From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Replenishing the water development fund, beginning work to convert Bessemer Ditch shares and continuing to swap out old meters for automated equipment are major projects envisioned by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in its 2015 budget.
The board Tuesday approved a $35.79 million budget that will mean a 3.25 percent increase for Pueblo Water customers. The increase also will be applied to all multiyear water leases.
No one protested the hike at a public hearing Tuesday.
The rate hike is an average $1.16 increase in the monthly billing for residential customers with a 1-inch meter.
“When looking at the Front Range cities’ average monthly bills, the board has the lowest cost of water for major water utilities,” said Executive Director Terry Book.
Contributions to the water development fund are expected to top $1 million this year, with some of the revenue from the $5.5 million Xcel Comanche plant lease providing the money.
The fund is used for onetime projects such as the acquisition of water rights and large infrastructure projects. Contributions had been on hold since the 2009 purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares and revenues used to service debt.
Engineering and legal work on the Bessemer Ditch shares should begin with the anticipated filing of a change case in water court next year. The shares, which are being leased back to farmers, must be converted before the water can be used for municipal purposes.
The water rights were purchased partly as a defensive measure to prevent El Paso County communities from obtaining them. The water may not be needed until future growth occurs and the purchase agreements provided a 20-year leaseback option.
Pueblo Water has replaced about 80 percent of its water meters with automated equipment. It will replace about 4,000 more for about $1 million next year.
More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.