Southern Delivery System: New customers for CSU’s water?

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Now that Colorado Springs Utilities has essentially gotten the “green light” for their proposed Southern Delivery System the utility has started mapping out their customer base. Here’s a report from R. Scott Rappold writing in the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

“What we’ve got to do – and it’s not an easy project at all – is to try to identify those other entities that are actually going to need the service and make sure they understand their present supply could be lost at any time if those aquifers dry up,” said Tony Elia, chair of the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee, a citizens group that advises City Council on Utilities issues.

There are many questions, the toughest of which may be how Utilities can offer water from SDS when its own projections say the city will need all of it some day. While the housing slowdown means all 78 million gallons a day won’t be needed by 2046, the year originally projected, officials say the day will come when all of it is needed. Said Elia, “You can’t tell them you’ve got to commit to 5 million gallons a day but we can take it back any time we want. If you give it to them, it’s permanent.”

Colorado Springs has always guarded its water jealously, extending water service primarily to annexed developments. While Utilities’ electric power grid serves several communities, 208,737 homes and businesses, it has 132,637 water customers. Just a few hundred customers outside the city get its water, at 1.5 times the normal cost. Utilities has two temporary sharing agreements, one to transport water owned by Manitou Springs to that city and the other to sell up to 500 acre-feet a year to the Cherokee Metropolitan District on the east side of Colorado Springs…

“We have to be able to distinguish between Colorado Springs’ water rights and the water rights owned by other entities outside the city. If you are providing your water rights to another entity, you’re basically giving them up, and we’re not going to do that,” said Mayor Lionel Rivera. He said the focus should be on using SDS to carry water that other users own, not agreeing to sell Colorado Springs’ water over a long period – though he is open to selling it on a short-term basis in wet years…

[The Cherokee Metropolitan District] suffers chronic water shortages, and customers this spring face watering restrictions at a time when supplies are abundant elsewhere. [Kip Petersen, general manager] said there is water available for purchase from Arkansas River Valley farmers, but no way to get it here – and the district would also be interested in buying from the city to augment its supply, if the price is right. “There is definitely interest in participating in the Southern Delivery System. Now we’ve got to figure out how it’s going to get done,” he said…

The Utilities Policy Advisory Council, a committee of residents that advises City Council, will begin discussing regional water-sharing Wednesday. The board meets at 8 a.m. in the Blue River Board Room, Fifth Floor, Plaza of the Rockies South Tower, 121 S. Tejon St. The meeting is open to the public.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

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