Water supply, Front Range development, and tap fees

From The Denver Post (Aldo Svaldi):

Embedded in the price of every new home and apartment built along the northern Front Range are some of the highest water infrastructure costs in the country.

Some factors behind those high costs are intractable: a scarcity of available water and the fact that most Coloradans live on one side of the Rocky Mountains and obtain their water from the other.

But another contributor is the upfront fees local utilities charge to connect water and sewer lines to homes and other buildings. In and around Denver, a chorus of developers, water-efficiency advocates and others say, those charges can add thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs to houses, apartments and condominiums.

Those higher costs, known as impact or tap fees, quietly get passed on to consumers in the form of heftier new-home prices and apartment rents…

“Developers want least cost, and we want the most adequate supply,” said Cindy Marshall, manager of treated water planning at Denver Water. “There is a place we can meet in the middle.”

Denver Water, the largest water provider along the northern Front Range, uses these long-standing models, which require a water connection to be big enough to handle every water-related appliance simultaneously without a critical loss in pressure…

The Metro Wastewater District, which is separate from Denver Water, charges $92,600 to connect a building with a 2-inch tap versus $22,240 for a building with a 1-inch tap…

Colorado has a complex system of water rights, which adds to costs. Also, the bulk of residents in the state live east of the Continental Divide, while the bulk of the water supply is to the west, necessitating expensive diversion projects.

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