From the Town of Estes Park via the The Estes Park News:
To ensure continued high-quality utility services and plan for future upgrades through capital improvement projects, the Town of Estes Park periodically reviews the cost of providing services as well as projected revenue – the rates paid by customers. The Town’s public water utility is a cost-based entity that relies solely on user fees to operate. Costs and revenues must be balanced in order to maintain operations and keep utilities in line with ever-increasing federal standards. The Town’s Water Division is capable of serving Estes Park on the busiest day of summer. Yet like water utilities across the U.S., it is facing rising operational costs, aging infrastructure and increasingly stringent regulatory requirements.
Several upcoming public meetings will include water rate discussions. Visit http://www.estes.org/boardsandmeetings for dates and complete meeting details:
• March 10: Town Board study session to review rate study results and options
• March 24: Town Board meeting review draft rate plan
• April 28 (tentative): Final public hearing and potential adoption of new rates
The last time a water rate study was conducted, the Town opted to keep rates lower than recommended by the study in order to assist residents and businesses through the national economic downturn. Therefore, the Town has not completed a large capital project since replacing 600 feet of water main under Virginia Avenue in 2012. Funding capital infrastructure projects requires multiple years of savings, and postponement means they will cost more in the future. The following water system improvements are needed:
1. Establishment of secondary water sources for the Town’s two water treatment plants to ensure water treatment plants are not shut down due to problems with source water.
2. The Town’s system has grown and inherited older, private water distribution systems such as the one serving Carriage Hills. In 2014, the water crew repaired 27 leaks throughout the system, most caused by older pipes resting on shifting granite in acidic soil. Approximately 50 miles of the Town’s pipes need to be replaced to meet today’s standards. This costs $500,000 to $1 million per mile depending on blasting, excavation and road replacement costs.
3. The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulations have a direct influence on the operations and maintenance of distribution system and treatment facilities. For example, to meet the Surface Water Treatment Rules the Town uses enhanced treatment methods, which increase operating costs. Past rate increases funded the $8.25 million upgrade at Marys Lake Water Treatment Facility for membrane filtration in order to prepare for more stringent standards in the future.
For more information on the water rate study, please contact the Utilities Department at 970-577-3587.
More Big Thompson watershed coverage here.