South Boulder Creek: Water for instream flow to be part of Gross Reservoir expansion?

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Here’s a look at a proposal to add 5,000 acre-feet or so to Denver Water’s expansion of Gross Reservoir for instream flow in South Boulder Creek, from Clay Evans writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

Denver Water authorities are pursuing permission to draw even more water from the Fraser River to nearly triple the storage in Gross Reservoir. While that will put a much bigger “straw” into the Fraser — and, of course, the Colorado — some are asking that the plan be slightly expanded to provide much-needed water for South Boulder Creek.

The cities of Boulder and Lafayette and Trout Unlimited, the national conservation organization with an office in Boulder, aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of further allocating water from the Fraser. But if it’s going to happen, as most expect it will, they’d like to see 5,000 acre-feet of storage added to the proposed 72,000-acre-feet expansion and use it to ensure adequate winter flow in South Boulder Creek. “It’s a stream that needs help,” said Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited.

The problem, as always, is how to pay for it all. The additional storage for South Boulder Creek would cost around $8 million. Lafayette, Boulder and Denver have said they’d help fill the pitcher, but not enough to top off the project, according to Denver Water.

More instream flow coverage here.

Here’s a release from Denver Water via

This summer’s wet weather has many people shutting off their lawn sprinklers to take advantage of what Mother Nature is offering, and Denver Water couldn’t be happier. Customers are using less water this year compared to recent years, but that’s prompted some to ask what it means for the utility’s revenues.

In March 2009, Denver Water reduced its operating budget by 12 percent and adjusted its 2009 revenue expectations downward by 5 percent to respond to the downturn in the economy. However, due to the unusually wet weather, the utility anticipates an additional $16.4 million – or 8 percent – less revenue than expected for the year, which will be covered by reserves the utility maintains for seasonal variations.

“We aggressively encourage conservation and wise water use and plan our budget accordingly,” said Chips Barry, manager of Denver Water. “Our customers continue to do a great job using water efficiently, so we expected water usage to be down because of our conservation plan. However, we’ve had an unexpectedly wet summer, and as a result, actual water use through July is even lower – about 18 percent less than we anticipated compared to recent years. Our financial planning routinely factors in variables like Denver’s weather, so a single year of extra precipitation doesn’t force us to do anything out of the ordinary.”

Denver Water’s rates are based on mostly fixed costs for infrastructure and on operating expenses that don’t change if water use fluctuates. While it is too early to know what Denver Water’s rates will be for 2010, the utility says customers can expect rate increases over the next 10 years to upgrade, repair and maintain its 2,650 miles of pipe and aging infrastructure – some of which is more than 100 years old. The public agency is not funded by taxes, but instead is funded by water rates and new tap fees (also called system development charges).

“In the long-term, we are planning for customers to become more efficient and use less water in the future,” said Barry. “We live in a dry climate and are glad to see customers taking advantage of the rain and not watering. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have seen this type of response in rainy weather. Conservation is critical to having a reliable water supply in the future.”

Denver Water proudly serves high-quality water and promotes its efficient use to 1.3 million people in the city of Denver and many surrounding suburbs. Established in 1918 as a nonpolitical municipal agency independent of city government, it is Colorado’s oldest and largest water utility.

More Denver Water coverage here.

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