Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Project Healing Waters

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Friday, November 7, 2008

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The Pueblo Board of Water Works is doing their part to help buoy the housing market by rolling back their proposed 19% tap fee increase, according to a report from Chris Woodka in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is backing away from a planned 19 percent increase in hookup fees to avoid making a downturn in the housing industry worse. Instead, at a workshop Thursday the water board opted to increase the fee 4.75 percent, the same increase water rate payers will see next year. The water board is scheduled to adopt the increases at a budget hearing on Nov. 18...

The 4.75 percent rate increase would mean an additional $1.30 to $1.40 on the typical monthly water bill. It would be coupled with a sanitary sewer rate increase of $2.40 to $2.70 a month, meaning the total water bill will jump about $4 per month. The draft budget also includes a $40 million bond issue that will fund water development projects. The line item in the budget for water rights acquisition is $72.8 million. Executive Director Alan Hamel told the water board he would have more information on the specifics of the water development fund at the Nov. 18 meeting...

The water board began studying its fee structure last year, when it set aside a plan to couple the 30 percent increase with identical hikes in 2009 and 2010. It initiated a study by Black & Veatch to determine what the amount should be. In September, Black & Veatch's report indicated fees were only about one-third of what they should be, based on an analysis of the potential number of new taps weighed against the capacity of the water system and water rights owned by the water board. The goal of the study was to determine what a fair amount would be in order for new development to pay its own way. The study recommended a fee of $10,900, about the average for the Front Range. Pueblo's minimum residential fee is now $3,432 and the commercial fee is $1,702. A draft budget recommended a fee of $4,085 for 2009 with 19 percent increases through 2013, to bring the fee to $8,204. The 2013 figure was chosen after staff analysis of how many taps could be accommodated by the city's water rates, even if the existing system did not have capacity to deliver all of the water, explained Seth Clayton, finance manager. The water board balked, saying a big increase now sends the wrong message to developers...

Hamel reminded the board that the current method of raising the plant water investment fee the same amount as rates means existing customers will pay for new infrastructure. The water board also has adopted policies that waive hookup fees for job-creating development at industrial parks. In the end, the water board chose to limit the fee increase to 4.75 percent, and look at the long-term picture again early next year. The fees represent only a fraction of the total budget. This year, the water board budgeted $1.7 million in revenue from the fees, but through October had only collected about one-third of that, $567,000.

In other Pueblo Board of Water Works news Chris Woodka writes in the Pueblo Chieftain:

A fund set up to help keep the water turned on will get a boost in next year's water board budget. Pueblo Board of Water Works Executive Director Alan Hamel recommended putting $25,000 in the fund as contributions have tailed off since the Customer Assistance Resource Evaluation System was formed in March. The fund was set up by Catholic Charities after Pueblo City Councilman Ray Aguilera approached the board and convinced them to set up the fund to help ratepayers who were in an emergency situation. Since then, the water board has spent more on marketing and advertising the fund than have been received in contributions, Hamel said. The only constant source of funds has been voluntary payroll deductions at the water board itself. By the end of September, 63 households had used about $3,000 from the fund, avoiding shutoff of water and additional fees to turn it back on.

Category: Colorado Water
6:25:09 AM    

Here's a look at the wastewater treatment process in Aspen, from Scott Condon writing in the Aspen Times. From the article:

It's no longer the old West where anything can go down the drain, said district manager Bruce Matherly. That's because the sophisticated plant depends on bacteria to breakdown and treat sewage. In simplified terms, here is what happens when someone flushes a toilet or sends water down a public sewer drain in Aspen: The wastewater first goes through a straining system that separates out substances that cannot be treated. The wastewater then is directed to aeration basins where bacteria is held. When oxygen is shut off in those basins, the bacteria breathes nitrogen and starts breaking down the wastewater. The water is sent to clarifiers, where the bacteria separates from the clean effluent. The water is exposed to UV rays for further cleansing before it is released into the Roaring Fork River. That process ranges from as little as eight hours during times of high capacity to 20 hours during offseasons. Nelson said anti-freeze, paint thinners, solvents, diesel fuel and other petroleum products contain toxins that destroy the bacteria and threaten the plant's ability to effectively treat wastewater. The plant staff can detect when toxins have entered the system due to ongoing, complex testing. It requires a major "baby-sitting effort" to prevent all the bacteria from getting killed during invasions by hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of gallons of toxins...

There have been times that the bacteria couldn't be saved, and plant officials made emergency trips to the plants in Snowmass Village and Carbondale to restock bacteria. The toxins cannot be treated before they are dumped, in diluted form, into the river -- the lifeblood of the valley. Dumping anti-freeze into the sewer system is the equivalent of releasing it directly into the river, Nelson said. That has obvious environmental implications on one of the best trout fisheries in the West, and it can land the sanitation district in hot water for failing to meet state and federal treatment standards, Nelson said. The sanitation district hasn't invested in a more elaborate and expensive system to handle industrial wastewater since Aspen doesn't have any industry. It's an expense that doesn't make sense. So it needs the cooperation of residents and business operators in Aspen.

Category: Colorado Water
6:17:08 AM    

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