Utilities might fight drought with fees, conservation [Gazette, The (CO)]
(Gazette, The (CO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) As an ongoing drought grips the Pikes Peak region, Colorado Springs Utilities is seeing its reservoir storage levels approach 2002 numbers, when the area was hit by a dry spell.
Colorado Springs' water storage system encompasses 25 reservoirs in various parts of the state. On average, the system is 65 percent full.
But after a year that was the hottest and fourth driest on record, coupled with increased water usage, the system at the end of December was at 48 percent. In 2002, reservoir storage levels dropped to 46 percent.
"The mountains look great and it's snowing today, but long-term, it's just not making the difference we would like to see," Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said Monday. "It looks real pretty. It just isn't doing what it should do for us."
Weather forecasts predict above-average temperatures and below- average precipitation across the state for the next three months, according to Springs Utilities.
The city-owned utility will give the Utilities Board another update on the water situation and its drought response plans Wednesday. The board, which is made up of the City Council, is scheduled to take action in February.
Two days of outdoor watering restrictions a week is "very realistic," Lehermeier said.
The board also may be asked to consider a water rate increase and changing its pricing structure to encourage conservation by charging customers who use more water a higher rate.
"We can't make the final decision. Council has to. But it's not looking entirely favorable," Lehermeier said. "We have to rebuild the water supply system."
Lehermeier said the strategy includes an extensive communications campaign to educate the community. Ratepayers used about 78.3 million gallons of water a day in 2012, about 7.6 percent more than in 2011.
The board meets at 1 p.m. on the fifth floor in the south tower of the Plaza of the Rockies, 121 S. Tejon St. The meeting is open to the public.
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