Fredell overseeing SDS operations for Springs Utilities

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John Fredell is Southern Delivery System project director for Colorado Springs Utilities. The Southern Delivery System, which will bring water to city from Pueblo Reservoir is the city’s first major water project since Homestake I, which brought water from Western Slope over the mountains in the  1970s. Fredell’s negotiating skills were tested recently when the Bureau of Reclamation proposed to charge CSU more than $350 million to store SDS water in Pueblo Reservoir. After a series of lengthy meeting sessions, the bureau agreed to lower the bill to $45 million.

Will climate change severely impact water availability in the Colorado River basin?

I’m clearly not an expert on that subject, but the consensus is that it will affect the ability to supply water to various regions in the state.

How can Front Range communities make do with the water they have?

There’s going to be more conservation. I think that Colorado Springs has been a real leader in conservation, and we’re going to have to do even more. There will have to be a lot more planning about stretching our present supplies, using what we have more efficiently, and that sort of thing.

Will waste water re-use be on the table?

Yes, absolutely. It was on the table this go-around, but there were environmental and cost issues. What do you do with that tremendous waste stream of contaminated effluent if you’re looking at current technology, and what do you do about cost? The costs will come down as the technology improves, and I think that the next water project for Colorado Springs will involve re-use.

Will SDS make a re-use project more feasible?

Yes. That’s one of the reasons that the project makes absolute sense. Any city on the Front Range would love to be in our position. When you look at other planned projects, none of them have even made it through the permitting process, even though many of them started before us. So we’ve got this huge, huge opportunity. We’re ready to start the construction process.

When is the groundbreaking?

We’ll be doing a small piece of construction on Marksheffel Road this fall, but we’ll formally launch the project when we start work on the dam connection later in the year. Then we’ll have another challenge — to bring it in on time and under budget.

If CSU is forced to abandon or cancel SDS, what would be the consequences?

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when you’re not going to be able to permit and build large water projects like this. I’m not sure that you could duplicate it, and if you did you’d have this huge effort because your permits would have expired. You’d have to start over. I think we’ve really hit the sweet spot in terms of having the right people in the right place is southern Colorado and in Colorado Springs, so it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to restart.

Will there ever be another trans-mountain water project such as Blue River, Homestead or the Fryingpan-Arkansas?

I don’t know. I think it’s going to depend on the circumstances, on how dire the need for water along the Front Range becomes. I’m not real optimistic, though, it’d be like building another stem reservoir on the Colorado, the Platte, or the Arkansas.

Audio excerpt of the interview with John Fredell.