Monday, November 7, 2022

New Home Tracts Closed To City Water Access In The Springs? Yes, For Now - Given Limited Water Supply


New homes being built at Painted Prairie Development in Aurora. It is estimated each such home wiil need some 800 acre-feet of water/ yr. Similar amounts apply in Colorado Springs

As I noted in previous posts, it is a certainty that with the current extreme drought (22 years and counting Colorado is now on the cusp of a permanent water crisis. This was brought home with a recent Colorado Springs Independent  report (p. 2) on how  a new development - "Amara"  will not be able to get a "flagpole connection" to siphon off the city's water. It will have to develop its own.

Forcing the issue is a proposed 3,200-acre subdivision, dubbed Amara, seeking annexation via a “flagpole” connection, which seeks city water. After telling the City Council on Oct. 10 that there’s an ample supply to serve Amara, Colorado Springs Utilities did an about-face two days later by proposing an ordinance that would block Amara and similar developments from annexation and tapping city water supplies.  This is well-timed given our area simply doesn't have the water resources (or sources) to supply and more adjacent, or new developments.

Colorado Springs, for example, as noted in the article, currently has 476,000 population and is expected to increase to 723,000 by 2070.  Apart from the fact there's scant space to put the projected homes, there is also no idea of how to get water to them.  Or where the water would come from. Hence, the brainstorm notion to inundate the natural water storage wetlands to build a dam and reservoir. A nifty idea in theory, but in practice it's doomed to failure because the wetlands solution simply wouldn't provide the quality water base for massive use.

The fact is the Springs' leaders still haven't come to grips with the water crisis staring them in the face.  The new home "build out" will require some 136,000 acre -feet of water per year, at minimum.  This is up from the current 70, 766 acre-feet used.  Hence, nearly double the existing supply despite that supply basically vanishing by the year 2070 if not before. But lo and behold, the power brokers and developers are intent on destroying the wetland wilderness area to try to get that water.  Most recently, tempers 
flared during arguments at the Oct. 19 Utilities Board meeting, with Amara’s developer, Doug Quimby (of La Plata Communities) barking out:

"If you wanna make it worse, restrict the supply, make sure growth only occurs in one neighborhood and don’t let anyone else into the city,” "   

But the problem that eludes him is that the supply already is "restricted" by nature and climate change.  Maybe Quimby didn't know - or didn't read (in The Journal of Nature Climate Change, May) -  the American West’s megadrought deepened so much last year that it is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and is a worst-case climate change scenario playing out live.  This applies to the whole state of Colorado as well as neighboring states, like Utah, Arizona, New Mexico etc.

A dramatic drying in 2021 — about as dry as 2002 and one of the driest years ever recorded for the region — pushed the 22-year drought passed the previous record-holder for megadroughts in the late 1500s and shows no signs of easing in the near future.  Meanwhile, water usage in our burg remains high as too many continue to water thirsty bluegrass lawns not designed for our arid climate. 

In the words of Ken Neubecker (American Rivers' Colorado Projects director):

"The Front Range municipalities need to realize there's no more reliable water supply available from the West Slope and Colorado River Basin.  And that was true before the impacts on water from climate change were really incorporated into our thinking."

He was referring to the fact there is a source and distribution anomaly regarding water in our arid state. That is, the water in Colorado is primarily on the Western Slope  but the eastern Front Range cities are the ones consuming most of it.  Worse, most of these cities just keep growing because their leaders place no limits on further growth - despite the clear lack of fresh water sources.

It is necessary here put the water limits applicable to Quimby's 'Amara' development needs in context. On Oct. 10, Utilities officials said the city has 75,000 acre feet of water usage in the city, but has infrastructure and treatment capability to deliver 95,000 acre feet. (One acre foot can serve three homes.) Amara, designed for 9,500 homes, is bordered on three sides by the city of Fountain, which lacks sufficient water supplies to serve the development.  A city ordinance also mandates a "buffer” between water usage and water available to 130 percent of demand. This is essential in the case of any kind of unforeseen emergency - say major storm or other calamity - which interferes with water consumption.

If Amara was granted its requested 3,500 acre feet of water, the city’s total water available would have to increase to 102,000 acre feet, not the current 95,000. Right now there is no way to increase such usage buffer short of going the "toilet to tap" route, e.g.

Colorado water providers, facing a shortfall of 175 billion gallons, acknowledge there's little choice than to turn to the recycling ofwaste water.  They're calculating that if the worst sewage can be be cleaned to the point it's safe to drink, then our state's dwindling aquifers and rivers can be saved. According to a Denver Post article from a few years ago:  

"Front Range utilities will push the practical limit in re-using water to the maximum potential and that includes implementation of 'toilet to tap' recycling".

 This is the only viable solution for the new developments like Quimby's though he likely doesn't want to hear it.   I mean how do you sell new homes in new developments - for potential buyers - by informing them they will get their water from re-usable waste water?

Finally, his most egregious remark was:

"Any city that is not growing is dying,” 

No.  Actually any city whose growth is not sustainable in the long run, is dying.  That includes having sustainable water sources.

See Also:

This Pioneering Economist Says Our Obsession With Growth Must End - The New York Times (


Springs Utilities does an about-face on water availability for Amara annexation | News |

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