by John Egan
October 25, 2016
You’d think that with the word “springs” in its name, Colorado Springs would be a plentiful source of free-flowing, low-cost water. But that’s not so.
A LawnStarter review of survey data from Food and Water Watch, a consumer rights group, shows residential customers of the Colorado Springs community water system paid the highest water bills in 2015 among the 13 largest community water systems in Colorado.
In a survey of Colorado water systems, residents of Centennial had the lowest 2015 bills.
Photo: CH2M Hill
For Colorado Springs, the annual residential bill was $469.73 for 60,000 gallons of water. That bill was 56 percent higher than the state average among surveyed systems and 39 percent higher than the national average, according to LawnStarter’s review of Food and Water Watch data.
Meanwhile, residential customers of the community water system in the Denver suburb of Centennial enjoyed the state’s lowest bills, at $183 a year.
Across the 13 community water systems surveyed in Colorado, the average annual water bill was $301.41 in 2015. Among the 500 biggest community water systems surveyed around the U.S., the average water bill was $337.60.
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Colorado Springs draws most of its water from mountain reservoirs.
Photo: Flickr/David Herrera
Why are the water bills so high in Colorado Springs?
“Generally, our water rates are higher than others along the Front Range because we do not have a major water source nearby,” says Steve Berry, a spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities, the local water supplier. “We have to bring a majority of our water … from nearly 200 miles away, and most of it is first-use water from snowmelt collected in high mountain reservoirs.”
In 2015, the water system served more than 470,000 people in and around Colorado Springs. Across the system, water use for the year added up to nearly 21.9 billion gallons, or roughly 46,600 gallons per person.
A 50-mile underground pipeline is expected to ease water woes in Colorado Springs.
Photo: Water and Wastes Digest
As the area continually copes with population growth, drought and wildfires, “water continues to be one of Colorado Springs’ greatest challenges,” Colorado Springs Utilities says.
One of the projects aimed at tackling those water challenges is known as the Southern Delivery System. The system supplies water from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs as well as the communities of Pueblo West, Fountain and Security. The first phase of the project, completed this year at a cost of $825 million, included installation of 50 miles of underground water pipeline.
For Colorado Springs, the Southern Delivery System means an easing of planned increases in water rates. When the first phase of the delivery system was given the green light in 2009, Colorado Springs Utilities was plotting a series of annual water rate hikes through 2019.
“Fortunately, due to historically low interest rates secured on the bonds [for the project], favorable market conditions and rigorous project management, Colorado Springs Utilities has reduced the amount and number of needed rate increases,” according to the Southern Delivery System website.
Photo: Walton Family Foundation
Here’s the annual water bill in 2015 for a residential customer using 60,000 gallons of water in Colorado’s 13 largest community water systems.
Top Photo: Pikes Peak Regional Building Department