Recently, City Council passed a controversial water ordinance on a 5-4 vote. Those of us who voted against this questionable ordinance were characterized in a Gazette Guest Opinion piece as lacking courage, being distracted by noise, unable to focus on the public interest, and not voting to do the right thing.
As a former Green Beret and Iraq War Veteran I think I am okay on the courage part. I will also vouch for my three colleagues, two of whom are also military veterans. In fact they are the three longest serving members of Council. Perhaps it was their years of experience that led them to be suspicious of an ordinance that came about in such a strange way.
The Gazette ran a front page article on January 22nd reporting that this ordinance originated in a threat by Norwood Development Group, that they would attempt to change our City’s Charter to restrict annexations. Norwood owns approximately 80% of all remaining developable land inside our city boundaries. Without further annexations into Colorado Springs that will increase to nearly 100% within 5 years.
In response to this threat our Mayor began lobbying CSU and City Council for an ordinance that would essentially achieve Norwood’s goal – through a slightly different method. Perhaps you can see why, from the beginning, some of us were suspicious of whose interests were being advanced with this ordinance.
Many citizens are understandably concerned about the reliability of our water supply and are concerned that very soon we may essentially “run out” of water. For that reason you may feel that we had to do something fast and at least this was something. While this is understandable among citizens who are not constantly focused on these issues, our city leaders should know better.
We are not about to run out of water. Colorado Springs Utilities has 2.6 years worth of water stored in reservoirs in the mountains. If we were completely cut off from the Colorado River and our other sources we could continue at current usage for 2.6 years.
Colorado Springs’ water usage is the same now as it was 30 years ago – about 72,000 acre feet/yr. The growth we have experienced in our city has not resulted in higher amounts of water usage. We use water more wisely now. That trend will continue. Growth does not mean we run out of water.
The state of Colorado is entitled to 3.9 Million Acre Feet (MAF) annually from the Colorado River. Our highest use ever was 2.6 MAF in 2011. California, Arizona, and Nevada are using more water than they are entitled to. Their overuse, together with the current drought, is the cause of dropping water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
87% of water use in Colorado is agricultural. We will not be able to significantly impact Colorado River water flows by restricting annexations to a few cities along the front range.
The four of us knew we had time to slow down and do this right.
Contrary to what was stated in the previous Opinion piece, it actually doesn’t take much courage to go along with what the “strong mayor” is recommending Council approve. That is the easy way. The hard way, the way that requires courage, is for Council to say “Hold on, we need to look into this”. That is what the four of us were asking for.
It is important to listen to the “noise” of concerned citizens, who have entrusted City Council to act on their behalf, especially when the Council has the power to approve an ordinance that may create a monopoly in our city.
City Council should never rush to approve an ordinance that is being demanded by a powerful party. Council must “focus on the public interest” with proven facts, and not fears. It may turn out that one developer’s interests are coincidentally in exact alignment with what is best for Colorado Springs, but Council better look closely and be sure.
And finally, it was necessary to “do the right thing” by voting against a water ordinance whose impact on the cost of housing, increased density throughout our city, quality of life, and development surrounding Colorado Springs, has not been studied and is not understood.
Colorado Springs City Councilman
Well said, Mr. Donelson. Neither the Gazette nor Hiz honor are “As they were” years ago. NORWOOD has become the elephant in the room, driving too many political decisions.
Some perspective for your consideration. No one is guaranteed water service by being annexed. Only after the Water Development Charge is paid at the time of Building Permit application does the new customer have a “right” to Water Service. And that service to that new customer, as with all other customers, can be restricted when water shortages result in Water Restrictions that are controlled by conservation programs that have been in force for quite a few years. So, in effect, no one has any guarantee of unrestricted water, annexed or not, built on or not. What the new Ordinance changes, is the pecking order for who can compete for the remaining building permits that can be supplied by the then current surplus in developed water supplies.
Retired CSU Senior Water Resources Engineer
It seems the unrestricted development in COS keeps demanding more water which all of the residents of the city have to pay for over and over. The 30 inch line from the Pueblo Reservoir (Arkansas River) was just finished in the last year and the first summer they put us on water rationing and they probably will be wanting more water and another project again. How many people from California do we have to or want to accommodate to increase all of the developers bank accounts??
As for the Martin Drake power plant I thought they would convert it to natural gas not tear it down and build more development. Where are they getting the electricity from now that Martin Drake is off line, duh!!
The multi multi unit developments at Chapel Hills Mall and Fillmore & Centennial Blvd are just great big eye sores that the existing city residents have to foot the bill and inconvenience for. This used to be a nice place to live. Duh!!