In about 22 years or so, Colorado Springs Water Department officials say, the city will need to spend at least a half-billion dollars on what will be the largest construction job in city history - a huge reservoir-and-pipeline project.
In lay terms, "delivery system" means placing a huge bathtub somewhere on the Arkansas River and connecting that large tub with smaller tubs closer to the city by using at least 50 miles of underground tubes. After the project is built, the annual cost of pumping water through the tubes alone will be a seven-figure number.
An acre-foot of water is 326,000 gallons, and the city has about 50,000 surplus acre-feet every year. By conservative estimates, that's enough water to add 200,000 people to the city.
But water officials say that without adding to supplies, the surplus will be absorbed in 22 years. Because large water projects generally encounter opposition and litigation, it takes long lead times to complete them, Bostrom said.
And in the case of the next huge project, the city will be making an unprecedented request of city ratepayers to pay a good portion of the construction tab in advance. That would be done through a series of double-digit rate increases during the second half of the 1990s, with money being set aside in a construction fund.
In the past, Water Department officials have said water rates could rise by as much as 50 percent by 2000. But on Wednesday, council members didn't ask about financial details.
Utilities Director Phil Tollefson acknowledged that all of the alternatives being studied by the city "are expensive and possibly controversial."
All are expensive because unlike most other Colorado cities, Colorado Springs is not on the main stem of a river. Having virtually exhausted local sources, the city will find it increasingly expensive to import water in the future.
The prospective projects will inevitably provoke controversies. The city already has tried its best to defuse those by making repeated trips to the Upper Arkansas Valley, where an economy built upon river rafting fears the siphoning-off of its precious white water.
Bostrom said the four project alternatives being studied are:
Enlarging Pueblo Reservoir.
Using city-controlled lakes Meredith and Henry, east of Pueblo, in a water storage and pipeline complex.
Exploring the possibility of gaining more water storage rights in existing reservoirs - Pueblo Reservoir, Turquoise Lake and Twin Lakes.