For more than a century, Colorado Springs Utilities has earned a reputation for providing reliable service to our community. The proposed Southern Delivery System, which includes a 43-mile pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, builds on this legacy.
Water is vital to any community. It drives the economy and helps ensure quality of life. While we have adequate water resources, a new system is needed to deliver water to our community for future generations and to provide essential backup now for our aging trans-mountain delivery systems.
This new system will not use another community’s water or dry up farmland. It will operate using our existing water right exchanges decreed under Colorado law.
For example, Pueblo uses similar rights to supply its citizens with water, exchanging treated wastewater effluent, discharged directly into the Arkansas River, for water in Pueblo Reservoir. Countless other communities in Colorado operate similar legal water trades.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is leading a review process to evaluate potential environmental impacts associated with the project because the reservoir is a federal facility – one that you and other residents of El Paso County pay 74 percent of the cost for with your property taxes.
The Southern Delivery System will benefit our entire region by increasing water levels in Pueblo Reservoir, thereby expanding recreational opportunities and maximizing reservoir efficiency. Already, we’ve created a program to help provide increased water flows through Pueblo for the community’s new Whitewater Park Kayak Course and other special events.
In turn, we’ve received support from the Pueblo City Council to connect our water pipeline at Pueblo Reservoir as other users have done. This agreement with Pueblo has served as a solid foundation for our ongoing discussions with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, primarily on how to keep water in their area.
Working with leaders there, we are developing a proposed water leasing program, which would provide our community temporary access to water when needed without having to make expensive capital investments. Farmers would preserve ownership of their water, ensuring water supply for agriculture.
Water quality is also a focus, specifically water we return to Fountain Creek. Springs Utilities operates one of the most advanced wastewater systems in the state. Yet, when severe storms and vandalism resulted in wastewater overflows last year, we took immediate action to protect the waterway and downstream communities.
To date, we have been able to secure more than 1,900 manholes, protect 20 critical locations where our wastewater pipes cross local creeks, and plan to construct a temporary inflatable dam on the creek to help contain accidental spills. This year alone, we plan to invest more than $25 million on additional system improvements.
You may hear about other water delivery alternatives or plans to protect Fountain Creek. None adequately address the long-term needs of Colorado Springs and protect the interests of our regional neighbors.
In particular, a plan proposed by the Pueblo Chieftain to build a massive and permanent flood control dam on Fountain Creek would not responsibly use our existing water rights nor protect El Paso County citizens from floods.
In addition to permitting challenges and having to move sections of Interstate 25 and railroad tracks, the plan would require Colorado Springs to reuse wastewater for drinking purposes, an expensive option for our customers and one that will not provide enough water for the community.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, now conducting an extensive Fountain Creek Watershed Study, dismissed a similar plan in the past. The proposed dam would likely cost more to build than the Southern Delivery System, worsen water quality and erosion in Fountain Creek and injure downstream water rights.
The completion of the Southern Delivery System will enhance the economic vitality of Southeast Colorado and fully use the water rights we own and regional facilities our citizens have primarily funded. Accomplishing this requires open communication, regional collaboration and a willingness to focus on the future.
Providing you with accurate information about this important project is a top priority. To learn more about the Southern Delivery System, please visit our Web site (www.csu.org). You can follow the environmental review process at www.sdseis.com.
Mark Murphy is the corporate communications manager for Colorado Springs Utilities and a Lower Arkansas Valley native.