WISE One Step Closer to Delivering Water

October 30, 2014
WISE System Map September 11, 2014

WISE System Map September 11, 2014

Here’s the release from the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Denver Water, and the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District (Russ Rizzo/Stacy Chesney/Andy Cohen):

WISE One Step Closer to Delivering Water

  • Purchase of East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District pipeline by South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water finalized
  • Water delivery to begin in 2016 following additional infrastructure build-out
  • Partnership represents new era in regional cooperation and water efficiency
  • The southern suburbs of Denver took a significant step forward in shifting to a water system that makes use of renewable water supply on Oct. 21 when members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water purchased the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District’s Western Waterline. The pipeline purchase is a significant milestone in WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency), a partnership between 10 of the South Metro members, Denver Water and Aurora Water to share water supply and infrastructure.

    Using Aurora’s Prairie Waters system, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide water through the Western pipeline to participating South Metro members on a permanent basis. WISE will also provide a new emergency supply for Denver Water, and offset costs and stabilize water rates for Aurora.

    “The purchase of ECCV’s pipeline makes WISE and the sharing of water supplies possible,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “This is a significant milestone for the WISE Partnership and moves communities throughout the South Metro area one step closer to a secure and sustainable water future,” he said.

    The 20-mile east-west pipeline along E-470 and C-470 has capacity to deliver 38 million gallons of water a day to Douglas and Arapahoe counties.

    “Our sale of this pipeline is mutually beneficial for all the parties involved,” said O. Karl Kasch, president of the ECCV board. “Under the purchase and sale agreement, ECCV will still have the capacity we need in the pipeline, while also supporting a regional solution to one of the most important water challenges facing the Denver metro region. We have always viewed the Western Waterline as an infrastructure asset from which the entire South Metro community can benefit, and that’s what will be accomplished.”

    Under the agreement, Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to South-Metro water suppliers beginning in 2016 with the option to increase to 10,000 acre-feet in future years.

    “We’re thrilled to be moving forward with the WISE Partnership,” said Dave Little, director of planning for Denver Water. “This agreement will create more system flexibility and increase the reliability of our water supply system, leading to a more secure water future for communities throughout the region.”

    WISE water is expected to begin flowing through the ECCV pipeline in 2016, once the remaining infrastructure, such as system interconnects, are complete.

    For additional details on the WISE project and updates, visit http://www.southmetrowater.org/storage-WISE.html.

    More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post:

    Denver and south metro suburbs have taken a $34 million step toward water-sharing to wean the suburbs off dwindling underground aquifers.

    The South Metro Water Supply Authority and Denver Water announced Wednesday they bought a 20-mile pipeline — built for $44 million in 2004 by the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District — to carry excess Denver and Aurora water to 10 suburbs including Castle Rock, Centennial and Parker.

    This east-west pipeline is seen as the spine of a new distribution system to move an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to suburbs that, in some cases, remain totally dependent on the finite Denver Basin aquifer.

    “This allows them to change the way they are using the aquifer,” said Eric Hecox, director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents the suburbs. “It won’t get them off the aquifer completely. It will allow them to use it as a backup supply.”

    Denver Basin aquifer system

    Denver Basin aquifer system

    Colorado has let developers tap aquifers to serve multiplying new homes, but pumping the underground water is becoming more difficult and costly with water tables falling in some areas by 1 to 3 feet a year.

    About two dozen utilities between Denver and Colorado Springs together pump more than 30,000 acre-feet of water a year from about 440 municipal wells, according to water suppliers.

    This Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project, if it works as envisioned, would take advantage of water already used by Denver and Aurora, cleaning it fully in Aurora’s state-of-the-art water treatment plant.

    More pipeline connections must be built, but buying the ECCV pipeline is a major step, Hecox said.

    South Metro paid 85 percent of the $34 million. Denver Water paid $4.7 million.

    The pipeline runs under the 470 beltway and can carry up to 38 million gallons a day. ECCV can keep moving up to 8 million gallons a day to its southeast metro customers.

    “Without that pipeline, we cannot deliver the water,” Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said. “Now we can start moving forward toward delivering water.”

    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents more than a dozen water utilities in the southern edges of the metro area, on Oct. 21 agreed to pay $34 million to buy the pipeline from the East Cherry Creek Valley district. The South Metro water districts is an 85 percent owner of the pipeline and Denver Water paid $4,725,000 for its 15 percent ownership, Bennett said.

    “We found a way between Denver, the South Metro districts and East Cherry Creek to share the capacity of the pipeline, so it will now be used to deliver water to the south metro entities,” said Dave Bennett, a water resource project manager with Denver Water.

    Denver Water, which serves more than 1 million customers in Denver and some surrounding suburbs, also will be able to use the pipeline to capture water and reuse it in its systems, Bennett said.

    “Instead of going out and building a new, duplicate pipeline, we found a way to share that existing infrastructure,” Bennett said.

    The pipeline is crucial to the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) partnership, which includes 10 southern water districts, Denver Water and Aurora Water. Under the WISE agreements, treated water that’s been used once by Denver and Aurora and added to the South Platte River will be recaptured at a spot along the river north of Denver. Then, via Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Water pipeline, the water will be shipped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. After it’s treated at the plant, the Western Waterline pipeline will be crucial for moving the treated water to the southern suburbs.

    “The purchase of ECCV’s pipeline makes WISE and the sharing of water supplies possible,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “This is a significant milestone for the WISE Partnership and moves communities throughout the South Metro area one step closer to a secure and sustainable water future.”

    Under the WISE agreement, Denver Water and Aurora Water will sell an average of 7,250 acre-feet of water a year to south-metro water suppliers beginning in 2016 with the option to increase to 10,000 acre-feet in future years. One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons, enough to support 2½ families of four for a year.

    Karl Kasch, president of the East Cherry Creek Valley board of directors, said the sale of the district’s pipeline was beneficial for all parties. The district retained ownership of 8 million gallons per day worth of capacity on the pipeline, which can carry 38 million gallons of water per day.

    “Under the purchase and sale agreement, ECCV [the district] will still have the capacity we need in the pipeline, while also supporting a regional solution to one of the most important water challenges facing the Denver metro region,” Kasch said.

    “We have always viewed the Western Waterline as an infrastructure asset from which the entire South Metro community can benefit, and that’s what will be accomplished,” he said.

    More work needs to be done to connect the pipeline to Aurora’s water treatment plant, connect it to Denver Water’s system, and connect the southern water districts to the pipeline, but that’s expected to be done in the next few years, Bennett said.

    More WISE Project coverage here.


    Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co, Aspen and the #ColoradoRiver District reach deal

    October 15, 2014

    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The city of Aspen and Front Range water interests have reached a compromise 20 years in the making that allows more water to be sent east when the spring runoff is plentiful, in exchange for bolstering flows when the Roaring Fork River is running low in the fall. The deal is between the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which operates transbasin diversion tunnels underneath Independence Pass, and the city of Aspen and the Colorado River District, which works to protect water rights on the Western Slope.

    The deal, which has its roots in a 1994 water court application from Twin Lakes that sought to increase diversions during the runoff in high-snowpack years. It will leave 40 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir when Twin Lakes exercises its rights under the 1994 proposal. That water will be stored in the 500-acre-foot reservoir and released into the Roaring Fork for about three weeks in late summer, when seasonal flows are at their lowest. The water must be called for and released in the same year it was stored.

    Grizzly Reservoir, located about 8 miles up Lincoln Creek Road near the Continental Divide, is a component of the transbasin-diversion system. A tunnel underneath the reservoir channels water underneath the mountain to the south fork of Lake Creek in the Arkansas River basin, on the other side of the pass.

    Additionally, under the deal, the River District will have the right to store 200 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir and can call for up to 150 acre feet of that water in a year. Importantly, that 200 acre-feet can be stored long-term in the reservoir until it is called for by the River District, which manages water rights across the Western Slope.

    Another 600 acre-feet will be provided to the River District for seasonal storage in Twin Lakes Reservoir, also on the east side of Independence Pass. The district will then trade and exchange that water with various entities, which could lead to more water staying on the Western Slope that would otherwise be diverted through other transbasin tunnels.

    Twin Lakes diverts an average of 46,000 acre-feet a year from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork and sends it to Colorado Springs and other Front Range cities. The city of Colorado Springs owns 55 percent of the shares in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., entities in Pueblo own 23 percent, entities in Pueblo West own 12 percent, and Aurora owns 5 percent.

    Aspen and the River District intend to cooperatively use the stored water in Grizzly Reservoir to boost late-summer flows in the Roaring Fork as it winds through Aspen proper.

    Water already flowing
    The stretch of the Roaring Fork River below the Salvation Ditch on Stillwater Drive typically runs below environmentally sound flows each year for about eight weeks, according to city officials. And given that this spring saw a high run-off, the three parties to the agreement managed some water this year as if the deal was already signed.

    “At the close of the current water year (which ended the last day of September), Twin Lakes started making releases of some of the water stored for the River District, followed by release of the 40 acre-feet, as directed by Aspen and the River District,” Phil Overeynder, a special projects engineer for the city, wrote in an Oct. 3 memo to city council. “These releases had the effect of increasing flows in the Roaring Fork through the Aspen reach by approximately 20 percent and will last for approximately a three-week period at the end of the lowest flow conditions of the year.”

    Overeynder added that “both Aspen and the River District believe that this agreement, while not perfect, is of real and meaningful benefit to the Roaring Fork.”

    Aspen City Council approved the agreement on its consent calendar during a regular council meeting on Monday. The agreement is on the River District’s Tuesday meeting agenda, and Twin Lakes approved it last month.

    The deal still needs to be accepted by Pitkin County and the Salvation Ditch Co. in order to satisfy all of the details of the water court’s 2001 approval of the 1994 water rights application.

    Junior and senior rights
    In addition to its junior 1994 water right, Twin Lakes also holds a senior 1936 water right that allows it to divert up to 68,000 acre-feet in a single year and up to 570,000 acre-feet in a 10-year period.

    Originally, the water diverted by Twin Lakes was used to grow sugar beets to make sugar, but it is now primarily used to meet the needs of people living on the Front Range.

    The 1936 water right still has some lingering restrictions in high-water years, according to Kevin Lusk, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities who serves as the president of the board of the private Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. Under its 1936 right, when there is plenty of water in the Arkansas River and the Twin Lakes Reservoir is full, Twin Lakes is not allowed to divert water, even though it is physically there to divert, Lusk explained. So in 1994 it filed in water court for a new water right without the same restrictions so it could divert more water to the east. It was dubbed the “Twin Junior,” water right.

    The city of Aspen and the River District objected in court to the “Twin Junior” and the agreement approved Monday is a long-delayed outcome of the case.

    Aspen claimed that if Twin Lakes diverted more water in big-water years, the Roaring Fork wouldn’t enjoy the benefits of the high water, including flooding the Stillwater section and replenishing groundwater supplies. That process, the city argued, helps the river in dry times.

    “We don’t necessarily agree with the theory behind it,” Lusk said of the city’s claim, but added that Twin Lakes agreed to the deal as part of settlement negotiations.

    And since 2014 turned out to be a high-water year, Twin Lakes exercised its right to divert water under its 1994 Twin Junior right, and worked cooperatively with Aspen and the River District to release 40-acre feet of “mitigation water” as described in the pending deal.

    The new agreement between the city, Twin Lakes and the River District is in addition to another working arrangement between Twin Lakes and Aspen related to the Fryingpan-Arkansas diversion project, which diverts water from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River.

    That agreement provides 3,000 acre-feet of water each year to be released by Twin Lakes into the main stem of the Roaring Fork beneath a dam near Lost Man Campground, normally at a rate of 3 to 4 cubic feet per second.

    More Twin Lakes coverage here.


    Douglas County joins WISE project

    August 31, 2014

    douglascounty

    From the Parker Chronicle (Mike DiFerdinando):

    The Douglas County commissioners took an important step in helping secure the county’s water future at their regular meeting on Aug. 26.

    By joining in on the South Metro Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) Authority’s agreement with Denver Water and Aurora Water, the county will be the recipient of 2,775 acre-feet of water per year for a 10-year period, starting in 2016…

    The South Metro WISE Authority is made up of 10 water providers that are all part of the larger South Metro Water Supply Authority. Nine of those water providers — Centennial, Cottonwood, Dominion, Inverness, Meridian, Parker, Pinery, Stonegate Village and Castle Rock — are located in Douglas County. The 10th, Rangeview Metropolitan District, is located in Aurora.

    “This region has been working hard for a very long time to bring renewable water supplies into the area,” SMWSA Executive Director Eric Hecox said. “We have a legacy of developing non-renewable groundwater and the effort for many years has been to transition our current population off of groundwater as well as to provide water for future economic development, and I think this project achieves that.”

    The WISE project began in 2008 as a way for members to identify processes, cost, distribution, timing, storage and legal issues relating to distributing treated reusable water return flows from Denver and Aurora for use by SMWSA water users.

    The group tasked with utilizing this water is the South Metro WISE Authority. The primary purpose of the authority is to reduce members’ dependence on non-renewable Denver Basin wells and provide reliable long-term water supply for residents.

    “While we often refer to the Denver Basin aquifers in a negative way, they do provide an extremely important drought reserve,” Douglas County Water Resource Planner Tim Murrell said. “By reducing Denver Basin well pumping to a secondary source rather than a sole supply, the basin can continue to be a valuable asset in times of drought.”

    In 2013, Aurora, Denver and the South Metro WISE Authority finalized the water delivery agreement. As part of the deal, 100,000 acre-feet of water will go to the authority’s providers over a 10-year period.

    At the time of the agreement, the authority members were only able to agree on 7,225 acre-feet per year. This left 2,775 acre-feet per year that would be lost if not claimed. Douglas County has been working with the authority members over the last year to reserve the 2,775 acre-feet per year supply for the county.

    The WISE members are funding new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations, beginning in 2016. Water purchased by the county, as well as by some of the other providers, will be stored at the Rueter-Hess Reservoir south of Parker.

    The county will pay a $97,125 annual reservation fee through 2020; 2,000 acre-feet of water per year will be available for use and purchase by WISE members, and 775 acre-feet will be available for use and purchase by non-members.

    More WISE project coverage here.


    “It was a complete defeat for the Western Slope” — Pitkin County Attorney John Ely

    August 3, 2014

    Busk-Ivanhoe system diversions

    Busk-Ivanhoe system diversions


    From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Pitkin County and the Colorado River District are planning to appeal a judge’s ruling that gives the city of Aurora the right to use water from the upper Fryingpan River basin for municipal purposes, without a penalty for 23 years of “unlawful” water use.

    “It was a complete defeat for the Western Slope,” Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said of the order issued on May 27 by Larry C. Schwartz, a state water court judge in Pueblo.

    As it stands today, the court’s ruling means Aurora can retain the 1928 priority date on its full right to divert 2,400 acre-feet a year through the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel for municipal instead of irrigation purposes. Over 60 years, Aurora can divert 144,960 acre-feet under the right.

    Pitkin County and other Western Slope entities wanted the court to reduce the scope of Aurora’s water right, as the Front Range city has been using the water from the Busk-Ivanhoe system for municipal purposes, without a decree, since 1987.

    The “West Slope Opposers,” as the court called them, also argued that the court should consider that Aurora was also storing water on the East Slope without an explicit right to do so, which they felt constituted an “expansion” of its water rights.

    The board of the River District agreed on July 15 to appeal the judge’s ruling, while the Pitkin County commissioners agreed shortly after the May ruling. Ely said he understands the Colorado State Engineer’s Office also plans to appeal.

    Pitkin County has spent $247,500 on the Busk-Ivanhoe water case so far, and using money from the county’s Healthy Rivers and Streams fund to pay for outside water attorneys.

    Other parties from the Western Slope in the case are Eagle County, Basalt Water Conservancy District, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and the Ute Water Conservancy District. Trout Unlimited is also a party to the case, which is 09CW142 in Water Division 2.

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Transbasin water

    Since 1928, about 5,000 acre-feet of water a year has been diverted from Ivanhoe, Lyle, Hidden Lake and Pan creeks, headwater streams of the Fryingpan River.

    The water is sent from Ivanhoe Reservoir to Busk Creek through a pipe in the Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel, first built as a railroad tunnel in the late 1880s. From Busk Creek, the water flows to Turquoise Reservoir and the Arkansas River, and eventually reaches Aurora and Pueblo.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works owns the right to half of the water diverted through Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel, and in 1993 it changed the use of its water right from irrigation to municipal.

    In 1987, Aurora bought the other half of Busk-Ivanhoe water and started using its half of the water for municipal purposes. But it didn’t come in for a change-of-use decree from water court until 2009.

    Aurora’s 2009 application received 35 statements of opposition and as is common in water court, opponents were winnowed down to a core group. Many cases are settled before trial, but this case went to a five-day trial in July 2013.

    Judge Schwartz’s subsequent ruling in May established the parameters of how a new decree for Aurora’s water should read, and the draft decree is now being prepared, Ely said. Once the proposed decree is filed with the court, it will trigger the appeal period in the case. Appeals in water court cases go directly to the Colorado Supreme Court.

    Greg Baker, the manager of public relations for Aurora Water, was contacted early Friday afternoon for comment. He said officials were in various meetings throughout the day, and they couldn’t be reached by deadline.

    Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel entrance

    Busk-Ivanhoe tunnel entrance

    “Zero” years

    Ely said Pitkin County is primarily concerned about the judge’s decision not to take into account the 23 years that Aurora used water for undecreed purposes, i.e.,, municipal instead of irrigation.

    Ely said it is a “fundamental” part of Colorado water law that non-use diminishes the scope of your water right when you go to change it, and it appears Aurora is getting “special treatment” because the water right is a transmountain diversion.

    He said that when determining the “historic consumptive use” of a water right — which is what can legally be changed to another use — it is common practice for the court to reduce the scope of a water right by averaging in any years of “zero” or non-use. And undecreed uses typically count as “zero” years.

    “But what the court said in this case said was, ‘We’re just not going to look at those years’ of zero use,” Ely said.

    Judge Schwartz decided that the period from 1928 to 1986 — before Aurora started using the water — was the best “representative period” to use to determine how much water Aurora had been putting to proper use.

    “The representative study period to be utilized should be based on a period of time that properly measures actual decreed beneficial use, and that excludes undecreed uses,” Schwartz concluded.

    “The use of zeros during the years of undecreed use would permanently punish (Aurora) for the undecreed use after 1987,” Schwartz also wrote. “This court does not view a change application case as a means to permanently punish a water user for undecreed use.”

    In regard to the issue of undecreed storage, the judge looked at the history of the water right, and found that while the original decree from 1928 may have been silent on the subject of East Slope storage, it was always part of the plan by the water developers to store water in a reservoir on the East Slope.

    “West Slope Opposers assert that the storage of the Busk-Ivanhoe water in the Arkansas River Basin is an ‘expansion’ of use,” Schwartz wrote. “Storage of the Busk-Ivanhoe water in the Arkansas River Basin is not an expansion. Said storage has always been a part of the water right.”

    Ely said the Colorado River District is more concerned about the storage issue than Pitkin County is. However, the county does feel the judge’s overall response to Aurora’s request to change its water right was faulty.

    “We knew they were going to be able to change their use, it was just a question of how much,” Ely said. “And it was a question if the Front Range would be held to the same standard as everybody else, in terms of using their water consistent with a decree, or if they get some kind of special treatment for being a transbasin diversion. The judge, and his order, found that they should get some kind of special treatment, and we think that runs contrary to the law.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on the coverage of land and water in Pitkin County. More at http://www.aspen
journalism.org.

    More water law coverage here.


    Arkansas River: Aurora’s planned Box Creek Reservoir stirs questions from Mt. Elbert Water Association members

    July 16, 2014
    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

    Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

    From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

    Members of the Mt. Elbert Water Association had many questions for representatives of the Aurora Water Department Saturday regarding the proposed Box Creek Reservoir. Because of the timing of the processes for planning and then constructing the reservoir, not many answers were available. However the association members now know that they will be informed of what is happening through email, and there will be a representative of Aurora Water at subsequent annual meetings.

    The association held its annual meeting at the Lake County Public Library Saturday morning with 56 in attendance.

    Representing Aurora Water were Gerry Knapp, Aurora resources program manager, and Kathy Kitzmann, senior water resources engineer.

    An early question concerned the Box Creek well that supplies water to the association. Concerns were expressed that the reservoir might impact the well in some way.

    “We have no intent of adversely affecting your well,” Knapp responded. “We couldn’t build the project if we did.”

    In response to later questions about possible decreased river flow and its impact on rafting, he pointed out that any negative impact to river flow as a result of the reservoir cannot occur.

    “What comes in must go out,” he said.

    The pool at the reservoir also would have to be kept at 20 percent except in cases of extreme drought.

    Knapp said that Aurora would be following the National Environmental Policy Act process as set forth by the federal government regarding environmental issues. He made it clear that Aurora is not working with the federal government on the project.
    Other questions centered on the types of recreational activities that would be permitted once the reservoir is built.

    A separate study on appropriate recreation will be done, and Knapp anticipates broad public input. The county commissioners will be responsible for managing recreation on the reservoir although they could turn management over to another entity. Possible recreation could include fishing, boating, camping and more. Some concerns were expressed over ATVs and noise levels.

    Other concerns related to construction activities and dust. The construction period is estimated to be two years. Negative impacts on property values were mentioned by one resident.

    Kitzmann said one issue they’re dealing with is wetland restoration. Aurora has purchased a parcel of land from a private owner that will be restored as wetland to be used as a credit for wetland that would be used in the project.

    No decision has been made on what will happen to the old buildings that exist on the Hallenbeck Ranch where the reservoir will be built. Knapp said some talks are under way with Colorado Mountain College, owner of the Hayden Ranch, about possibly moving some of the buildings there, but no decisions have been made.

    There would be no road over the top of the reservoir dam and, according to Knapp, there are no plans to close the road leading to Pan-Ark subdivision, whose residents are served by the Mount Elbert Water Association.

    “We may have to move it a little bit,” he said.

    The permitting process could begin in one to three years, and is a 10-year-long process, Knapp said. Although there initially was hope that the process would move faster, 2030 was the date given at the meeting for possible completion.

    The Hallenbeck Ranch property was purchased by Lake County in 1998. The county granted Aurora an option to purchase the main portion of the ranch property in January 2001, retaining all water and ditch rights associated with the ranch. The purchase-option agreement stipulates that Aurora will design, construct and operate the reservoir project and manage the surrounding land in combination with the Lake County Open Space Initiative partners.

    Lake County will be able to use 20 percent of Aurora’s operational capacity for storage of its own water.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    The Southern Delivery System has been a long time coming

    May 12, 2014
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

    Here’s part one of an in-depth look at the Southern Delivery System from John Hazlehurst writing for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Contending that the denial [of Homestake II] had been arbitrary and capricious, the two cities [Aurora and Colorado Springs] appealed the decision to the courts. In a comprehensive description of the city’s water system and possible future sources of supply given to City Council in 1991, CSU managers said that “extensive litigation is expected to continue.”

    Denied by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court, the cities appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

    City officials were stunned. They couldn’t believe that a coalition of Western Slope “enviros” and ski towns had prevented them from developing water to which the city had an undisputed right. They had believed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 decision to scuttle Denver’s proposed Two Forks Dam near Deckers on the South Platte River was an outlier, not a sign of things to come…

    Slow to recognize that mountain communities now had the power to kill their water development plans, Utilities officials looked at another alternative. Instead of taking water directly from the wilderness area, the city proposed to build a dam on the mainstem of the Arkansas at Elephant Rock, a few miles upstream of Buena Vista.

    A grassroots rebellion against the project was soon evident, as hand-lettered signs appeared along U.S. Highway 24, which parallels the Arkansas. The signs carried a simple message: “Don’t Let Colorado Springs Dam this River!”

    It soon became clear that Chaffee County commissioners would not issue a construction permit for any such project, dooming it before the first planning documents were created…

    If trans-mountain diversions or dams on the Arkansas were no longer feasible, that left a single alternative for developing the city’s water rights. CSU would have to let its water flow down to Pueblo Reservoir, construct a diversion structure on the dam, and pump it uphill to Colorado Springs.

    It would be, water managers believed, the easiest project to build and permit.

    “It was just a pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom, who has worked 35 years for Utilities. “What could go wrong?”[...]

    “We didn’t really understand the importance of partnering with and involving the public in decision-making,” said [Gary Bostrom], “until the Southern Water Project.”[...]

    The plan for the Southern Delivery System was presented to City Council in 1992. Among the material submitted to councilmembers was a comprehensive description of the city’s existing water system. Water managers made sure Council was aware of the importance of the task before them.

    “The massive scope of this project,” CSU staff noted, “requires a very long lead time to allow for complexities of numerous permitting processes, land acquisition, litigation, design, financing and construction.”

    Of all the variables, CSU managers and elected officials gave the least weight to those that may have been the most significant…

    “We weren’t worried about hydrology,” said Bostrom. “The years between 1980 and 2000 were some of the wettest years on record. The water was there for the taking. Shortages on the Colorado weren’t part of the discussion.

    “We knew about the Colorado River Water Compact of 1922 (which allocated Colorado River water between Mexico and the upper and lower basin states), but it wasn’t something we worried about.”

    Then as now, 70 percent of the city’s water supply came from the Colorado River. SDS would tap the city’s rights on the Arkansas, diversifying the portfolio.

    “We have to plan for growth,” said Bostrom. “That’s what history tells us. We know that it will be expensive, but the cost of not building a system well in advance of need would be much greater. People complained about the cost of the Blue River (trans-mountain diversion) project in the 1950s, but we wouldn’t have a city without it — we wouldn’t have the Air Force Academy.”

    But even as the project moved slowly forward, the comfortable assumptions of a wet, prosperous future began to unravel.

    “Exactly 15 years ago today (April 29, 1999),” said Bostrom, “we were in the middle of a flood — remember? We didn’t know it, but that was the day the drought began.”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Aurora Water embarks on expansion of Prairie Waters

    May 8, 2014

    prairiewaterstreatment

    From The Denver Post (Megan Mitchell):

    Aurora Water has begun construction to expand the city’s Prairie Waters Project for the first time since the natural water filtration and collection system opened in 2010. Projects nixed from the original construction plan kept the $659 million project about $100 million below its initial budget. Now, those projects are being called back up to make sure Prairie Waters stays on track for exponential growth over the next 40 years.

    “The expansion part of the project has been planned from the very beginning,” said Marshall Brown, executive director for Aurora Water. “This year, we’re at a place where we can prioritize the growth and look toward the future of system capacity.”
    Crews have begun digging six new collection wells in between the existing 17 wells that collect water from a basin near the South Platte River in Weld County, downstream from the Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s plant. From there, the water is piped through wells 44 miles south to treatment and storage facilities in Aurora for residential use.

    Along the way, the water is pulled through 100 feet of gravel and sand. This 30-day, natural process helps pull large contaminants out of the water.

    Two new filter beds will also be installed at the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir this year. At the Binney facility, water is treated with chemicals and ultraviolet lights to make it potable.

    The cost of the expansion projects is $2.9 million, said Greg Baker, spokesperson for Aurora Water. He said water tap fees will not be affected by the new wells and filters this year.

    “We plan our capital projects (which are predominantly paid for by development or tap fees) well in advance,” Baker said. “We plan for these expenses so that our rates don’t roller coaster based on immediate projects.”

    Right now, Prairie Waters is spread over 250 acres in Weld County and is only built out to about 20 percent of its total potential capacity. Baker said the system currently provides 10 million gallons of water per day. At full build-out, Prairie Waters will able to provide 50 million gallons of water per day.

    The project itself was conceived in response to extreme drought conditions in 2003.

    “Ideally, we would like to have two years’ worth of supply stored in the system at all times,” Brown said. “Aurora’s system varies between one and two years’ worth of storage now.”

    The long-term vision for the project involves well development all the way down the South Platte River to Fort Lupton, as well as adding more physical storage components. Aurora Water has already started to acquire additional property for capacity expansion in the future.

    Baker added: “As Aurora’s population grows, we will expand into the system to support that growth.”

    More Prairie Waters coverage here and here.


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