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Facing critical infrastructure needs and capital costs over the next 10 years, City Council is reviewing and will decide on water and wastewater rate increases over the next 10 years. City Council anticipates making a decision in the Spring of 2021.
City of Glenwood Springs 101 West 8th Street Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
City of Glenwood Springs Reviews Increasing Water Usage Rates Related to Infrastructure Needs.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO – The City of Glenwood Springs conducted a Water and Wastewater Rate Study in 2020. Facing critical infrastructure needs and capital costs over the next 10 years totaling approximately $36 million, City Council is reviewing and will decide on recommended water and wastewater rate increases over the next 10 years. City Council anticipates making a decision in the Spring of 2021.
The list of capital projects for Water and Wastewater include projects related to the Grizzly Creek Fire. Grizzly Creek Fire projects account for 18% of the current funding needs. 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. This will ensure that residents have access to a clean and stable water source into the future.
The City water rates have remained the same since 2015 when the City last increased rates. Current utility revenue will not cover the cost for critical infrastructure improvements, some of which are immediately necessary to ensure safe and reliable service. At present the cost of capital is at an all-time low which would allow the City to keep rising costs down. Other capital needs primarily include replacement or rehabilitation of utility assets reaching the end of their service lives and additional storage capacity for firefighting capabilities.
The City operates a community water supply system that supplies drinking water to over 10,000 residents and 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 of Glenwood Springs to decide on a case-by-case basis during rain events if they should pump water from the backup Roaring Fork Pump Station. 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.
Matthew Langhorst, Public Works Director, presented to City Council at a work session on January 21, 2021. The presentation included two options for water and wastewater rate increases going forward over the next 10 years. Option 1 includes a more gradual approach including 26.2% for 2021, followed by 8% for three years, 7% in 2025, and finally 5% from 2026 to 2030. The second option has a higher initial rate increase in 2021 at 36.8%, followed by 5% for years 2022 through 2030. Option1 is less expensive for Customers until year 2023, then utility billing costs would actually increase over Option 2 for the remainder of time. Both options include standard Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustments annually after 2030. Historically the CPI has ranged between 1% and 4%.
Mr. Langhorst also presented a comparison of what an average user’s monthly bill would look like under both options in year 1 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. For reference, 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.
The work session was preliminary an overview of funding options. Council is tentatively set to review and make a decision about rates in the spring of 2021. Included in that review will be the possibility for Council to create a Low-Income Assistance Program for individuals who may experience undue financial hardship due to increases. The program could be funded though General Fund revenue.
The entire work session can be viewed on the City of Glenwood Springs YouTube page.