Colorado Springs Utilities: Northfield Reservoir is getting a $3.4 million facelift

September 25, 2014
Northfield Reservoir via The Mountain Jackpot

Northfield Reservoir via The Mountain Jackpot

From The Mountain Jackpot (Beth Dodd):

The dam at Northfield Reservoir, built back in 1890, is getting a $3.4 million facelift…

The Northfield Water System is part of a collection of 25 reservoirs that supplies water to Colorado Springs and other communities including Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park, and Cascade. It is located in the rugged country between Woodland Park and the Air Force Academy. It was purchased by Colorado Springs Utilities for about $1.25 million in 1949. Today the system includes Rampart, Nichols, and Northfield Reservoirs.

Colorado Springs Utilities is making modifications and upgrades to the Northfield Dam to comply with state dam safety recommendations. The State Engineer’s Office currently classifies Northfield Dam as a small, significant hazard dam. The 124 year old structure is a 30 foot high, 350 foot long earth embankment with a storage volume of 245 acre feet of water. The spillway is an uncontrolled overflow concrete structure at the south end around 6 feet below the crest of the dam. A water treatment plant, just downstream of the dam, was retired from service in 1996.

The Northfield Dam Modification Project will be conducted by ASI Construction. They have three main tasks to complete. They will construct a new spillway with flow meters and a regulation gate and remove the old spillway. They will raise the height of the embankment by about 8 feet and provide new roads and grading downstream from the dam. Finally, they will demolish the old water treatment plant and associated structures. The work will include removal or abandonment of unused pipes, the inspection and possible replacement of the steel outlet pipe, and reclamation of the area after the end of construction.

More infrastructure coverage here.


SECWCD board meeting recap: North outlet works hydropower in 2018?

September 22, 2014
Pueblo dam releases

Pueblo dam releases

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Dam could start generating hydropower as soon as 2018. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District got an update Thursday on its proposal to construct hydropower on the new north outlet works from project manager Kevin Meador.

“We’re a couple of years from bidding the project,” Meador said. “I’m feeling optimistic at this point.”

The district, in partnership with Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works, is working on a lease of power privilege proposal with the federal Bureau of Reclamation. It should be finalized in February.

An unknown in the project is whether Black Hills Energy, the primary power supplier for the area, will enter a power purchase agreement for the hydropower.

“That could go very smoothly or take a while,” Meador said.

If a Black Hills agreement is not reached, another provider could be approached, including Colorado Springs Utilities.

Utilities constructed the new north outlet works as part of the Southern Delivery System. It will be owned by Reclamation as soon as a contract checklist is completed, said Roy Vaughan, Fryingpan-Arkansas Project manager for Reclamation. The hydropower plant would generate 7 megawatts of electric power and cost about $20 million. A loan will be sought in 2015 through the Colorado Water Conservation Board to finance the project. Construction would begin later next year, Meador said.

“Generation could begin in the early spring of 2018,” he said.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Colorado Springs: Reduced water rates for Parks?

September 8, 2014
Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

Pikes Peak with Garden of the Gods in the foreground

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

Mayor Steve Bach said he needs to slash about $6 million from the 2015 budget, and hinted that the nearly $4 million parks watering bill from Colorado Springs Utilities is among the reasons.

Bach said he is not ready to release all of the 2015 budget details, but he did say that part of the budget problem is the high cost of water. There is no discount for the city’s parks, something he said is typical in many cities. Bach did not say if the parks budget would be cut or if he would trim from other areas.

Last year’s general fund budget was $245 million, with $14 million spent on parks, recreation and cultural services. Bach will present his proposed budget to the City Council in October. City Council will host a series of budget hearings in November and is expected to vote on the budget in December.

The price of the city’s parks watering bill has been an issue for more than a decade – long before the current council and mayor began their water wars. For years, the city administration has asked for a discounted water rate from Utilities. For years, Utilities had said no.

Chuck Fowler, a member of the City Committee, which has offered input to the mayor on the budget, said there should be a benefit to having a city-owned utility, and it should be a discount on water for city parks.

“If you owned your own carwash, you would think you could bypass the meter to get your car washed,” he said…

Water bills have doubled for Utilities customers in the past five years, said councilman Merv Bennett. The money has been used to pay for the Southern Delivery System project, a 53-mile pipeline that will pump water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Bennett said the Utilities board could consider reducing water rates for the city’s parks after the SDS project is completed, but not likely before then.

“It comes down to is (park watering) the responsibility of the taxpayer or the ratepayer,” Bennett said. “This council is of the mindset that it is the cost of running the city.”

Bennett and other council members wanted to strike a compromise between Utilities and the city during the last budget session. But once the budget was approved in December, talks broke down…

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t come up with a solution,” Bennett said…

Council president Keith King said Utilities cannot afford to offer a discounted rate to the city because of the major capital projects in the works. “If you make one group a better deal, who picks up the price of that better deal?” he asked. “We base the (water rates) on the true cost of service. Those are legitimate numbers.”

More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.


SDS construction reaches Colorado Springs ahead of schedule and under budget — The Colorado Springs Gazette

July 24, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Emily Donovan):

Huge pipes being tunneled underground near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue is the first big sign after almost two decades of work to increase the water available to the Colorado Springs area by a third…

Pipeline construction at the busy intersection is ahead of schedule, expected to be complete in September rather than November, said SDS spokesperson Janet Rummel…

A $125 million facility that will be able to process 50 million gallons of water a day, the treatment plant on the east side of Colorado Springs is halfway constructed, also ahead of schedule. Construction began in March 2013 and will be finished in fall of 2015. The plant is expected to put out drinking water in April 2016…

SDS construction is estimated to cost $847 million – $147 million less than the original estimation in 2009.

Rummel said money was saved by asking engineers to make designs that would be cost-effective without damaging drinking water quality, like keeping every part of the water treatment plant under the same roof instead of separate buildings.

This means SDS will cause less of a utilities rate increase for CSU customers than originally expected in 2009…

“This is the future of Colorado Springs,” said Jay Hardison, CSU water treatment plant project manager.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

July 16, 2014
Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

Colorado Springs circa 1910 via GhostDepot.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs will be taking a more regional approach and looking at risk factors as it develops its 50-year water plan. That’s a shift from the 1996 water resources plan that focused solely on supply and led to Southern Delivery System, said Brett Gracely, water resources manager for Colorado Springs Utilities.

“We are seriously evaluating the timing of future SDS components,” Gracely told the Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday.

Utilities is updating the plan that will determine its actions in water development after SDS comes online in 2016. The plan will look at watershed health, fire vulnerability and climate change, as well as social values and tradeoffs. It also will incorporate traditional factors like water supply, demand and quality.

“Because of changes in technology and software, we can run thousands of scenarios through our models,” Gracely said.

Another key difference is that Colorado Springs Utilities is not planning on building another $1 billion pipeline as a result of this plan, but more carefully evaluating its options after SDS.

“It’s a completely blank page,” Gracely said. “But it will have no effect on SDS phase I.”

The first phase is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, served by three pump stations and a treatment plant. The second phase of SDS includes the construction of two reservoirs on Williams Creek southeast of Colorado Springs.

Water board members Tom Autobee and Kevin McCarthy questioned Gracely on what conservation measures Colorado Springs envisions in order to cut demand. Reduced water use after the 2002 drought has been complemented by a tiered rate structure that makes expanded water use more costly, he explained. Colorado Springs also has dropped minimum landscaping requirements that at one time would have encouraged greater water use.

“What is your telescope telling you about West Slope imports?” McCarthy asked.

“Warmer weather is what we’re expecting,” Gracely replied. “Half the (climate) models are showing it will be wetter, and half drier, but they all say it will be warmer.”

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


Colorado Springs: What do the next 50 years look like after SDS is completed?

July 1, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

With Southern Delivery System nearing completion, Colorado Springs is going to work on a plan to provide water for the next 50 years.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the West when it comes to water,” Leon Basdekas, project manager for Colorado Springs Utilities integrated water planning, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday.

Utilities’ last water plan was in 1996 and focused almost entirely on supply. It provided options about how to develop water rights that Colorado Springs obtained in the Arkansas Valley during the 1980s. Among the options were direct reuse, reservoirs and pipelines. The water plan eventually led to SDS, a $940 million pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs that will be completed by 2016. Those types of options still will be considered.

“Everything is on the table,” Basdekas said.

But the new plan also will look at demand, water quality, infrastructure, energy, regulation, legal issues and public opinion, he added. The goal is to develop a sustainable future supply that also respects social values, Basdekas said.

Among the biggest challenge is managing risk during climate change. Severe drought in 2012-13 was only one indication of how future water supplies could be affected.

At the same time, Colorado Springs is looking for as much public input as possible as it begins looking at the next 50 years.

“We need public involvement, so we just don’t go into a dark room and come out with a plan,” he said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage <a href="


SDS: There is no Plan B — Colorado Springs Business Journal

June 29, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Business Journal (John Hazlehurst):

CSU’s ongoing billion-dollar bet is the Southern Delivery System. Scheduled to go online in 2016, SDS will convey water from Pueblo Reservoir via a 66-inch-diameter underground pipeline to Colorado Springs. It will expand the city’s raw water delivery capacity by an eventual 55 million gallons per day (MGD), a nearly 50-percent increase in system capacity…

“What we’re hoping for is a record snowpack,” CSU Chief Financial Officer Bill Cherrier said in late March, “followed by a hot, dry summer.”

Cherrier said it with a smile, but he had neatly summarized CSU’s dilemma. Water in the reservoirs must both be replenished and sold. The sell side of the equation is driven by fixed costs, including system maintenance and replacement, energy costs and continuing capital investment. But buyers don’t care about CSU’s problems; they prefer to water their lawns with free water from the skies.

Per-capita water use has dropped sharply in the past 20 years, leading to corresponding reductions in the city’s long-term consumption estimates.

“The Base (i.e. revenue) forecast is for an estimated service area population (city, suburban, Green Mountain Falls, military) of about 608,552 and about 106,000 AF/yr for demand,” wrote CSU spokesperson Janet Rummel in an email. “The ‘hot and dry’ scenario uses the same service area population and estimates about 120,000 AF/yr demand. This particular ‘hot and dry’ scenario equates to an 80 percent confidence interval and adds about 13 percent to annual demands.”

That’s a precipitous drop from the high-side estimate of the 1996 water resources plan, which forecast a population in 2040 as high as 900,000 and water demand of 168,150 acre-feet. The base forecast, at 106,000 acre-feet annually, is only 1,800 acre-feet more than the community used in 2000, 40 years previously.

Does that mean CSU’s water managers dropped $841 million into a new water delivery system that we may not need until 2016? Does this prove that the project, originally conceived to furnish water for the Banning-Lewis Ranch development, is now entirely unnecessary?

Perhaps not…

“SDS is not a short-term solution,” Rummel said in a 2010 email. “The time to build a major water project is not when you have run short of water … [we need] to better prepare our community for drought, climate change and water supply uncertainty on the Colorado River.”

Many factors entered into the decision to build SDS. In 1996, there was no discussion of system redundancy, of having an additional water pipeline that could serve the city in case one of the existing conduits needed emergency repair. But 18 years later, the pipelines are that much more vulnerable to accident or malfunction.

In 1996, population growth and per capita water use were expected to continue indefinitely at historic levels. But they didn’t. Commercial and industrial use declined, and price-sensitive residents used less water. Indoor use declined as well as outdoor, thanks to restricted-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets.

SDS stayed on track. In the eyes of the water survivalists who conceived and created the project, the city’s rights on the Arkansas River had to be developed. They saw long, hot summers in the city and dry winters in the mountains. Opponents could make any arguments they liked, but these five words trumped them all.

Use it or lose it.

Undeveloped water rights are like $100 bills blowing down the street — someone will grab them and use them for their own benefit…

“This will be our last pipeline,” said CSU water resources manager Gary Bostrom. “We will never be able to develop a new water delivery system. When SDS is finished, that’s it.”

Bostrom’s peers in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles have reason to envy him. Colorado Springs has won the water wars. We’ve bought ourselves decades of time. Whether we save or squander this liquid bounty is up to us.

In 2040, the city may have 30,000 to 50,000 acre-feet a year of unneeded delivery capacity. That cushion will allow for decades of population growth and for the introduction of sophisticated irrigation techniques that will preserve our green city and minimize water use.

In years to come, members of the Colorado Springs City Council will decide how to preserve the city’s future. Will they heed Bostrom’s warning and encourage radical conservation? Will new developments be required to xeriscape, and preserve trees with drip irrigation devices?

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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