Colorado’s Southern Delivery System Begins Water Delivery

The Southern Delivery System (SDS), one of the largest water infrastructure projects completed in the United States this century, has begun delivering water to homes and businesses in Colorado Springs, Colo. The commencement of water delivery culminates decades of planning and nearly six years of construction.
“The Southern Delivery System is a critical water project that will enable the continued quality of life southern Coloradans enjoy,” said Jerry Forte, chief executive officer of Colorado Springs Utilities. “The water provided through SDS means future economic growth for our community.”

The state’s second largest city, Colorado Springs is not located on a major water source. The Southern Delivery, named for the route the water travels from Pueblo northward to Colorado Springs, is the single largest infrastructure project ever built by Colorado Springs Utilities. Not only does SDS meet the immediate and future water needs of Colorado Springs and its project partners Fountain, Security and Pueblo West through 2040, it also increases system reliability should other parts of the water system need maintenance or repairs. The project will also help provide drought protection, a significant benefit in the arid west.

Construction started in 2010 and concluded in 2016. Originally forecast to cost just under $1 billion, SDS is started on time and more than $160 million under budget costing $825 million.

“On time and under budget are words rarely used to describe large infrastructure projects,” said John Fredell, SDS program director. “We adopted a philosophy that ‘these are ratepayer dollars’ and managed the project with exceptional rigor. It was the responsible approach to spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public money.”

RELATED: John Fredell, SDS program director for Colorado Springs Utilities, will speak on the Southern Delivery System at UIM’s second annual Water Finance Conference in Denver, Aug. 30-31.

Components of SDS

SDS is a regional project that includes 50 miles of pipeline, three raw water pump stations, a water treatment plant, and a finished water pump station. It will be capable, in its first phase, of delivering 50 million gallons of water per day and serving residents and businesses through 2040. Key components of SDS include:

  • Pueblo Dam Connection: Water transported through the SDS pipeline is stored in Pueblo Reservoir. SDS required the construction of a new North Outlet Works at the dam.
  • 50 Miles of Pipeline: Water travels northward 50 miles through mostly 66-inch diameter pipe, buried underground.
  • Raw Water Pump Stations: Three raw water pump stations, containing eleven pumps with horsepower ranging from 2,000 to 2,750 each were built along the pipeline to propel the water 1,500 feet in elevation from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs.
  • Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant: The raw water arrives and is treated at the most technologically advanced water treatment plant in the Colorado Springs Utilities system. It utilizes ozone, biological filtration, and disinfection to clean and polish drinking water.

Challenges Surmounted

Water projects are becoming more difficult to permit and expensive to build in the western United States, and SDS was no exception. SDS was identified in the City of Colorado Springs’ 1996 Water Resource Plan as necessary to meet future demand. The project required extensive environmental permits, stakeholder outreach and intergovernmental planning.

SDS faced opposition from some stakeholders in neighboring Pueblo County who were concerned about impacts to local residents and the environment, particularly Fountain Creek. Fountain Creek flows between Colorado Springs and the City of Pueblo. SDS also required education and support of water customers in Colorado Springs who paid a cumulative rate increase of 52 percent to finance the project.

Key permits and approvals for SDS required $50 million in mitigation payments to the Fountain Creek Watershed District, funding for sediment control, habitat improvements and other environmental mitigation measures. Additionally, Colorado Springs and Pueblo County, just this week, both approved an intergovernmental agreement requiring Colorado Springs to invest $460 million over 20 years to improve the management of stormwater that makes its way into Fountain Creek.

Early on in the project, SDS program leaders agreed to spend at least 30 percent of construction dollars on local contractors. More than $585 million, or about 70 percent of the SDS budget, went to Colorado businesses.

“SDS is one of the most important projects many of us will ever work on,” said Forte. “This is a legacy project – one that benefits so many people today, tomorrow and for generations to come. This is an amazing day for our organization and for southern Colorado.”

For more information, visit SDSwater.org.

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