Drought news: August precipitation quiets Colorado Springs’ rate payers angst over water bills #COdrought

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

During a hot, dry July, Springs residents were opening water bills that were double and triple their normal amount. Some complained to City Council, saying the watering restrictions coupled with a higher water rate if they used more than 2,000 cubic feet per month was hurting their lawns and their pocketbooks.

City councilors responded by changing the trigger point for higher water rates to 2,500 cubic feet per month. Mother Nature also lent a hand with 5.72 inches of rain in August, which is 2.38 inches above normal and made the month the sixth wettest on record, according to the National Weather Service.

So, the phone calls and emails to Colorado Springs Utilities decreased dramatically and city councilors have hardly heard a peep about water rates.

“I can’t say if it is the rain or the change in the extra cubic feet,” council member Joel Miller said.

But a month of rain doesn’t change the city’s overall water rates – among the highest in the state – or the water-savings goal, said Gary Bostrom, Utilities chief water services officer.

“The drought condition we are in is not expected to change,” he said.

And that, he said, has him concerned about next year’s water storage. The wild card is weather, he said. The reservoirs rely on melted snow pack and the National Weather Service is predicting that snow totals could be low this winter, Bostrom said.

The August reservoir report shows the city’s reservoir level is 57 percent – that’s equal to about 1.8 years of demand in storage. In previous years, the reservoir level was 74 percent. That below-average storage level prompted the city-wide watering restrictions, which began in April. Residents are told to water their lawns two days a week…

Although it might seem like it would, rain does not fill the reservoirs, said Patrice Lehermeier, Utilities spokeswoman. Rain, however, helps residents use less water and the city is about a half billion gallons shy of its goal, she said…

[Colorado Springs] Residents, on average, see a monthly bill of $51.30 compared with much lower average bills for residents of Denver ($27.64), Fort Collins ($34.51) and Pueblo ($24.89) – three cities on major rivers. Aurora water rates are up this year to pay for a major capital project. On average, residents there pay $55.42 a month.

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