Outdoor watering restrictions and a possible increase in the price of water are on tap for next year if the dearth of precipitation continues.
Colorado Springs Utilities says it will recommend outdoor watering restrictions for up to three days a week and ask the Utilities Board to consider a water rate increase or hiking the rates of heavy water users even more “in the absence of well-above normal snowpack.”
“Our overall system supply right now is at 46 percent, and we should be around 65 percent, so we’re starting to reach historical lows,” Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said Wednesday.
“We’re looking a lot like 2002, 2003, and that’s when we first invoked watering restrictions,” she said.
The Utilities Board, comprised of the City Council, will discuss plans Thursday to deal with the dry conditions.
Lehermeier said the city-owned utility will recommend that the board implement outdoor watering restrictions to rebuild the water supply. The only question is whether it would be two or three days a week, she said.
“Our plan, at this point, is to present to the Utilities Board in March some form or fashion of outdoor watering restrictions,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but if we don’t do something, we could be looking at an even worse situation.”
The restrictions would go into effect April 1 if approved by the board, she said. In the meantime, she said, the utility is asking ratepayers to conserve water.
“I think it’s important that the community knows they’ve done a great job,” she said.
“But with the weather conditions and snowpack being what it is ... some of it is just a little bit out of our hands.”
The utility also is considering a water rate increase and changing its pricing structure.
The utility has a tiered pricing plan where customers who use more water pay more.
The council has already approved water rate increases of 10 percent for 2013 and 2014 to help pay for construction of the Southern Delivery System water pipeline from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. The 2013 increase will go into effect Jan. 1.
Board Chairman Scott Hente, who also serves as council president, said he’s never been a fan of mandatory watering restrictions and that the tiered pricing plan was meant to eliminate the need for such restrictions.
“I think we have the processes in place to use the market system to implement the (water) conservation. In other words, we tell people, ‘If you’re going to use a whole lot more, then you’re going to pay a whole lot more,’” he said.
Still, Hente said he recognized the situation is serious.
“Hopefully, all of this will be for naught,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll start snowing, and we won’t have to have this problem. But I think it’s prudent for us to at least plan.”
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