Glenwood Springs council reviewing water, sewer rate increases to meet infrastructure needs
Some of the work related to Grizzly Creek Fire impacts
Infrastructure improvements associated with Glenwood Springs waterworks system brought on in part by last summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire will likely mean multiple years of increasing water and sewer rates for customers.
In 2020, the city conducted a water and wastewater rate study, which identified several “critical infrastructure needs” over the next 10 years totaling about $36 million.
City council has been reviewing and will decide on a recommended tiered water and wastewater rate increase over those 10 years. It expects to make a decision this spring.
Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matthew Langhorst presented two rate increase options at a Jan. 21 City Council work session.
Option 1 would increase rates 26.2% this year, followed by 8% for three years, then 7% in 2025 and 5% from 2026 to 2030.
The second option has a higher initial rate increase for this year at 36.8%, followed by 5% for years 2022 through 2030.
“Option 1 is less expensive for customers until year 2023, then utility billing costs would actually increase over Option 2 for the remainder of time,” Langhorst explained.
Both options also include standard Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustments annually after 2030. Historically, the CPI has ranged between 1% and 4%.
Langhorst also presented a comparison of what an average user’s monthly bill would look like under both options in year one, assuming different gallon usage.
The average user consuming 5,000 gallons of water currently has an estimated bill of $92. Under Option 1, that would increase to $113. Option 2 would be slightly higher at $122.
Langhorst said that 5,000 gallons of water is equivalent to what a medium-sized home with some landscaping would consume. “Compared regionally, the increased rates are in line with other jurisdictions,” he said.
Some of the identified capital projects are related to the Grizzly Creek Fire, which severely impacted the city’s main No Name and Grizzly Creek water supplies. Others are due to routine replacement of aging infrastructure.
“Grizzly Creek Fire projects account for 18% of the current funding needs,” the city states in a news release announcing the pending water and sewer rate decisions.
“Those critical public works projects will protect the Red Mountain Water Plant from ash, debris and degradation and establish a needed secondary drinking water supply to serve the region,” according to the release. “This will ensure that residents have access to a clean and stable water source into the future.”
City water rates have remained the same since 2015 when the last rate increases were imposed.
However, current utility revenue won’t be enough to cover the cost for the infrastructure improvements, “some of which are immediately necessary to ensure safe and reliable service,” the release states.
Other capital needs include replacement or rehabilitation of equipment and additional storage capacity for firefighting capabilities, city officials said.
Glenwood Springs operates a municipal water supply system that supplies drinking water to more than 10,000 residents. The city obtains its drinking water from three surface water intakes in the Colorado River watershed.
“The fire has made the No Name water diversion potentially unreliable, thus forcing the city to decide on a case-by-case basis during rain events if they should pump water from the backup Roaring Fork pump station,” according to the release.
“However, the Roaring Fork River pump station is meant to serve only as a temporary emergency backup and was not designed to continuously supply reliable drinking water to the people of Glenwood Springs. The city anticipated the need for immediate action following the Grizzly Creek Fire to reduce erosion and prevent damage from flooding within the watershed, as well as long-term solutions to build resilient infrastructure to mitigate future hazards.”
The work session provided a preliminary overview of funding options. Council is tentatively set to review and make a decision about rates sometime this spring, and will also discuss a possible low-income assistance program, according to the city’s release.
The City Council work session can be viewed on the city of Glenwood Springs YouTube page.
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.