Time not right for Silt Mesa water system, research shows

SILT — A proposed domestic water system for an area facing natural gas development is too costly to be paid for by homeowners and other funding sources, according to survey results and other findings.

The Schmueser Gordon Meyer, Inc., engineering firm, working on behalf of the Silt Water Conservancy District, estimates that such a system could cost as much as $26 million. Even if the 800 or so homeowners it would serve were willing to pay $15,000 tap fees — which they don’t seem to be — that could leave a $14 million shortfall to try to fill.

The district has been looking into the issue because of concerns about existing well-water quality and quantity issues on Silt Mesa, north of Silt. About a fifth of the 220 homeowners who responded to a survey by SGM said they haul water to meet their domestic needs.

Kelly Lyon, a district board member, said a domestic system also would have addressed concerns about potential impacts of proposed natural gas development on well water on Silt Mesa.

“In my mind that would have been a real side benefit,” Lyon said.

Antero Resources has drilled several exploratory wells on Silt Mesa and has been pursuing a drilling program there, something that is on hold until at least next year.

Lyon said energy companies including Antero were asked but did not contribute to the cost of the district’s water system study.

Lyon said it may have been a bad time for the district to consider the water system.

“People didn’t have the money for water taps, it appeared,” he said.

SGM’s survey found that 24 percent of respondents are interested in a water system, and 36 percent might be interested in it. A follow-up survey by the district itself found that 54 percent want a system, and 10 percent may want one. But 85 percent who responded to the first survey said they preferred to spend $5,000 to $10,000 for a tap fee, rather than a larger amount.

Lyon said the district is interested in pursuing the possible installation of hydroelectric facilities powered by irrigation water. Revenue from power generation might help pay for a domestic water system later, with the possibility of the system being phased in rather than built all at once.


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