City officials discuss potential water needs for westward expansion
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night got a crash course on the city’s water infrastructure and how much money it might take to water a westward expansion.
As developers eye a potential series of new neighborhoods that would be annexed in west Steamboat Springs, some community members have raised the availability of water as an issue.
Jon Snyder, the city’s water collection and distribution superintendent, told the council the Elk River holds the greatest opportunity to both bolster the redundancy of the city’s water supply and accommodate the build out of new neighborhoods within Steamboat’s urban growth boundary.
Snyder said pipes to new developments in west Steamboat would be projected to go dry at a buildout level of 20 to 30 percent with the city’s current water infrastructure.
“The best (information) I can offer you is we’re looking at $15 million to $20 million in infrastructure costs on the Elk River to make the west Steamboat area expansion a reality,” Snyder said.
He said cost includes everything except storage on the Elk. It also does not address wastewater.
Under city rules, developers who seek an annexation must either bring water rights to the table or, at council’s discretion, pay a fee in lieu for a water supply.
Previous estimates on tapping into the city’s water rights on the Elk, which total 8 cubic feet per second, and bringing it into the city’s water supply have totaled as much as $27.4 million.
Asked by the council how that estimate had gone down in recent years, Snyder said city officials have been looking into alternatives to purchasing land and establishing a reservoir.
He suggested storing water in Steamboat Lake could be one path.
The city has had some initial conversations with Colorado Parks and Wildlife about that possibility.
Snyder’s comments came at the end of a detailed presentation he and city water resources manager Kelly Romero-Heaney gave about the city’s water infrastructure and water rights portfolio.
Council members had several questions when city officials displayed a map showing just how vulnerable the city’s water supply would be in the event a major wildfire struck near Fish Creek Reservoir.
The council’s discussion came on the same day the city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, said its water supply might be impacted by a large wildfire burning just a few miles north of Routt County.
Steamboat currently lacks redundancies that would help the city sustain itself for a long period of time if its main source of water was severely impacted by a wildfire, Snyder said.
“We would have to enact very strict watering restrictions such that the only water use allowed was indoor,” Snyder said.
Even with those restrictions, Snyder wasn’t sure how many weeks the city could provide an adequate level of water in the event the Fish Creek plant went offline.
Snyder also discussed the city’s current water usage.
He said on peak days in the winter (think Christmas week), the city’s water district uses about 1.1 million gallons per day.
The usage triples to about 3.3 million gallons a day on peak days in the summer, when lawns are being watered.
That spike in usage comes despite there being fewer people in town.
“Lawn irrigation trumps everything,” Snyder said.
Learn more about the city’s water plans in the presentation below.
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