, I’d like to see what is the time criticality of these places? I'd like more information on the aquifers themselves. How do they get recharged? That bottom layer — once it’s dry, it’s dry?

Richard has said we need to store [water] under ground to avoid evaporation. Can you pump in as well as drill out? Is that useful or a viable approach? When these other districts do run out of groundwater, even if they started today, what are their alternatives? They don’t have the money to buy the water rights. What I’m worried about is 20, 30, 50 years from now, poor foresight on their part will impact our customers. Because of their poor planning, our folks have to go on water rationing.
Mayor's Chief of Staff Jeff Greene:
I am very concerned about outlying areas. There are opportunities there and how we look at development. The area around there, there’s over 4,000 units that are not within Colorado Spring. The county continues to approve developments. I want to be super clear. The county ensures they’re [developers] meeting legal requirements (300 year water rule). The county’s been very clear they support the city to annex. But one of the things that’s going to be very, very important: The county is looking at comprehensive plan strategies, looking at consolidating plans into one plan that will govern their development practices. The city and county have to come to agreement and define the planning areas for the city and county, and through that mutual agreement, we make the determination if you develop and build in that planning area, you may have an application submitted to the county, but you agree to annexation to the city ... ensuring a healthy tax base.
See the staff briefing report here:

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