Donala community meeting addresses issues

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Customers of Donala Water and Sanitation District learned about the long-term and short-term issues the district is facing and how the issues are being addressed during a community meeting last week.

Kip Petersen, assistant manager, said the increasing costs of delivering of renewable water and electricity are the primary challenges.

The district’s renewable water comes from the Willow Creek Ranch near Leadville and is passed through the city of Colorado Springs infrastructure as well as the Bureau of Reclamation and the Pueblo Board of Water Works infrastructures.

Other issues include aging infrastructure, declining aquifers, (leading to increased pumping costs,) and the weather cycles.

“It’s getting hotter. It’s getting dryer, less rainfall, less snowfall in the winter. Winters are drier and warmer. That creates more of a demand for water and water is already in short supply,” Petersen said.

Petersen told customers that in 2013 renewable water costs are expected to be $1.7 million. That includes transportation through Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, water rights and storage costs in Pueblo Reservoir.

Normal operating and maintenance costs is $2.26 million to maintain district facility, fuel costs and pay for personnel, engineers and lawyers.

He said those costs are expected to go up and future increases with Colorado Springs are being projected for the next two to three years at 10 percent.

“Southern Colorado Delivery System, they have an impact on that. Right now we’re simply a customer with Colorado Springs Utilities but we have a potential in the future to actually become a partner in the Southern Delivery System that may have an impact on the pricing structure,” Petersen said.

Petersen showed a rate comparison chart from last fall to customers in attendance. If a customer of Donala uses 20,000 gallons of water they will pay $145.

The same amount of water would be $148.32 with Colorado Springs, $191.11 with Woodmen Hills, $122.03 with Castle Rock, $208.81 with Woodmoor and $90.31 with Parker.

“We’re not the highest, we’re not the lowest,” Petersen said.

Petersen said the way they are responding is through the renewable water supply, conservation, education and cooperation.

The Willow Creek Ranch provides approximately 280 acre feet of water annually.

He said he was up at the ranch recently and there is no snow on the ground. There is snow higher up on the mountain and Donala is hoping for a slow snow melt.

Petersen said the ranch is only one source of renewable water and they are looking into other alternatives or more renewable water but it’s not easily found.

Petersen also talked about the current water irrigation standards and the Donala Gardens located on Gleneagle Drive where customers can get ideas for xeriscaping plants.

He told customers that they can find an extensive library at www.donalawater.org to assist with consumer education for water conservation as well as other additional resources for xeriscape information.

He said cooperation and partnerships are very important because water projects take time and are expensive. It’s not just Donala that is dealing with the drought, he said, and they have to keep their options open.

“Conservation will not solve the long-term drought issues. It’s a part of it but we can’t conserve our way out of the drought. We have to find alternative sources or renewable water,” Petersen said.