Open house for Colorado Springs' new SDS pipeline draws 1,200
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Kids learn how to make snow during a celebration of SDS and water at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant on Saturday, July 23, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

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More than 1,200 people endured 90-degree temperatures Saturday in eastern Colorado Springs to learn more about Colorado Springs Utilities' new Southern Delivery System.

During the SDS Waterfest at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant on Marksheffel Road, kids and adults interacted with community volunteers at hands-on educational booths. And most of those on hand were treated to a guided tour of the state-of-the art facility.

"What I liked most was seeing how the water goes from dirty to clean and how it goes through the system," said 11-year-old Dawson Schara, who was at the event with his 10-year-old brother Joshua and his mom and dad, Cathy and David Schara.

The Scharas had just completed the tour of the facility and watched as CSU Chief Executive Officer Jerry Forte, Colorado Springs City Council members Tom Strand and Larry Bagley, and the plant's namesake and former CSU executive Ed Bailey dedicated a time capsule to be buried at the plant. Forte said people from around Colorado Springs had donated items for the capsule as a "snapshot of 2016."

David Schara, 42, said he is a Colorado Springs native and has watched as CSU and city officials spent more than 20 years planning the Southern Delivery System which began piping water north out of Pueblo Reservoir in late April.

"It's much needed," David Schara said. "As the city grows, they had to do something."

David Schara said he and others have been skeptical over the years since CSU introduced the SDS in the Colorado Springs Water Plan of 1996. According to Schara, the biggest concern was about the capacity of Pueblo Reservoir, which he said has been "pretty low at times."

The Southern Delivery System cost $825 million. Forte said that presently the SDS takes care of about 5 percent of the Colorado Springs Utilities customers and produces about 5 million gallons of water each day.

During Saturday's event, CSU handed out free water bottles and had refill stations throughout the event where visitors could rehydrate with water from the Pueblo Reservoir. The hands-on exhibits allowed kids to make snow, touch a cloud, shoot water from a fire hose, and learn more about how CSU uses water supplied by the SDS.

After the time capsule dedication, CSU invited all those at the plant Saturday to gather on the lawn for a large group photo to add to the capsule.

Forte said the Waterfest was designed to thank customers "for their patience" over the last couple of decades while the SDS became reality.

"Our citizen-owners have come out to see what we've been talking about for the last 20 years," Forte said. "It's just a fun day."

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