Mar 28, 2013 3:45 PM by Maddie Garrett

Questions Arise Over City Water Sales During Drought

Questions are being raised about selling off Colorado Springs City water in times of drought.

A second year of extreme drought has left our reservoirs low, at less than 50% capacity. Water restrictions and higher rates for some customers are also going into effect.

"We're looking at a pretty huge deficit," said Abby Ortega, Colorado Springs Utilities' water supply planning supervisor.

But Ortega said it wasn't always like this.

"When we look at two years ago we had one of the wettest years on record, our yields were 120% of average," she explained.

Ortega said CSU had a surplus and sold about 30,000 acre feet of water in 2011 and early 2012. 5,000 of that was in January and February 2012.

To put things in perspective, CSU's total storage capacity is 260,000 acre feet.

"It's water that we would have otherwise spilled, our reservoirs were full so we did what we could and we sold it," said Ortega. "Which we feel is more beneficial to our region than just wasting it and letting it go down the river."

But some on the council and Mayor Steve Bach are taking issue with that sale. Bach said on a radio interview Wednesday that he did not understand why CSU would sell so much water when we are facing a drought.

Ortega responded for CSU:

"Those sales are very typical," she explained. "The operations and the demands of 2011 really have no bearing on what is going on today, you know our reservoirs typically fluctuate very highly from year to year."

This year will be a tough one Ortega said, and they don't plan to sell one drop of water any time soon.

"Our system is very driven on snow pack...And when there just isn't snow we have to make that work," she said.

We asked Mayor Bach's office for an interview or a statement on Wednesday, but they declined.

The Mayor also publicly took issue with construction at one of Colorado Springs' reservoirs during the drought. He said he did not know why CSU would do construction and lose water on a reservoir when we are facing water restrictions.

CSU replied -- saying construction did drain the Homestake Reservoir, but almost all of that water was moved to other storage facilities and not lost.

As for the timing, the maintenance was scheduled years in advance and is a joint effort with the city of Aurora. They will begin refilling it this April.



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