GREELEY (AP) – Although Windsor owns enough water for all existing customers, town officials know more people are on the way.
That means more water, and that may also mean the need for the town’s own wastewater treatment plant.
To pay for the projects that would provide that water as well as treat it, Windsor may need to raise rates for its existing customers.
OptionsAt the April 16 Windsor Town Board work session, Dennis Wagner, director of engineering for Windsor, said the town has several options as it considers how best to meet the water needs of current and future residents.
Right now, the town is reliant on other sources to treat its water, so it has to pay the city of Greeley and the Fort Collins-Loveland and North Weld County water districts.
But some town board members want to give Windsor a way to avoid those price tags, even if that doesn’t happen for many years.
The regional water treatment plant also would serve Severance, Eaton and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District.
Eaton is also feeling the pressures of providing for future growth, said Gary Carsten, town administrator for Eaton, so being part of the regional project would help prepare the town to serve future residents.
In 2017, the partners hired Black and Veatch Engineering to study the possibility. That plant would be east of Interstate 25 and just north of Colo. 14. The challenge with that plant, Wagner said, will be finding enough water to treat to justify the cost at $25 million for Windsor’s portion.
At its April 9 meeting, the Windsor Town Board also approved a plan to continue discussions with Broe Infrastructure about another water treatment plant at Great West Industrial Park.
That plant, which the town would eventually buy, would pull about 1,300 acre-feet of water per year from the ground and treat it.
If all goes according to plan, Windsor Town Attorney Ian McCargar said construction on that water treatment plant would start in 2019 and be finished by 2021.
Windsor is hoping much of that water will come from Northern Integrated Supply Project, of which Eaton is also a part. The project, which would create two new reservoirs to supply the region, has been in the works for about 18 years, said Mayor Kristie Melendez.
Windsor gets its water rights from the Colorado Big Thompson project, which brings water across the Continental Divide from the upper Colorado River and North Poudre Irrigation Co. It’s enough for now, but town officials are concerned it won’t stretch as the town grows and everyone in northern Colorado is trying to provide enough water to serve their residents.
Buying into NISP, Windsor officials said, could ensure that water is available.
The town is expected to spend $86.6 million on the project before it’s completed, including a $2 million payment next year.
Wagner said the project cost keeps going up as the project keeps getting put off and construction costs rise.
Melendez said some partners are skeptical about NISP ever being completed, because the project is taking so long. Currently, it’s expected to be built from 2021-25, if the planning and approval process continues without any issues, but Melendez said she’s not convinced that will happen, because of continual postponements.
GreeleyBurt Knight, the water and sewer department director for Greeley, said if Windsor were to no longer need Greeley to treat its drinking water, it wouldn’t necessarily have a large impact on the city, which treats water for more than 130,000 people.
But Greeley also hopes to work with others in the region to make sure everyone has the water they need, Knight said.
Greeley is focused on four main areas of preparation for the city’s water future: strengthening the infrastructure, continuing conservation, acquiring more water when possible, and creating firm storage, which ensures residents have water to drink during a drought.
The city installed new pipeline from Greeley’s Bellvue Water Treatment Plant in the Powder Canyon to Colorado Highway 277, 4 miles from the Gold Hill treated water reservoir near U.S. 34 and Weld County Road 17, Knight said. The new pipeline, he said, is replacing old pipeline while also providing more capacity for the future.
The Bellvue plant, where the pipeline project connects, is getting new filters, which will replace the 1948 and 1953 filters currently in place.
The city has also increased its conservation efforts.
Those and other projects are coming from a 2003 water master plan, Knight said, which looks to the city’s future and helps provide guidelines to ensure the growth in the area is provided for.
Although Greeley isn’t part of NISP or the water treatment plant Windsor, Severance, Eaton and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District are considering, the city is part of other regional projects, Knight said, including the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would provide enough water storage for several area water providers to be prepared in the event of a drought.
FundingAt its April 9 work session, the Windsor Town Board discussed the possibility of raising rates for water users in Windsor to help fund those water projects.
A chart presented by the town’s finance department showing the projected revenue requirements said the town expects to need nearly $12 million by 2027. Without raising rates, the town would only collect $3 million.
By raising rates on users by 10 percent each year, the cost for a tap with dual water, both drinkable and not drinkable for watering lawns, would be $89.32 each year by 2027. For those using drinkable water both inside and outside, the cost would be $116.36 by 2027. The town isn’t required to ask voters to raise those rates, McCargar said, because it’s an enterprise fund. The town can raise rates to offset debt and costs of water.
The town also is considering adding a water resource fee of $15,000, paid by developers who don’t bring their own water to their developments.
The water resource fee would be added on top of the fee individual homes and properties are charged to tap into the town’s water system.
Town board members said they would like feedback from developers on how to quickly collect those fees. Although the amount expected to be added to the fees seemed high to some board members, Paul Rennemeyer, District 4 representative, said it’s necessary to make sure Windsor has enough water in the future.
“All of these figures are based on us becoming water independent, but if we didn’t raise it, the cost of not becoming independent could be higher,” he said.