Ute Water District to raises its rates from $15 to $17

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The largest water provider in the Grand Valley will join the other large providers in bumping rates in 2013, but Ute Water Conservancy District is devoting the revenue to buying water.

Ute, which serves a population of 80,000 people with water stored on Grand Mesa, will raise its base rate from $15 to $17 for 3,000 gallons. Customers who use more water will see a 10-cent increase in each of the usage tiers.

The additional revenue will be devoted to preparing the district for a forecast in which the population more than doubles to 197,000 people by 2045.

Ute will use the new revenue to buy water from Ruedi Reservoir, which feeds the Fryingpan River.

The purchase of 12,000 acre feet of water annually from Ruedi, which is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, will do double duty, both to help Ute prepare for population growth and to shore up supplies in the event of another drought next year, Ute spokesman Joe Burtard said.

The purchase, which is the largest single water purchase ever by the 56-year-old district, will cost roughly $15.5 million and go a little more than halfway toward preparing the district to supply 197,000 people, Burtard said.

Ute expects to need 21,400 acre feet of additional supply by 2045. The Ruedi purchase leaves 9,400 acre feet remaining to be acquired and Ute hopes to close that gap by enlarging reservoirs on Grand Mesa, Burtard said.

Ute Water is working to enlarge existing Monument Reservoir No. 1 by 4,700 acre feet and Hunter Reservoir by 1,300 acre feet, Burtard said.

The district has yet to decide what other measures it will take to obtain the remaining 3,000 acre feet of water, Burtard said.

An acre-foot of water is the volume needed to cover one acre one foot deep and is frequently considered to be equal to the water usage of one suburban household per year, though conservation measures can reduce residential use to a quarter of an acre foot per year.

Recreation and endangered fish also will benefit from the purchase, as additional water will flow out of Ruedi above Basalt, down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork and then into the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs, Burtard said.

Ute Water has a Colorado River pump station which can be used in an emergency and will have to be enlarged for regular use, Burtard said.

Ute will pay $850,000 to the Bureau of Reclamation for each of the next two years and will pay the remainder of the purchase with cash and financing, Burtard said.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District also is purchasing Ruedi water from the Bureau of Reclamation. The River District is buying 4,500 acre feet of water.

Purchases by Ute and the River District, as well as others, ensure that water from Ruedi, which was built with federal money, won’t revert to federal ownership, River District spokesman Chris Treese said.

2019 is the end of the 40-year repayment for Ruedi, which was built with federal funding as compensatory Western Slope storage for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.

If arrangements weren’t made in time, the federal government could choose what would happen to the water stored behind Ruedi for which there was no purchase contract, Treese said.


COMMENTS

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3 years ago the base rate was $11. This represents a 55% increase during the period of the Great Recession. Really!

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