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State's declining streamflows prompt Springs Utilities study; public thoughts requested

By Gwen Happ
IWRP Public Outreach Manager, Colorado Springs Utilities

       Water experts have realized that the streamflows in the Colorado River and other rivers in the region, including the Arkansas River, are declining. This is of concern because these are main water supply sources for Colorado Springs. For Colorado Springs Utilities staff working on the Integrated Water Resource Plan (IWRP), that means uncertain impacts to Front Range communities.
       Engineers and water planners differ on the amount, but they generally agree the volume of water available from the Colorado River could decrease by up to 20
During a public event in July 2015 at its Mesa Road xeriscape facility - intended to increase public awareness about conservation and the role played by Colorado Springs Utilities - two attendees try out an interactive water drainage diorama.
Westside Pioneer file photo
percent by 2050. Planning for those and other uncertainties is the current task for staff and Springs Utilities' stakeholders.
       NOTE: A public meeting is scheduled Thursday, June 23, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Springs Utilities facility (the one with the xeriscape gardens) at 2855 Mesa Road.
       As the IWRP planning process continues its path forward, staff is obtaining input from community groups and its Citizens' Advisory Group on the best course of action to meet the potential decline in water supplies, while demands likely increase. Any number of variables can alter the end result. Those variables have formed assumptions that staff is using to create potential future scenarios and resultant action plans.
       For the IWRP Citizens' Advisory Group, discussions have focused on likely trade- offs. For example, does Springs Utilities plan for more water supply, conservation, conveyance (piping) systems and additional storage, or accept more frequent water restrictions? Factors influencing the need to make hard choices include:
       Increase in population - The state of Colorado estimates that by 2040 El Paso County population will increase by about 40 percent.
       Complicated revenue effects of conservation and watering restrictions.
       Aging water infrastructure.
       Climate variability that could lead to longer and more severe droughts in the future.
       Changing environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Rule, released in 2015, which protects from pollution and degradation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation's water resources.
       Constraints imposed by interstate water compacts, such as the Colorado River Compact.
       In the past several months, staff has been busy presenting the latest information on the IWRP to various stakeholder groups and obtaining feedback.
       Here are some of the issues that have been raised:
       1. Maintain high standards for taste and odor.
       2. Consider conservation as fits with other options.
       3. Repair and maintain aging infrastructure.
       4. Make sure Colorado Springs has the water it needs to serve current and growing community.
       5. Continue to have discussions with regional partners.
       6. Look at other methods to preserve/reuse water.
       7. Help customers understand how to use water efficiently.
       8. Try to minimize impacts to agriculture and environment.
       To schedule a presentation on the IWRP process, please send us an email at iwrpinfo@csu.org .
       During all phases of the process, we encourage you to submit your input at ghapp@csu.org . For more information, check our website at www.csu.org.

       Editor's note: The above article (edited slightly for publication) was provided as a press release from Colorado Springs Utilities, the city-owned enterprise that provides gas, electric, wastewater and water services to the city and some areas around it.

(Posted 6/18/16; Community: Ongoing Issues)

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