WATER FOR THE FUTURE

DONALA’S SEPTEMBER, 2011 OUTLOOK


Stop!  Please!  Don’t throw this out – at least until after you’ve read it and are frustrated with the contents.  Our object with this special mailing newsletter is to get to as many Donala customers as we can and to be as clairvoyant and open as necessary, letting you know the future of your water, and most importantly, the costs associated with that future.  We have been discussing the issues that follow in as many formats as we know how – newsletters, newspapers, town meetings, landscape expos and workshops, and our website.  We know however, that many customers don’t have the interest nor the time to learn about what they believe has always been an understood “rite of passage” – water.  However, the bottom line to this newsletter is an ominous one – water rates are going up significantly over the next several years.  We will be holding a “Town Meeting” on September 7th at Antelope Trails Elementary School to cover this and other subjects.  But if you can’t make it, pleaseread on.  The presentation we make at that meeting will also be on our website at www.donalawater.org.

 

The Good News 

By now you have probably read that Donala has finalized a water service agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) to take delivery of treated water at Northgate Road.  The construction on that project should be completed by the end of October.  The cost of the total project will be about $1M, funded from current investment accounts the district has or from debt authorized by the May, 2010 election.  The water to be delivered will initially be CSU water.  They will “buy” our equivalent water from us at Pueblo Reservoir when our Willow Creek ranch case is complete (along with a lease from Pueblo), offsetting the cost of their water rights.

 

The court case is in limbo right now and hopefully finally settled within a few months.  We were forced to go to court with the State of Colorado after settling with the 16 other opposers in the case.  The state came up with late, onerous demands that we felt were just not right.  Initially Judge Maes has agreed with the state, while giving us time to reach a settlement.  We have already initiated those conversations and we are still confident our water (up to 400 acre feet) will be flowing by the end of the year.  If we are forced to appeal the case, we will do so while still leasing water from the Pueblo Board of Waterworks to cover our CSU purchases.  NOTE: 1 AF = 326,000 G. 

 

The “Other” News

Our agreement with CSU lasts only until their Southern Delivery System (SDS) is built.  When it is in operation we will have a different version of an agreement that actually conveys our water all the way to us and gives us full use to extinction.  Issues associated with that agreement are mainly political – CSU settlements with Pueblo County, and bureaucratic – dealing with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for storage in Pueblo Reservoir.  Again, we have already initiated those negotiations – learning our lesson from getting where we are so far.  THIS TAKES A LONG TIME!

 

The Bad News - $$$

No matter how we look at it, water in Donala’s future is going to become very expensive.  Just the Willow Creek Ranch alone has cost us close to $6 M for what will be 20% of our total demand.  Additional leased water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works will facilitate that flow and even add to the total. Potentially bringing us up to 35% of our total demand.  The charges that CSU is levying for conveyance, treatment and delivery of that water comes to almost $10/1000 gallons.  That does not include a “system usage fee” of almost a half a million dollars a year.  In 2010 you paid an average of $5.60/1000 in water rates.  The requirement to do our own Environmental Impact Assessment of moving our water through the SDS is going to be very expensive.  The demands that Pueblo County levied on CSU to build the SDS carry over to others using the pipeline as well.  They range from providing Pueblo enough water for their downtown kayak course, through flood control measures on lower Fountain Creek, to stormwater control (not currently in Donala’s charter) on Monument Creek.  This too will cost us – how much is still being determined.

 

The Solution

Unfortunately, Donala must cover its costs with revenue.  That means rates and taxes will have to be increased to meet expenses.  Some efforts we are making to minimize the effect:

 

A.    Conservation – The less water our customers use, the less we have to replace and renew at these extremely high costs.  The less we need to purchase, the less cost for all of us.  Demand must be reduced!  Xeriscape landscaping is the biggest effort any of us can make.  Watering Kentucky Bluegrass eats almost 70% of our overall output.  Take advantage of Donala’s new Conservation Manager (Susan McLean) and programs to decrease irrigation demand.  We sometimes hear complaints about this policy (of discouraging the use of Kentucky Bluegrass) from our customers who either don’t care or can simply afford to pay the higher costs per volume when they use so much water.  It is true – they pay more per gallon than those who use less water – and they should!  However, all of us share in the infrastructure and water right costs to replace our precious resource, and everyone’s rates and taxes will go up to satisfy the few gluttons amongst us.

 

B.  Use of our asset to extinction.  The District is investigating an extended water plan that will allow the use of our water over and over until it is literally gone.  Although this project itself will be expensive, it represents another 30% of our total demand – used to extinction, thereby reducing the overall replacement volume that much.  Look for more information at the Town Meeting and future newsletters on this project.

 

C.  Other sources of water.  Donala is a potential player in water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, as well as any other viable source and supply that might be out there.   

 

The Impact

A scheduled average 29% to 40% increase (even higher at the high volume levels) in water rates next year, and smaller increases through 2025.  A likely increase in the property tax mill levy in 2013 to pay for the infrastructure requirements to make it all work (approved in the 2010 election).

Rest assured we will do everything we can to minimize the costs and corresponding rate and tax increases.  We welcome any and all inputs and your Board of Directors will be diligently on the case.  You are always welcome to visit with them at a monthly Board Meeting.   

 

Town Meeting on Wednesday, September 7, at 7 PM, at Antelope Trails Elementary (GYM)