From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The water board has about 50,000 acre-feet of water in storage now, nearly a two-year supply of potable water for the city. The water board supplies about 28,000 acre-feet annually for potable use, or about 9 billion gallons. However, much of the water in storage is needed to fulfill contracts for outside water sales and would be needed for the future growth of the city, Ward said. “If we get below 16,500 acre-feet in storage, then we start thinking about water restrictions,” [Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works] said. “Right now, that would take several years of severe drought. Our target is twice the minimum, or about 33,000 acre-feet. We’re in a position where we can do that, but we wouldn’t have that luxury in the future because we don’t have the storage.”[…]
Right now, Pueblo has about 66,000 acre-feet capacity in storage accounts in four reservoirs. That number could increase by another 9,000 acre-feet by 2025 under a federal contract to use excess capacity at Lake Pueblo. The water board also has filed an application in Division 2 Water Court to triple the size of its Clear Creek Reservoir in northern Chaffee County and has been among those pushing for a study on the enlargement of Lake Pueblo. Pueblo supplies Comanche Power Plant with about 8,000 acre-feet of water annually, and the water board is obligated to provide another 5,000 acre-feet annually for the third unit under a 2005 contract. Pueblo also sells about 5,000 acre-feet of water annually to Aurora, under a lease agreement that can be suspended during a drought, as it was in 2002…
The water supply this year is swollen for several reasons, Ward said. The largest factor is boosting the amount in storage to supply Comanche. The water board also benefitted from a healthy spring runoff – Twin Lakes brought over 120 percent of average. The volume of the runoff surprised everyone and was bolstered by frequent storm systems during June. Finally, farmers who are leasing water from the Pueblo water board are delaying when they take the water, leaving it in storage longer.
Meanwhile the Pueblo City Council has approved the board’s sale of the Columbine Ditch to Aurora. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The Columbine Ditch is located 13 miles north of Leadville on Fremont Pass and brings over water from the Eagle River basin. Council’s approval was the last piece needed for the sale, which already has been approved by the Aurora City Council and Climax. Money from the sale will help buy shares on the Bessemer Ditch. Mike Occhiato and Ray Aguilera voted against the sale at Monday’s City Council meeting, saying the water board should look for better alternatives in purchasing Bessemer shares. “Anytime I hear the word Aurora with the sale of water, it makes the back of my hair curl,” Aguilera said. “Anytime you sell water to Aurora from this basin, it doesn’t wash with me.”
The $30.48 million from the sale should be received in the near future, but details are still being worked out. The money from the sale will go toward $60 million the water board needs to complete its purchase of 5,200 shares of the Bessemer Ditch, about 25 percent of the total. The water board may not need the water for at least 20 years, and has agreed to lease water back to farmers for the cost of assessments during that time. It also has agreed to lease excess water from the sale to Pueblo County interests first and not to lease the water outside the Arkansas River basin. Other shareholders in the Bessemer Ditch would not be restricted from selling their shares to users outside the Arkansas Valley under changes in the Bessemer Ditch bylaws approved in May. However, Aurora – the only outside water provider that currently has the ability to move water out of the Arkansas Valley – is restricted from obtaining new water rights in the valley under several intergovernmental agreements. Last week, the water board entered financial contracts to issue $22 million in bonds to help finance the deal. The rest of the money would come from the water development fund and new long-term lease agreements for outside water sales. The water board is expected to discuss the amount of rate hike needed to finance the bonds at its Aug. 25 meeting and is looking for ways to minimize the increase in water rates.