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City's thirst for water began more than a century ago

By: DANIEL CHACÓN
January 21, 2011
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More than a century ago, the city’s forefathers predicted that Colorado Springs’ vitality would run dry without a reliable water source.

The city, after all, wasn’t settled along a river.

“If in 20 years we are to have 100,000 people to supply with water, it behooves us to stir ourselves and see where this water is to come from,” Edwin A. Sawyer, a former city engineer, wrote in 1901.

“Our present system has neither the supply nor the storage capacity for such a population. And if (the population grows to) 100,000, why not at some future time 200,000? What is to stop the growth of a city like this?

“Nothing, it seems to me, but a lack of water.”

Since Sawyer wrote the letter and locked it away in a time capsule, Colorado Springs has become a sprawling city with a population of roughly 400,000 – double what Sawyer envisioned.

But Sawyer’s rationale back then on why water is so important to Colorado Springs rings even truer today, especially in the arid and semi-arid West.

As a result, Colorado Springs Utilities has embarked on an ambitious and sometimes controversial project to move water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs through a 62-mile pipeline.

The Southern Delivery System is designed to quench the city’s growth and provide redundancy for Utilities’ decades-old water delivery network.

SDS is one of the largest water projects in the West and the most expensive that Springs Utilities has ever undertaken. While Colorado Springs is the majority partner, the pipeline will also serve neighboring Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

"With the project's major permits and approvals secured, initial construction for the first phase of the project is now underway," Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel said.

"In addition to meeting the SDS partner communities’ long-term water needs, SDS will serve as a back up to Colorado Springs’ primary water system during extended maintenance or repairs," she said. "SDS is scheduled to begin delivering water to customers in 2016."

Utilities’ customers will see their water rates double by 2016, the year SDS is scheduled to be delivering water, to pay for SDS.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost $2.3 billion, including construction and financing costs. The second phase could cost as much, though Utilities officials have not released firm cost estimates.

After more than a decade of planning and permitting, SDS is at the dawn of a new phase: construction.

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