The last water provider to vie for the contract to meet Castle Rock’s long-term water needs visited town council with officials from Denver and Aurora leading the way.
Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer made the opening remarks to introduce the team that presented the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency proposal, the last of four bids submitted to the town of Castle Rock.
The WISE proposal is a partnership between the Denver and Aurora water departments and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a co-op of 15 Douglas and Arapahoe county metro districts and municipalities. The authority, which includes the towns of Castle Rock and Parker, has been working since 2008 with Denver and Aurora to draft the WISE proposal, touted as a financial boon for Aurora Water and a first-of-its kind regional water partnership for the Front Range.
“We’ve been working on a novel idea for the water issue in Castle Rock,” Tauer said. “It turns very complicated when you go to implement it. How can 15 different providers, Denver Water and Aurora all come together as separate entities, keep their autonomy and still cooperate to provide the lowest-cost supply? We have a detailed idea ready for public consumption and are very excited to present it to you tonight.”
The presentation was made before a joint meeting between the town’s utilities commission and Castle Rock town council, which will eventually make the decision on which provider reaps the benefits of an investment worth millions in the town’s long-term water future.
The WISE agreement aims to use infrastructure already in place in Aurora, expand that infrastructure to reach the south-metro area and deliver excess water from Denver and Aurora to Rueter-Hess Reservoir. The water delivery schedule depends on the availability of excess supplies at Denver and Aurora, according to the draft proposal.
If Castle Rock opts to go with WISE, it will be a permanent agreement and water will be delivered to a master meter. The authority’s cooperating agencies will be responsible for delivery of water from the master meter to their respective customers.
The estimated cost to Castle Rock residents to complete that cycle is expected to be upwards of $200 million, said Ron Redd, Castle Rock utilities director and executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. The final estimate will be assessed when the town’s utilities department compares the bids on the table for council recommendation, he said, and it is possible the town could ask voters for a tax increase to finance the long-term water plan.
The cost of water purchased in the WISE plan will vary from year to year, depending on rates determined by Denver and Aurora. Water rates will be based on a calculation that compares to that used to calculate cost to the providers’ existing customers, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water.
Pifher joined Jim Lochhead, chief executive officer of Denver Water, to promote the benefits to Castle Rock if the town decides to go with agencies that bring years of experience to the table.
“Both Denver and Aurora are longtime commitments. We’ll be here a long time,” Pifher said. “You’ll know where to find us 50 years from now if you have a problem under the contract. When you look at WISE, it’s the quintessential conservation project, it maximizes the efficient use of resources we already have.”
The WISE project is competing for the town’s business with three other entities, all of which submitted their bid proposals a few weeks in advance of the WISE proposal. WISE will be compared to bids from Renew Strategies, owned by a partnership that includes former Gov. Bill Owens; Stillwater Resources, which acts as a broker to match providers with municipalities like Castle Rock; and United Water, which serves public water districts such as the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District, and the South Adams County Water District.
Town councilmembers asked the utilities department to arrange public hearings to gauge input from the community before making its decision. Town staff plans to meet in the coming weeks to decide on the next steps and timelines for bringing the water provider information to residents, said Kim Mutchler, Castle Rock spokeswoman.