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Broomfield Council discusses water issues, drought planning in study session

As the city and county eyes a new water fee system and $70 million in water utility projects, other issues are looming.
Broomfield City Council at a regular Council meeting Oct. 11, 2022.

A Broomfield City Council study session Tuesday looked at some of the largest water supply issues that the government, and residents, face.

Among the issues is drought, as climate change impacts the Colorado River basin. Around 80% of Broomfield’s water comes from the river basin, and its largest reservoirs, Lakes Mead and Powell, have been gradually decreasing. The federal government imposed mandatory water reductions in 2021, the strictest of which were issued to Arizona and Nevada. Colorado and other Upper Basin states have not yet faced mandatory cuts, but major conservation projects are underway.

“The prolonged drought is one of the most significant challenges facing the Colorado River basin states, and requires water utilities to take steps to reduce water consumption before it becomes a mandatory requirement,” said Ken Rutt, deputy director of public works for the city and county.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the Windy Gap Project and the Denver Water Board will supply Broomfield with enough water to support a projected population of up to 115,000 people, but the Colorado River drought could threaten that supply, said Brennan Middleton, water resources manager with the city and county.

“The Colorado River basin is approaching a crisis,” Middleton told City Council.

City and county staff are in the process of updating Broomfield’s Drought Response Plan, which was approved by City Council in 2012. Since then, drought has become more frequent and severe, and the state has issued new drought management guidance.

A proposal to shift Broomfield to a tiered fee system for water usage was announced in September. Under the new system, utility bills would be reduced for residents who conserve water, but bills would go up for those who use more water.

The city and county’s 2023 proposed budget includes $12.5 million for water reclamation utility plans, which will allow the use of recycled municipal wastewater for irrigation. Broomfield’s current reuse system waters golf courses, parks and landscaped commercial areas.

“For water and wastewater utility, sustainability is about creating reliable, consistent infrastructure that can be managed, maintained and upgraded,” Rutt told City Council.

The city and county’s other water conservation projects include rebates for residents who purchase high efficiency appliances, toilets, smart controllers and graywater systems. Broomfield also offers a lawn replacement program, and incentivization for water efficiency in new developments.

Some of Broomfield’s major water projects include the $225.3 million Windy Gap Firming, expected to be complete in 2025; the $45 million potable and reuse northern tanks and pump station, also expected to be complete in 2025; the $40 million Broomfield Reservoir, expected to be complete by 2030; and the $29 million Siena Reservoir Conversion.

A public hearing and final vote on the city and county’s new tiered fee system proposal for water usage is scheduled for Oct. 25.