EL PASO COUNTY POLICY PLAN


 CHAPTER 1-B
 SECTION 3.0 WATER RESOURCES
BACKGROUND 
 
Large quantities of ground water are stored in the four primary aquifers of the Denver Basin (Table 3.1) which underlies much of the northeast to north-central region of the County. The amount of available water varies from location to location because of previous use, present rates of pumping activity and the permeability of the subsurface. Much of the water contained in the upper layers and outer boundaries within these formations is considered to be tributary to surface water sources. Generally this water is not available except when it is pumped from small exempt wells or if consumptive use is replaced through an augmentation plan. 
 
The State of Colorado, under C.R.S. 37-92-101, et. Seq., regulates the use and allocation of water. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources through its Division of Water Resources, is the agency responsible for administering water permits. The County, through its Health Department, monitors the location of wells. 
 
With the exception of Fort Carson and the Air Force Academy, most of the population of the unincorporated County rely upon local ground water resources for its water supply. Water service is provided to approximately 75,000 unincorporated residents through about two dozen central systems. About 25,000 unincorporated residents utilize individual or small shared wells. These individual wells are located predominantly in the northern half of the County. 
 
Ground water availability is sporadic and not proven to be fully dependable in the large areas of granite or tilted bedrock exposure which occur in western El Paso County. Residents living in the mountains generally obtain water from cracks in weathered portions of the Pikes Peak Granite. This supply is usually small and does not have high flow rate. It is also difficult to locate. An additional problem occurs when septic and leachfield systems fail, polluting the available ground water. 
 
Throughout the County, especially in the eastern and southern portions, alluvial deposits, located along stream channels are a significant source of ground water. In the southeast and some parts of the southern portion of the County the amount of water available is controlled by the location and thickness of Pierre Shale. In these areas dependable water is often only available at depths ranging from 2,000 to 4,500 feet. 
 
Nearly all the water which flows along El Paso County stream channels is owned by downstream water users. Only the City of Colorado Springs owns large amounts of surface water. Several water districts (Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District and the Gleneagle Water and Sanitation District) and incorporated cities (Palmer Lake, Manitou Springs and Fountain) have small surface water allocations. 
Table 3.1

General Water Aquifer Characteristics

AQUIFER NAME
TOP OF THE AQUIFER, 
AVERAGE*1 
BOTTOM OF THE AQUIFER, 
AVERAGE*1 
GENERAL 
SPEED OF DEPLETION*2 
WATER TREATMENT NECESSARY*3
Dawson Land surface 500 to 600 feet High Normally none
Denver 600 feet 1200 feet High to Moderate Rare
Arapahoe 1400 feet 2200 feet Moderate to Low Usually
Fox Hills 2100 to 2200 feet 2500 feet Low Sometimes
*1 All of the aquifers generally slope gently, <5deg, toward the north 
*2 Determined by the amount of pumping past and present and with future projections. 
*3 In most cases the amount of iron and manganese determines the need for treatment. 
 
3.1 Ensure long-Term water supplies
Options for development of additional supplies of surface water within El Paso County are extremely limited. These limitations are attributable to the area’s semi-arid climate combined with the fact that essentially all surface water in the County has been appropriated and is used by either Colorado Springs or downstream water rights holders. There may be some surface supply enhancement possibilities associated with re-use, retention, detention and additional storage of peak flows. 
 
Additional surface water capability depends on the ability to acquire additional water rights from outside the County and the ability to develop infrastructure to deliver water which, if available, would most likely come from the Western Slope. 
 
Recent efforts by both the City of Colorado Springs and the Denver Water Department to contain surface water for transport to Front Range Communities have met with considerable opposition from the mountain communities. 
In addition to the problem of localized resistance from the mountain communities, acquisition of water rights and the obligation for developing infrastructure for transporting water from the mountains to El Paso County and then storing it would be very costly. Options for transporting surface water would require considerable planning and action by the El Paso County Water Authority and/or the City of Colorado Springs. 
 
Sources of renewable alluvial ground water in the County are substantial, but these are limited to primarily the southern and central areas of the County. These sources are also fully appropriated, such that their availability is linked to priorities associated with surface water rights. Options are available to divert alluvial water from agricultural to municipal and other related uses. Drilling, pumping and treatment costs for alluvial water are relatively low; however, there may be concerns with local quality. 
 
Goal 3.1 Protect and enhance the quality, quantity and dependability of water supplies. 
 
Policy 3.1.1 
Support the development of environmentally sensitive and safely designed surface water impoundments if these serve to enhance local water supply or service capability. 
 
Policy 3.1.2 
Support enhanced monitoring of sources of surface and tributary ground water in the County. 
 
Policy 3.1.3 
Promote the development of methods which allow more effective monitoring of the adjudicated water rights in the County. 
 
Policy 3.1.4 
Encourage more systematic monitoring and reporting of water quality in individual wells. 
 
Policy 3.1.5 
Encourage systematic monitoring of known recharge areas and discourage land use patterns that interrupt the natural flow of surface and tributary ground water. 
 
Policy 3.1.6 
Support the systematic monitoring and careful administration of the bedrock aquifers to avoid over-allocation of groundwater. 
 
Policy 3.1.7 
Carefully analyze each new development’s proposed use of water. 
 
Policy 3.1.8 
Promote water supply systems and augmentation arrangements which maximize the effective use of near-surface ground water supplies without jeopardizing existing water rights or established wells. 
 
Policy 3.1.9 
Discourage the severance of all water rights from overlying properties unless an alternate water supply can be guaranteed. This supply should be adequate to support uses consistent with the adopted master plan for the area. 
 
Policy 3.1.10 
Encourage continued collection and analysis of data for the purpose of better determining the extent and availability of ground water in areas which do not overlie either the Denver Basin or a studied alluvial aquifer. 
 
3.2 ENCOURAGE COOPERATION
Within El Paso County there are four primary water entities: the El Paso County Water Authority, individual Water Districts, the City of Colorado Springs, and individual well owners. With limited exceptions, the City of Colorado Springs has traditionally provided water to only those areas within its municipal boundaries and to military installations. City participation in cooperative projects with other local water providers has also been limited. However, as Colorado Springs Utilities assumes more of a role as an independent enterprise, there may be opportunities for additional external service and/or joint supply and delivery ventures. 
 
The majority of the County’s total water supply is renewable surface water diverted from trans-mountain sources and the Arkansas River, primarily by the City of Colorado Springs. Supply and delivery systems have high fixed costs, extensive infrastructure, often complicated institutional arrangements and very long planning horizons. Importation of water from outside the County is only likely to be feasible if undertaken through a larger provider or by an association, such as a water authority. 
 
Goal 3.2 Encourage cooperative approaches in planning for the long term water supply throughout the County. 
 
Policy 3.2.1 
Support mutually beneficial arrangements among water providers and consumers to reduce cost and protect the County’s groundwater and environment. 
 
Policy 3.2.2 
Encourage formal agreements among water districts to mitigate potential water supply shortages among individual suppliers. 
 
Policy 3.2.3 
Support the creation of prudently considered rural water authorities and other mechanisms for the purpose of providing service to rural areas with limited or sporadic water supplies. 
 
Policy 3.2.4 
Periodically review the overall water supply situation in the County by convening a publicly accountable group, such as the 1995-1997 Water Resources Study Commission, or requesting such review by the El Paso County Water Authority. 
 
3.3 PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS
Water infrastructure projects, such as reservoirs, pipelines and treatment plants, can be anticipated to have site-specific land use impacts. In particular, many of the water facilities which serve municipal residents are located in unincorporated areas. Patterns of water use also have wider environmental impacts related to modified streams and ground water flow dynamics. 
 
Goal 3.3 Promote awareness of environmental issues associated with water use. 
 
Policy 3.3.1 
Encourage water and wastewater infrastructure projects to be sited and designed in a manner which promotes compatibility with adjoining uses, a reasonable mitigation of any adverse visibility and other environmental impacts. 
 
Policy 3.3.2 
Consider the water requirements for natural areas adjacent to proposed developments. 
 
Policy 3.3.3 
Support the systematic and effective monitoring for sources of point and non-point source pollutants to surface water. 
 
Policy 3.3.4 
Implement appropriate measures to protect and/or mitigate effects of point and non-point sources of pollution to surface water. 
 
Policy 3.3.5 
Regulate or restrict uses that are proven to contribute to contamination of water supplies. 
 
Policy 3.3.6 
Evaluate the consequences to surface water from new development including run off of natural soils, as well as chemical compounds that may result from the proposed uses including pesticides, herbicides and hydrocarbons. 
 
Policy 3.3.7 
Discourage the imprudent use of non-renewable groundwater. Anticipate the potential environmental impacts resulting from developing a delivery system for surface water supply and mitigate, to the degree possible, the negative impacts in the initial planning phase. 
 
Policy 3.3.8 
Consider and if appropriate, address the impacts water supply and treatment systems may have on the natural hydrologic system. 
 
3.4 ENCOURAGE WATER CONSERVATION
A variety of water conservation opportunities may have applicability in the unincorporated County. These include strategies to limit water use or to re-use it beneficially. Approaches vary in their reliance upon education, regulation, rate structure and system design. In many cases, the County does play a direct role in the aspects of water supply which relate to conservation. 
 
The County does have significant potential for involvement in matters related to outside water issues, especially in the area of xeriscape landscaping. At present, the County encourages, but does not require, this practice. 
 
Water re-use will be an issue of growing importance. Non-potable water systems have the potential for greatly extending the available raw water supply. This is typically accomplished by utilizing treated wastewater for such purposes as irrigation and augmentation. The dual infrastructure system necessary for using treated waste water for irrigation is very costly and often prohibits its application in residential developments. The ultimate application of the re-use concept is to provide individual customers with potable treated wastewater. Although the technology is available to make this work to meet or exceed applicable health standards, there may be psychological barriers to this practice. 
 
Goal 3.4 Promote opportunities to conserve water. 
Policy 3.4.1 
Maximize opportunities for effective and environmentally acceptable potable and non-potable water re-use including augmentation. 
 
Policy 3.4.2 
Encourage re-use of treated wastewater for irrigation and other acceptable uses when economically feasible. 
 
Policy 3.4.3 
Encourage development and implementation of water conservation plans and programs, primarily using technological, design and incentive approaches, combined with community education. 
 
Policy 3.4.4 
Specifically promote water conservation techniques, such as xeriscaping, which provide large peak use reductions when compared to their economic cost or regulatory burden. 
 
Policy 3.4.5 
Consider partnering with the City of Colorado Springs Public Water Utilities Water Conservation branch to promote already established educational programs and techniques which have proven to conserve water. 
 
Policy 3.4.6 
Discourage ground water-dependent development in any areas where water availability cannot be definitively demonstrated. 
 
Policy 3.4.7 
Consider programs that promote the wise use of surface water and conservation of the County’s water resources. 
 
Policy 3.4.8 
Consider opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of using non-potable sources of water and to dispel negative attitudes. 
 


 


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