From The Greeley Tribune (Kayla Young):
Sixty thousand is the Greeley Water and Sewer Board’s magic number. That’s how many acre feet of water the planning body expects will be needed by 2060 to sustain a population more than double its current level.
“Right now, we have about 31,000 acre feet in supplies and our demand is about 26,000 to 28,000. So we’re ahead of our demand at this point,” said Eric Reckentine, Greeley’s deputy director of water resources.
While Reckentine said Greeley sits in a much better spot than many other municipalities regarding water resources, the city will need to remain active is securing additional supplies to keep pace with growth.
“Ninety percent of our job is getting ready for what happens in the future,” he said. “What we’re doing right now is preparing supplies for future growth. We’re seeing 2 to 2-and-a-half percent growth right now.”
In October, the city released a revised version of the Greeley Water Conservation Plan to outline its supply strategy for the public.
In broad terms, the proposal identifies four key focus areas: strengthening infrastructure, continuing water acquisition, expanding storage and continuing water conservation.
The revised plan is open to public comment until Dec. 15.
A final draft will be submitted to the Greeley Water and Sewer Board for approval Jan. 21.
Broken down specifically, the water department has identified several critical projects to make 60,000 acre feet of firm, guaranteed water a reality for Greeley.
Expansion of the Milton Seaman Reservoir from 5,000 acre feet to 53,000 is among the city’s top priorities.
“Storage is critical because of the way Colorado water law works. You have to store your water in times of drought. That’s why we’re in some storage projects that we’re doing,” Reckentine said.
The first environmental impact statement for the project is expected in early 2016, and groundbreaking is slated for 2025 or 2030.
To fill the reservoir, the city will invest $90 million over the next 15 years to acquire agricultural water rights, Reckentine said.
“These are prime agricultural supplies we want to acquire. We want to store those supplies, exchange them up and store them in Milton Seaman Reservoir and then retime those supplies in times of drought,” he said. “That will give us about 10,000 acre feet of supplies once that’s completed. I have acquired about 2,100 of the 10,000 right now that we need in this program.”
Reckentine pointed to the city’s leasing program to dismiss concern that purchases by the city could limit water availability for agriculture.
In 2014, the board said 20,000 acre feet of water went to serve businesses and homes in Greeley.
An additional 24,000 acre feet of water was leased, primarily for agricultural uses. Just 300 acre feet were leased to oil and gas.
Water and sewer director Burt Knight said oil and gas needs represent a small portion of Greeley’s water use.
Regarding agricultural uses, Reckentine said that while spot leases could be restricted in drought years, he did not expect the industry to suffer from acquisitions by the city.
“There are some areas that are going to dry up but it’s not going to eliminate agriculture from our economy,” he said.
“It might be more of a cultural thing too, that people don’t want to farm as much. People have been moving to cities … that’s just the way the world is. It’s more urban and less agricultural.”
Regarding infrastructure improvements, Knight pointed to efforts over the last decade to reline piping with cement mortar lining.
He said this process has reduced system water loses from 20 percent to 5 percent.
More controversial has been completion of a 30-mile pipeline to connect the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant, located northwest of Fort Collins, to Greeley’s infrastructure.
While a majority of the pipeline has been finished, the final portion of the project has been met with opposition by property owners not satisfied to allow the pipeline to pass through their land.
“There are three property owners that we are going to need some court assistance with to acquire the easements,” Knight said. “We try very hard to work with property owners to acquire needed easements.”
Greeley water attorney Jim Witwer said condemnation, or eminent domain, is a last resort, but with far-reaching projects like this one, it is sometimes a necessary step to finish construction.
One property, owned by Brinks Trust, took Larimer County to court over its approval of Greeley’s Bellvue development plans, although the case was dismissed.
For the remaining two properties in question, one came to an easement agreement with Greeley before heading to court last week.
The third property dispute is scheduled for court review Dec. 22.
More Greeley coverage here.