The Pueblo Board of Water Works looks at 30-year, $120 million capital improvement plan, 3% rate hike

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While the Pueblo Board of Water Works has been systematically replacing pieces of its water system for the past 40 years, there’s still a lot of work to be done. The board Tuesday discussed a 30-year, $150 million capital improvement plan to upgrade aging infrastructure.

“The system on the distribution side is in good shape,” said Terry Book, executive director. “Now, we’re dealing with infrastructure that is 50-100 years old, such as the water main rupture on Albany (in October). There is a finite life to these structures and we have to be proactive.”

Aging infrastructure is one of the most critical needs for water utilities across the country, explained Seth Clayton, director of administrative services.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works will crack open the books on its 2014 budget at a workshop next week in advance of a public hearing. The board is looking at a 3 percent rate increase that would generate an estimated $21.6 million, based on about 8 billion gallons of water use. The increase would mean about a $1 per month increase for the average homeowner, excluding outside watering.

Metered water sales within the city would be supplemented by $9.1 million in outside sales, including $6.3 million to Xcel Energy and Black Hills for power generation, $1 million in contracts with Aurora and $1.8 million in raw water sales. Revenue from all sources would be $34.4 million, an increase of about 4 percent from the 2013 budget.

The workshop begins at noon Tuesday. The public hearing is at 2 p.m. Nov. 19. Both meetings are at 2 p.m. in the William F. Mattoon Board Room of the Alan C. Hamel Administration Building, 319 W. Fourth St.

More:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works plans more than $150 million in capital projects over the next 30 years. Here’s where the money would go: Water main upgrades: $47.5 million Other underground structures: $7.5 million Buildings & water resources: $47 million Large water tanks: $21.7 million Treating/pumping equipment: $11.9 million Transportation, heavy equipment: $10.4 million Computer equipment: $7.5 million

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It’s probably no secret: Puebloans would sooner let the yard die than go without cellphones or Internet access.

“As a water utility, we think we don’t have competition, but we’re competing with other utilities,” Administrative Services Director Seth Clayton told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday. “They have smartphones and a data plan. People have had to make choices.”

The board held a workshop to comb through details of a $34 million budget for 2014. The budget will mean a 3 percent rate hike, which would mean a $1 per month increase for most of the year, with a $3 increase during the summer months.

A public hearing on the budget will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Puebloans have decreased both indoor and outdoor water use in the past decade, even during a drought. That breaks earlier patterns when customers would increase lawn watering in response to drought.

But times have changed. During the past three years, Pueblo has suffered through a drought with rainfall at 40-75 percent of average. Residential water use, which makes up the bulk of the city’s nearly 40,000 water accounts, has stayed relatively flat. In fact, in 2013, when August and September rains eased the blow, overall water consumption is about 5.5 percent below the five-year average. Residential water use is nearly as low as 2009, one of Pueblo’s wettest years.

“It’s good for us on the water supply side, but we’re also operating a water utility,” Clayton said. “There has also been more awareness and education of customers, which is better than what we had pre-drought.”

During the 2011-13 period, electric rates in Pueblo soared, unemployment rates remained high and the water board maintained a philosophy of low rates.

“It’s important to us to keep rates as low as we can,” Clayton said.

The board agreed.

Board member Nick Gradisar pointed out that Colorado Springs residents are paying double what Pueblo pays for minimal water use and even greater amounts as use increases. Pueblo West rates are 40-60 percent higher than in Pueblo, depending on use.

One way the board has kept rates low is to increase the portion of revenue from leases of water it holds for future use. Next year, water leases will bring in more than $8 million, about 25 percent of revenues, compared with about 20 percent a few years ago.

Metered water sales would bring in $23 million if water use remains near recent levels.

More infrastructure coverage here.

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