Town of Eagle can’t conserve away need for new $23M water treatment plant
By the numbers
Eagle’s Lower Basin Water Treatment Plant project:
4.2 million gallons per day: The production capacity at Eagle’s existing water-treatment plant.
3.7 million gallons per day: The peak production demand during the summer months in Eagle.
660,000 gallons per day: The average production demand during the winter months in Eagle.
$23 million: Estimated cost of the proposed Lower Basin Water Treatment Plant.
$30 per month: Estimated surcharge Eagle water customers will pay for the new plant construction.
Source: Town of Eagle
EAGLE — During the summer, Eagle is a green place.
The community’s private lawns, multifamily common spaces and public parks boast lush grass and colorful foliage. But all that green happens because approximately 3 million gallons of water per day goes out of the town’s water treatment plant for outdoor irrigation.
The town’s water-consumption numbers show that Eagle has approximately 2,500 water accounts and a water production capacity of 4.2 million gallons per day. In the winter, the peak demand is approximately 660,000 gallons per day. But that number goes up to 3.7 million gallons per day during the summer.
That peak-demand figure is what’s driving the town’s plans for a new Lower Basin Water Treatment Plant. The plant is proposed upstream from the town’s wastewater treatment plant, located along the Eagle River. The new plant is estimated to cost around $23 million and will require an increase in Eagle’s tap fees, as well as a monthly surcharge for all town water customers.
But even though they know the increased costs will be unpopular, town officials say the new plant is needed — not just to make sure people’s lawns stay green. What’s more, town officials say Eagle can’t conserve its way out of needing the plant or save its way to paying for it.
The town’s official stance on the need for the Lower Basin Water Treatment plant is outlined on its website.
“Currently, the town of Eagle has a single water-treatment plant located on Brush Creek. Peak water usage occurs in the summer months, when outdoor watering greatly increases water demand. This outdoor water use has a positive impact on the look and feel of both residential homes and the community at large,” the website notes. “A single water-treatment plant does not provide for system redundancy, which means that service reliability is at risk in the event of Brush Creek blockages or contamination.”
The new plant will have a 2.5 million-gallon-per-day capacity and is projected to serve Eagle’s needs over the next 20 years.
The town began investigating the need for a new water treatment plan back in 2007 and completed design work in 2012. Economic conditions stalled the project, but with the economic recovery and current and projected demand for service, the town believes it is time to move forward with the plant.
“The new plant serves a lot of different needs for the community,” Eagle Town Board member Paul Witt said. “We have to look to the future. We have to look at our capacity needs long-term.”
When discussing the need for the plant with the state entity that the town will work with to obtain a loan to finance the plant construction, Eagle officials stress the redundancy need. But when they look at the overall picture, Eagle officials noted the plant is critical if either the Haymeadow or Eagle River Station properties develop. Eagle does not currently have enough water production capacity if either one of those developments moves forward.
“With respect to capacity, future residential and commercial growth will increase demand. The growth rate over the next 20 years is estimated at 3.4 percent,” notes the town’s statement. “Peak water demands in the summer already approach the maximum capacity of the plant, even with 90 percent of customers complying with odd-even day watering restrictions.”
For years, the town has instituted lawn-watering restrictions. Those regulations state:
• Watering allowed between April 15 and Oct. 15 only
• Watering limited to three days per week; odd-numbered addresses can water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and even-numbered addresses can water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
• Watering prohibited between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
• Wasting water is prohibited
• Dry years will have additional restrictions
Additionally, the town offers information about what irrigation systems work best and best practices for lawn maintenance. Town officials say a robust conservation program is an important part of Eagle’s water policy. But conservation alone cannot negate the need for the new plant.
“We can’t conserve ourselves out of this,” Witt said.
He noted the need is already present, and the town’s future growth is dependent on the new water plant operation. Witt also pointed out that it takes a long time for a new plant to be built and running.
“You can build houses a lot faster than you can build water plants,” Witt said.
The town has contracted with a consulting firm to hone in on the actual cost for the plant, but the current estimate is $23 million.
Because the town has know, for several years, that a second water-treatment plans would be needed, Eagle has been collecting prepayment of water tap fees when it approves new development. For instance, the Haymeadow project recently made a $3 million water tap fee prepayment. The prepayments and past increases in water rates have built up $5 million toward the cost of funding the new water plant.
But Eagle simply will not be able to build up its reserves enough to pay for the plant costs, especially as construction costs escalate.
A Colorado State Revolving Fund Loan will be a low-interest option to fund the construction of the plant. To repay the principal and interest on the loan, the town is proposing a monthly surcharge that will be applied to each water bill. This surcharge is estimated at approximately $30 each month. The final amount of the surcharge will be based on the final design and construction costs of the plant and additional analysis of cost sharing.
Town officials know they are facing a tough communications challenge to convince residents that the plant, and the additional money they will be paying, is necessary. But they are adamant that the longer they wait to move on the project, the more critical the need will become and the higher costs will climb.
“This is a project that has been looked at for the past five years,” Witt said. “The sooner we start it, the better off we will be as a community.”
Public outreach and informational meetings concerning the new water plant are planned this fall. The Eagle Town Board will make a final decision about the plant funding and surcharge in January 2018. Construction is slated to being next spring and continue in phases, with final completion in 2020.