Council approves water rate increases to pay for SDS

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City Council voted 8-1 today to give approval to two water rate increases to pay for  the long-planned Southern Delivery System.

The increases, each amounting to 12 percent, will take effect during 2011 and 2012.  Planned increases through 2016 will almost double existing rates.

The lone opposing vote came from Councilman Tom Gallagher who said that the decision to build SDS was based on “bad information, like the Charge of the Light Brigade.” Gallagher called upon council to consider what he called “new information” that had been withheld from council.

“We have not rushed this project,” said Utilities CFO Bill Cherrier. “It has been under way for more than 15 years.  I’m concerned that if we don’t start this project now, we will miss this window of opportunity.”

Cherrier pointed out that water rates doubled during the 1960s, when the city constructed the Homestake system on the Western Slope.

“We held the line on water rates for many years afterwards,” he said, “and our supplies were adequate until the drought (of 2002).  We have adequate supplies now, but we know that won’t always be the case.”

Cherrier also noted that, thanks to historically low interest rates, Utilities could save as much as $49 million over the life of the project by issuing bonds this year.

The Southern Delivery System is a regional water delivery system that will, when built, bring water to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West via a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir.

The SDS plan was first conceived during the late 1980s, and since 1996 Colorado Springs Utilities has spent nearly $100 million on the project, including more than $17 million to pay for an extensive Environmental Impact Study, as required by law.

CSU decided to go forward with SDS for several reasons, according to senior utility officials.

  • It uses water rights Colorado Springs already owns on the Arkansas River.
  • Because Pueblo Reservoir is the most direct way for Colorado Springs to access Arkansas River water, it’s the most economical and efficient option.
  • Through property taxes, El Paso County residents have invested more than $65 million in Fryingpan-Arkansas project water facilities, including Pueblo Reservoir. A pipeline from Pueblo Dam maximizes that investment.

In fact, as Cherrier pointed out during today’s council meeting, SDS may have been the city’s only practical way for the city to obtain new water resources. Utilities failed to win approval of two transmountain water diversion projects during the 1980s and 1990s owing to fierce opposition from residents of Summit and Chaffee counties.

Despite initial opposition, Pueblo County Commissioners unanimously approved SDS’s construction permit last year, removing a roadblock to its realization.

The project, originally scheduled for completion during 2012, is now slated to be finished by 2016.

6 Responses to Council approves water rate increases to pay for SDS

  1. Dear Tom Gallagher,

    Thanks you for your efforts in voting against this increase.

    This with the increase in gas prices, health care costs, taxes, everyting the fuel delivers to our fair city through the trucking industry, ad nauseum. We’ll just stop eating 2 meals a day to make up for the financial short fall.

    It’s interesting through the power of taxation, the city, utilities, county, and federal governments can increase their incomes at the stroke of a pen, but I have to tighten my belt.

    Dear City Fathers,

    I can only tighten my belt so far, then I’ll have to move to Obama Town by Monument Creek.

    Oh gee, I forgot; they’ve been evicted.

    Christopher Colvin
    May 11, 2010 at 3:14 pm

  2. 50% of water usage in Colorado Springs in the summertime goes to watering people’s stupid grass lawns. Why are we spending over $1 BILLION so people can pour water into the ground? This project will fix nothing; it will temporarily address one symptom of the water problem in Colorado Springs.

    My solution? Spend that money to subsidize xeriscaping every lawn in town over the next decade. A xeriscaped lawn does not need to be watered or mowed. Local grass is much prettier than Kentucky bluegrass anyway. We live in a desert environment–you should not be allowed to water your lawn here. If you want Kentucky bluegrass, you can go live in Kentucky. Stop wasting MY tax dollars on this stupid idea.

    Another solution: make land developers pay. Why should I pay taxes in order for someone else to make money building new housing developments? They are the ONLY people who benefit from this project, and it is a crime that I am paying to subsidize their private businesses.

    Warren Peace
    May 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm

  3. I wonder if the consequence of this water decision will be that more people will stop watering their turf and so this projected income will actually become a shortfall but you will still have the bonds to pay off but with less funds.
    Hmmmm ????? could be. My condo association cannot logically raise dues in this economy so the only other solution will be to decrease water expense.
    S. Martin

    S. Martin
    May 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm

  4. That is a shame about teh water increase. It is as bad as the extra taxes being imposed.

    James Laverty
    May 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

  5. Colorado Springs!! Attention!! I agree with Warren.. xeriScape and save your individual budgets so the city can’t rob from us, this is as bad an idea as turning off the street lights.

    May 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

  6. I applaud the courage and vision of the eight council members who demonstrated true leadership by approving this essential water project and rate case. This decision will benefit Colorado Springs for generations.

    May 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm