News Feature | April 2, 2014

Will All Colorado Residents Finally Have Safe Drinking Water?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Many residents of southeastern Colorado lack access to safe drinking water, but that could change as the result of a major project approved by the federal government late last month. 

The effort is part of the larger Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (Fry-Ark), "a water delivery system designed and built to provide clean water for agricultural, municipal, and industrial use across southeastern Colorado," the Interior Department said in its recent decision on the Arkansas Valley Conduit. 

“It’s become clear that this will help, not only with drinking water, but at the other end with wastewater quality as well,” Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and an advocate for the project, said in the Pueblo Chieftain.  

That Fry-Ark project was approved in 1962, but "one major component, the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC), has yet to be constructed," the recent federal decision said.  The conduit "has never been built due to lack of money," the Colorado Springs Independent reported

"The conduit will deliver fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. It is estimated to cost $400 million, which would be repaid partly through revenue from Fry-Ark contracts," the Chieftain reported. 

The route of the 227-mile pipeline will reach from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. "The chosen route includes initial treatment at the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock treatment plant and a pipeline that swings south of Pueblo near the Comanche power plant," the report said. 

"The conduit is designed to deliver higher quality water through the Arkansas Valley from the Pueblo Reservoir.  Southeastern Colorado communities are currently receiving water from the Arkansas River," High Plains Public Radio explained.  

What took so long? "Political wrangling delayed the record of decision and federal belt-tightening limited appropriations to about $2 million this year, rather than the $15 million the district hoped for," the Chieftain reported. 

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall welcomed the news. 

“Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” Bennet said. 

“[The] announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to completing this historic conduit that will benefit many future generations of Coloradans,” he said.

For more on government action, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Image credit: "Colorado Rockies," CThomasCaldwell © 2007, used under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license:

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