For the second time in eight months, the Southern Delivery System is providing water to Pueblo West after a pipeline break, help that "could mean the difference between life and death," in the words of one Pueblo West official.
The repeat bailout for those 35,000 residents comes even as Pueblo County rethinks the critical 1041 permit granted to Colorado Springs Utilities to pump Arkansas River water from the Pueblo Reservoir.
The massive water project is scheduled to start pumping 5 million gallons of water a day on April 27 to Pueblo West, Colorado Springs, Fountain and Security.
As Pueblo County negotiates with the City of Colorado Springs for more stormwater projects to protect it from Fountain Creek surges, using the 1041 permit as its bargaining chip, the Pueblo West Metro District's recurring reliance on SDS underscores the benefit of redundant water systems.
"This is the second time SDS has stepped in to supply water to Pueblo West when there was a problem, and I just think it evidences the fact that, No. 1, SDS is important not only to Colorado Springs, but also to other water users, including Pueblo West," said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
"And we have evidenced a wholly cooperative attitude to make sure our partner in this project continues to have uninterrupted water delivery," Suthers said. "We are trying to be as cooperative as we can. We think we're all in this together, and we hope we get reciprocal cooperation coming back the other way."
Pueblo County commission Chairwoman Liane "Buffie" McFadyen said, "The (system) redundancy has always been Pueblo West's mantra as to why they entered the agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities on SDS, and it's tangibly being demonstrated right in front of us.
"It's a huge concern having municipal drinking water as well as water to fight fires," McFadyen said, especially because 11,000 households and some commercial customers depend on the Metro District for water.
Asked how county negotiations are proceeding with Colorado Springs for Fountain Creek stormwater projects, McFadyen said, "Very thorough. And comprehensive. I can say we hope we won't go to court (with the city), but it's not something we would rule out."
Requests for comment were not returned by key Metro District leaders: Manager Darrin Tangeman, Utilities Manager Scott Eilert and board member Jerry Martin.
But Metro District officials did join an emergency conference call with the county, other SDS partners and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation late last week to ensure that Pueblo West could tap into the SDS North Outlet Works and continue delivering water with no disruptions over the weekend.
"I just think it's wonderful that Pueblo West has the opportunity to back up its systems," said John Fredell, SDS project manager. "We've said all along there are three reasons for SDS: growth in all our communities, to back up our systems and for security, staving off water shortages."
SDS also allows the partners to take down their systems for repairs while still getting water, Fredell said. Although an agreement allows Pueblo West to use the North Outlet Works for 30 days, SDS will provide "whatever it is they need," he added. "They may have to rebuild that whole pipe under the (Arkansas) river."
SDS also provided water to Pueblo West in July after a pipeline crack was found in its South Outlet Works on the other end of the Pueblo Reservoir dam.
"We aren't just talking drinking water and sprinklers for lawn maintenance," Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta told the Pueblo Chieftain at the time.
"A rupture of that single supply line would mean no water to fight fire. Having a redundant water supply in a crisis could mean the difference between life and death," said Caserta, then the Metro District's interim director.
Contact Billie Stanton Anleu: 636-0371