By an 8-1 vote on Wednesday afternoon, the City Council, acting as the Utilities Board, approved the construction of the long-planned southern delivery system to bring water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Fountain, and Pueblo West.

The first phase of the project, with an estimated cost of $880 million, was previously scheduled for completion during 2012. That date has been pushed back to 2016, driven by economic conditions and reduced consumption.

Construction of phase one will begin early next year and will be completed during 2016, the first year that water from the project will be available to Colorado Springs users.

The remainder of the project, which will include the construction of the Williams Creek and upper Williams Creek reservoirs, will not be completed until 2025.

At completion, the pipeline will be capable of delivering 78 million gallons of water per day to Colorado Springs and its partners, at a total project cost estimated at $1.4 billion. That figure, which has increased by $200 million since 2007, may be adjusted upward in the future.

With the exception of Councilman Tom Gallagher, who has opposed the project during his entire time on council, members of city council gave their enthusiastic assent to the project.

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Mayor Lionel Rivera, noting that he has worked on SDS for more than twelve years, hailed the decision as one which would provide a foundation for the city’s growth and prosperity for many decades to come.

To pay for the system, utility ratepayers will see their water bills increase by approximately 12 percent annually between 2010 and 2017, with smaller increases slated for 2018 and 2019.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement, a single-family residence is currently paying $36.17 per month for water, based on an average use of 8,500 gallons per month. To support SDS, households would pay $57.78 per month in 2015 and $77.71 per month in 2025.

Colorado Springs Utilities will issue revenue bonds to fund the project, which will be repaid both by water rates and by tap fees on new home construction.

Utilities has estimated that residential customers will pay 35 percent of the cost, commercial/nonresidential will pay 39 percent, and tap fees will support the remaining 26 percent.

In the event that new home construction fails to rebound from its present depressed levels, it’s possible that ratepayers might see substantially higher water rate “adjustments.”

In such a scenario, rates might more than double by 2015, to nearly $80 per month, and top out at more than $100 during 2019.
Despite the project’s cost and complexity, Utilities CEO Jerry Forte called it crucial to the city’s future.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” Forte said, referring the visionary leaders of the 1950’s and 1960’s who built the Blue River, Homestake, and Fryingpan/Arkansas water projects.

“We have to do this. Without this project, twenty years from now the city would be a very different place-we wouldn’t be talking about xeriscaping, but about “no-scaping.”

Forte also noted that the city had been unable to build water delivery systems at Elephant Rock on the Arkansas, or expand the Homestake system near the Holy Cross wilderness area because of strong local opposition.

“This is the best solution for us, for the environment, and for our regional partners,” he said, “I’m a little concerned about the reaction (from Pueblo) about the delayed start date-but I hope they’ll understand that changing circumstances are driving those decisions.”


  1. Funny thing this.

    Gallagher seems to think he acts as the council’s conscience but he is as big a politician as the rest of them, and most are quite round and large. The fact that he has made up his mind that his own ideas and projects are better and is not willing to listen to alternatives just the same as the rest of those blow-hards makes him no different than the rest of them. Were he able to better put together his thoughts in a coherent manner with documentation and thorough review instead of running his mouth to hear himself talk I would take him more seriously. None of the others on the council are any better. Each wants to say they were part of this groundbreaking event to provide for the future of the city and enable them to be better remembered politicians. I wouldn’t leave the CEO out of this group of ignorant blow-hards either. Every single one of them just wants to be recognized and remembered or known at more than a local level and this project along with so many others is merely seen as a means to that end. Others include “SMART-grid”, woody bio-mass (where’s the carbon count for that stuff, carbon neutral my ass), Neumann Systems Group Purestream and so many others. A bunch of spruce goose hoopla to make names for themselves at the cost of the ratepayers. How can a project led by a slimy lawyer and controlled by foolhardy windbag politicians ever have a chance of succeeding other than the fact that the ratepayers and citizens of Colorado Springs will be forced to foot the bill. As Gallagher so ineloquently pointed out, these thieves, deceivers and con-men need to be held accountable but it needs to be done with facts and figures not silly little hissy fits.

    That said, now is the right time for Southern Delivery to be built as long as the work is contracted locally and the jobs are given to hard working Coloradoans and not some national company who will charge through the nose for substandard performance. This latest meeting was nothing more than another rubberstamp by a lame council who already approved of this project and were merely verifying a new timeline. They are not forward thinking or progressive and they sure don’t look out for the citizens of Colorado Springs, this council’s only agenda is to look out for themselves and they try to use the city as another route to doing that. This council, the city manager and Colorado Springs Utilities brought any budget shortfalls upon themselves. Sure the economic collapse could not be foreseen many years out, but it could be seen at least a year out and not a single one of their forecasts accounted for any change in business as usual, and even their latest forecasts are poor guesses at best. Hold these pseudo-leaders accountable for their own poor foresight, every last one of them. All any of them are doing is what they’ve always done, borrow money against Tabor guidelines for the next guy to pay off and they do it with the consent and support of the judiciary just to undermine the law. Not that Doug Bruce is anything more than a slumlord but he did bring at least one semi-decent thing into this world with Tabor.

    Have you been to council sessions or utility board meetings. Not a single one of them actually says anything. They could just as easily sit and breathe and accomplish the same amount of work. The only difference is that then we wouldn’t be forced to hear them speak to themselves and pat each other on the backs for such poor performance. They aren’t standing on the shoulders of those who came before them, they’ve sat on them and crushed them with their fat asses and pompous speeches that don’t really say anything and the get the citizens of Colorado Springs to pay for it all. This is the right time to begin construction for Southern Delivery to ensure water for the future citizens of Colorado Springs, but the cost is inflated by lawyers and politicians looking to make a buck off of honest citizens to make up for their lousy forecasting. Sales are down, we better raise the price.

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