With the simple click of a button Manitou Springs’ new hydropower system, designed to generate electricity using the power of water, has now come to life.

City leaders gathered at the Manitou Springs water treatment plant Thursday afternoon to celebrate the culmination of the two-year project, which they lauded as a “victory” in the city’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

Water piped from the Manitou Reservoir into the city’s water treatment plant will now power Manitou Springs with clean, renewable energy through a new automated system developed by New York City-based renewable energy company Rentricity Inc., city officials said.

“Now we can provide water to residents and generate power at the same time,” Manitou Springs Mayor John Graham said Thursday.

Water delivered from the Manitou Reservoir is piped into the water treatment plant at about 250 pounds per square inch, city engineer Dole Grebenik said, too high to adequately manage. Traditionally, he said, the water treatment plant has used pressure reduction valves — hydraulic valves that maintain pre-set ranges of pressure — to lower the water pressure. In the new system, that high-pressure water turns a hydro turbine to reduce water pressure to about 16 psi and simultaneously generate electricity, according to a city press release.

In the summer, when water usage is at its highest, the water treatment plant will be 100% self-sustaining, city officials said.

At its peak the system can generate about 45 to 50 kilowatts of electricity per hour, Grebenik said. The average household uses about 28.9 kilowatt-hours a day.

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“So, in 30 minutes, the hydropower system can generate enough electricity for one house for one day,” Grebenik said.

Any remaining energy not generated by the new system will be generated by solar panels built outside the city by Colorado Springs-based SunShare, the release said. Since 2014 Manitou Springs has purchased all its electricity for city-owned facilities from the solar garden.

The vision for a renewable energy source was first touted about 30 years ago, Graham said, when former councilman Bill Koerner suggested the city install new infrastructure to generate clean energy. Though a few decades passed before that vision became a reality, Graham applauded it as a win for the environment.

“Our environment is changing. It’s under stress and it’s challenged, and we need to address it,” he said.

It's also a win for the city's coffers. Electricity generated by the new system means the city will save significantly on energy costs and it can use those savings to fund other services or projects, Grebenik said.

Manitou Springs will use its initial cost savings to repay a $273,000 weather conservation loan from the state which financed the project, he said.


Breeanna Jent covers Colorado Springs City Hall. She has previously covered El Paso County government and worked as the editorial assistant for the Pikes Peak Newspapers. She joined their sister paper, The Gazette, in 2020.