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My very own reservoir site – and it’s free!

Thu, Aug 20, 2009

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Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte may have been born on a Wednesday – but it wasn’t yesterday.

In a polite but devastating takedown of Mark Morley’s offer to sell Utilities a reservoir site near Pueblo for $36 million, and pass along $12 million of the sales price to the USOC, Forte said thanks-but no thanks.

The USOC offer wasn’t even mentioned. As CSU spokeswomanJanet Rummel said, “That was totally not part of our evaluation.”

The site in question, known as the Stonewall Springs Quarry property, had been considered as a reservoir site by Utilities during 2004. CSU passed, having determined that the function that such a reservoir might perform by recovering and storing water that might otherwise be lost to the city could be dealt with for far less cost.

How much less? In the restrained “engineerspeak” favored by the professionals at CSU, here’s how much less.

“Current operations under the Pueblo Flow Management Program have caused curtailment for Colorado Springs return flow exchange of an average annual amount of 1,950 acre-feet. Of these curtailments, we have recovered or sold an average of 82 percent. We have experienced an increase transit loss to our current Recovery of Yield Storage (Holbrook Reservoir or Lake Meredith), and these losses amount to approximately 1.35 percent of our total annual exchange yield. We have not left any water stranded in downstream storage nor has this program had a negative impact on our ability to serve our customers.

From the years 2004 through 2008, we have invested about $260,000 in the entire Recovery of Yield program, which includes water, operations, staff time, studies and a lease option for storage in Holbrook Reservoir.

In summary, we have been able to recover or sell a majority of the water (82%) and the total cost for this program over a five year period was about $260,000 which translates to an average of $52,000/year and $37/acre-feet.”

Let’s see: $36 million plus the cost of actually, like, building a reservoir vs. $260,000 to achieve 82 percent of the possible benefits from the proposed impoundment…don’t think that we need a cost-benefit analysis here, Mabel!

It’s possible that, in the long term, it will make sense to build such a reservoir. It’s also possible that, in the long term, it will make sense for me to tear down my 1898 house on the west side and build a 30-story condo complex.

But, inspired by the ingenious Mr. Morley, I’ve put forth my own proposal. I have a rocky, gravelly, weedy side yard. I’d like to landscape it, but that takes work. So I’m offering it to CSU for nothing – if they’ll dig a shallow reservoir, keep it filled with clean, healthful water, and line it with concrete and tile. They can lease it back to me for a dollar a year for the next century. I’ll maintain it-and install a diving board at my expense.

Oh, and I’ll also need an adjacent heated water facility, commonly known as a hot tub. I’ll invite my pals over and we’ll soak, swill champagne, and make plans to compete in the 2016 Olympics. Talk about community benefit!

The champagne’s on CSU, of course…

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