Everyone knows that water is crucial to sustaining life, but some might not be aware that it is also an essential ingredient in maintaining home values.
The new board president of a regional water supply coalition plans to work toward initiatives that could help free south metro Denver from its dependence on groundwater and put it in a better position for future. The South Metro Water Supply Authority, an entity that comprises 15 water providers from Douglas and Arapahoe counties, uses its collective force to address long-term water needs and collaborate on projects that will benefit the entire region.
The word “drought” has not been as much a part of the conversation among decision-makers at the local and state level in recent years, but over the next few decades it will become clear that the success of a community is predicated on a sufficient water supply. Water industry leaders are preparing for a presumably drier future now in the hopes of staving off future problems, especially as the population along the Front Range continues to grow.
Water providers that would once compete for water rights have joined sides to ensure the future vitality of the south metro area, said Ron Redd, utilities director for the Town of Castle Rock, who was recently appointed to lead the board of the South Metro Water Supply Authority.
Its members — managers of water districts large and small — use their expertise and vision to strategically calculate what needs to be done today and in the future. They know that water pulled from underground aquifers is a finite resource. That’s why the group is hoping to finalize an agreement this summer that will enable it to purchase hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora. The SMWSA is also trying to secure permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to store the water in Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 72,000-acre-foot reservoir southwest of Parker.
Redd, however, knows that the WISE project is not the ultimate solution to what will surely become a bigger problem.
“It does not solve the long term water supply issue because it’s interruptible and depends on the hydrologic cycle, but it helps go a long way toward meeting our needs,” Redd said.
Wise, which stands for Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, would in its first phase bring between 5,000 and 11,000 acre-feet of reclaimed water per year to the supply authority during the first five years. It would increase to 10,000 acre-feet per year on average during the second phase. The entities are still negotiating the terms of the contract.
Infrastructure upgrades would be needed to accommodate the heavier flow of water during the third phase of the WISE project. Redd says rates and fees alone will not be sufficient to cover the costs, and a new revenue source, such as a property tax increase, might be proposed. A ballot question could be put to voters as early as next year. Nothing has been decided, however, because the WISE agreement has not yet been signed.
The project is only a small part of the group’s overall goals. SMWSA leaders developed, phased and priced out a master plan that serves as a guide to future water procurement. The public can view the plan at www.southmetrowater.org.
Redd says although he knows his new job as board president will be “an awful lot of work,” he is honored by his appointment and plans to follow through on the organization’s primary initiatives. He was selected to head the SMWSA by an “impressive” group of water industry leaders, including Parker water district manager Frank Jaeger and Centennial water manager John Hendrick. Redd is only the second board president; he replaces Charlie Crow from the Pinery Water and Wastewater District.
SMWSA was founded in 2004 and includes the Centennial Water and Sanitation District, Parker Water and Sanitation District and the Town of Castle Rock.
Not only has the coalition partnered on securing water resources, but many of its members have purchased or plan to purchase storage space in Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which was constructed by the Parker Water and Sanitation District and opened last year.