10.0 WATER AND WASTEWATER FACILITIES AND SERVICES
- Most residents living
in urban density areas of the unincorporated County receive their
water and wastewater service from one of approximately twenty
five special districts.
In contrast, the majority of rural residential and rural areas
are served by individual wells and septic systems. Other water
and wastewater service arrangements in the County include military
facilities, private companies, associations and special arrangements
- The State of Colorado
through the State Engineers Office regulates the number
and location of wells but does not require testing or treatment
of the water taken from the nearly 10,000 individual residential
and small commercial wells in El Paso County. Central water providers
and community water systems are required to periodically test
and, if necessary, treat their water prior to distribution. Treatment
methods may include filtration followed by chlorination, and
may involve additional steps such as mixing and iron removal.
Subdivisions of more than four lots are required to meet water
quality standards as set forth in the Land Development Code.
- The County Health Department
requires permits for an Individual
Sewage Disposal System (ISD). In lower density areas, treatment
of wastewater is usually handled on-site. Most of the Countys
approximately 12,000 ISDS are septic systems in which wastewater
is given primary anaerobic
treatment in a buried concrete tank before being distributed
to a leach field through a series of perforated pipes and gravel
for final treatment through contact with the soil. For leach
fields to function properly, unsaturated and permeable
soil conditions must be present.
- The adequacy of water
and wastewater systems and service is a key consideration in
the Countys subdivision requirements and both centralized
water and wastewater services are regulated by the State. Additionally,
the County participates in a federally-mandated program of wastewater
facility planning, coordinated through the Pikes Peak Area Council
- Ordinarily, potable water
supplies are located uphill from development and utilize storage
facilities to provide water pressure. Conversely, the piping
which collects wastewater typically runs downhill to treatment
plants located downstream from the areas served.
- The central wastewater
treatment plants which serve higher-density areas use a variety
of technologies. Most treatment facilities use a series of settlement
basins where wastes are biologically broken down and chemically
treated prior to discharge back into a stream or water supply.
Although treated waste (effluent)
is normally discharged into streams, it may also be held in non-discharging
basins or applied directly to the land. The sludge, which is
a by-product of wastewater treatment, may be disposed of in a
variety of ways, including land filling or applied to land used
for agricultural purposes.
- Water and wastewater treatment
are highly regulated and contaminants, if present, can be easily
detected. This however, is not the case with non-point
source pollution . The County is in compliance with EPA (Environmental
Protection Agency) monitoring requirements; however, more monitoring
is necessary to determine the actual source of contamination.
- ISSUE 10.1 Recognize
the Unique Importance of Water and Wastewater Service
- Physical, economic, environmental,
regulatory and policy factors associated with water and wastewater
services and facilities often have a critical influence on the
location, mix and density of land use. The adage that "growth
follows the pipe" is particularly germane to water and wastewater
- Although central water
systems have effectively served areas with densities as low as
one dwelling unit per five acres, their economics encourage higher
densities in most cases. Conversely, as discussed in more detail
in Section 6.0 Growth and Land Use, the State
of Colorados well-permitting regulations effectively limit
the densities of areas not served by central systems. County
wastewater regulations strictly limit the creation of any new
lots of less than 2.5 acres not served by central sewer systems.
It should also be noted that a combination of stringent design,
treatment, testing, and operation requirements makes it difficult
to economically build small central systems. This is especially
true with wastewater treatment plants. As a general rule, the
costs for service are higher with smaller as opposed to larger
central water and wastewater systems.
- Goal 10.1 Recognize the unique importance
of water and wastewater service provision in the location, type
and density of land use.
- Policy 10.1.1
- Address the implications
of water and wastewater service availability as one of the key
initial considerations in the development and revision of Small
- Policy 10.1.2
- Carefully consider the
impacts that proposed new developments will have on the viability
of existing and proposed water and wastewater systems.
- Policy 10.1.3
- Consider, where feasible,
the use of larger State-permitted septic systems (those over
2,000 gallons per day) as an alternative to the use of individual
or smaller central systems for developments in outlying areas.
- Policy 10.1.4
- Encourage the appropriate
use of sewage lift stations
connected to an interim wastewater treatment facility as a means
of serving areas which temporarily are unable to access central
- Policy 10.1.5
- Encourage, when feasible,
interconnection to regional wastewater systems.
- Policy 10.1.6
- Encourage sewage treatment
service providers to manage wastewater flows within the same
drainage basin where the flows are generated if possible.
- ISSUE 10.2 Coordinate
planning and management
- The County has a well-developed
set of regulations which addresses the requirements for water
and wastewater service for proposed new developments, however,
because the County is not in the business of directly providing
these services, regional coordination often poses a challenge.
- Current regulations do
not necessarily apply to upgrading existing inadequate water
and wastewater systems in developed areas. Problems associated
with system upgrades and/or replacement generally include very
limited options which may not be economically feasible.
- Regional planning among
wastewater service providers is formalized through the federally-mandated
"208" Water Quality Management process. El Paso
County Water Authority was recently formed to coordinate water
resource planning, although not all water providers have joined.
- Goal 10.2 Promote planning and management approaches
which protect the integrity of the Countys water and wastewater
systems and ensure that the levels of water and wastewater service
are adequate to meet the needs of existing and future County
- Policy 10.2.1
- Encourage regional
approaches to planning for water supply and wastewater treatment.
- Policy 10.2.2
- Carefully consider
the availability of water and wastewater services prior to approving
- Policy 10.2.3
- Promote cooperative
ventures such as water authorities which maximize water supply
options and economies through the pooling of resources.
- Policy 10.2.4
- Encourage the linking
of systems among water providers in order to provide the highest
assurance of available service.
- Policy 10.2.5
- Allow for the use
of shared wells only if arrangements for ownership and maintenance
are formalized and clearly communicated to all affected parties
(prior to development or sale of property).
- Policy 10.2.6
- Encourage the design
and use of central water delivery systems which meet or exceed
industry standards for parameters such as treatment, back-up
systems, fire flow, pressure, looping and maintenance.
- Policy 10.2.7
- Develop and implement
County-wide standards that apply both to individual and community
water and wastewater systems.
- Policy 10.2.8
- Consider the impact
that land use patterns and densities will have on the ability
to provide effective centralized water and sewer services.
- ISSUE 10.3 Address
Environmental and Health Concerns
- Environmental and
public health concerns are fundamental factors in the design
and operation of water and wastewater systems; however, addressing
these needs often requires choices to be made between environmental
concerns and the need to provide community services. For example,
water or wastewater treatment plants which are meant to provide
a regional public benefit may have adverse environmental impacts
and devalue surrounding properties. Water withdrawals or discharges
may also have broader impacts on natural ecosystems. While the
specific impacts of individual well and septic facilities may
be minimal, their cumulative environmental and health effects
may be more significant. Cumulative impacts are an especially
significant issue with non-point
source pollution from septic systems and other land uses,
such as streets, parking lots, and lawns. New federal regulations
are requiring some liquid wastes from agricultural operations
to be treated as point-source wastewater. Due to the difficulty
of identifying the causes of non-point
source pollution, addressing clean up is complicated, and
even the current array of water and wastewater testing and treatment
systems and technologies will not completely address the more
subtle but pernicious impact of non-point
source pollution. Finally, the water quality in individual
wells is not routinely tested because this practice would be
cost-prohibitive for the County or residents.
- Goal 10.3 Design and operate water and wastewater
treatment, distribution and collection facilities in an environmentally
- Policy 10.3.1
- Coordinate the
siting of major wastewater treatment facilities through the 208
management process early in the planning and development process.
- Policy 10.3.2
- Adequately buffer
new wastewater treatment facilities from surrounding development,
and allow sufficient areas for their expansion.
- Policy 10.3.3
- Reduce the adverse
visual impacts of water storage tanks and other facilities through
a combination of careful site selection, design, screening and
use of natural colors.
- Policy 10.3.4
- Minimize and mitigate
the disruption of riparian areas caused by sewer lines which
are located within stream corridors.
- Policy 10.3.5
- Promote monitoring
and assessment techniques to identify critical sources of non-point source pollution within
- Policy 10.3.6
- Encourage land
use approaches, mitigation techniques and Best
Management Practices that reduce non-point
source pollution such as runoff from roads, parking lots
and lawn chemicals.
- Policy 10.3.7
- Provide educational
and informational programs which promote the wise use of water
and the safe and effective disposal of wastewater.
- Policy 10.3.8
- Encourage reuse
of non-potable water for irrigation where allowed by augmentation
- Policy 10.3.9
- Encourage the development
and implementation arrangements for regularly scheduled septic
system inspection and maintenance.
- Note: See corresponding Sections:
Section 3.0 Water Resources, Section 6.0 Growth and Land Use,
Section 11.0 Drainage and Flood Protection, and Section 12.0
Other Utilities and Services.