KLINE - The foundation has been laid to provide drinking water to the dry western side of La Plata County, but the
building blocks needed to complete the system are many, varied and expensive.
A couple of dozen skeptical Dryside residents heard the assessment Tuesday evening from La Plata West Water Authority
board members Roy Horvath, Tom Brossia, Mae Morley and Kirk Peine. The board is starting to unveil the project
publicly, which has been the subject of three reports since 2003.
"We want to familiarize you with the options," Horvath, the board vice chairman, said. "A lot of issues remain to be
The La Plata West Water Authority was created in 2007 to draw water from Lake Nighthorse, located a mile southwest of
Bodo Industrial Park in Durango, for use in western La Plata County.
The lake, which is being filled with water pumped from the Animas River, is part of a water-rights settlement with
Native American tribes. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and residents of San Juan County
just over the line in New Mexico are in line to use La Plata West water.
At build-out in 20 to 40 years, the system would have 35 million gallons of water a day available for an estimated
8,100 taps. Residents now use well water for bathing or washing dishes and clothes, while trucking in drinking water.
So far, however, only a $5.7 million intake structure has been built on Lake Nighthorse. Missing are a
water-treatment plant, a storage tank, a trunk line and lateral distribution lines. Total capital costs exceed $96
million. An estimated $2 million must be found to pay the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority
for the 700 acre-feet of water the authority would use.
Members of the audience voiced concern about:
Unknown final costs.
Funding sources and the fact that estimates are a couple of years old.
The role the Ute tribes would play in development.
The potential for La Plata West water going to serve customers in subdivisions west of Durango along U.S. Highway
The undetermined timeline to develop a water system.
Problems that could develop if a developer buys multiple taps.
Worries that they have to give up their wells when tap water is available.
The water system's compatibility with a new, still-developing La Plata County land-use plan.
Worries that abundant drinking water would spur development and harm traditional country living.
The board members said they realize that many issues remain unresolved. They are working with a number of entities to
find solutions, including the Utes, the county and funding sources.
"We're not trying to do this in a vacuum," Horvath said. "We have to provide choices for residents."
Brossia said the chance to keep agriculture - and consequently a country way of life - viable disappeared with
approval of the A-LP. The irrigation water component that was removed from the settlement doomed agriculture, he
Morley said the board is trying to be upfront with residents.
"We're looking at the long term so we need to give ourselves options," Morley said. "We're not trying to go behind
Morley said her family had hoped to receive irrigation water, but it didn't come to pass. Water is available in
another form, so it should be used, she said.
Peine said potable water provides a certain quality of life. It's a positive factor, he said.