Article courtesy of Carol Webb | June 14, 2015 | Coloradoan | Shared as educational material
For more than a century, Fort Collins Utilities has invested and planned for the acquisition of water rights to ensure an adequate water supply is available for its customers. This involves taking into account the community’s ever-changing population growth, both residentially and commercially, as well as changes in weather patterns.
A critical component to effective water supply planning is adequate storage. Recognizing that additional storage is needed to meet long-term water supply needs, Fort Collins Utilities entered the permitting process in 2006 to enlarge Halligan Reservoir. The reservoir’s existing capacity is approximately 6,400 acre-feet. Enlarging it by 8,125 acre-feet will meet future demands for our water service area through 2065, as well as provide a storage reserve for emergencies and drought.
A guiding document in our planning efforts is the Water Supply and Demand Management Policy, which recognizes the importance of sufficient storage in order to provide a consistent, reliable supply of water. Storage allows water providers to maintain reliability for specific planning demands, factor in the impact of droughts on water supply, and consider other risks, including short-term emergency situations (e.g., pipeline failure or fires) or long-term risks, such as climate change.
From the 1880s until the early 1950s, Fort Collins Utilities (working under the name Water Works Committee before 1938) acquired senior, direct flow water rights from the Poudre River and depended primarily on these rights to satisfy customer water demands. Additional water rights were acquired from the Colorado-Big Thompson project in the late 1950s to further expand our water supply. Also at this time, separate water districts were formed to serve the areas north and south of Fort Collins where development was occurring, but Utilities was not able to serve due to financial constraints. Each water district has established boundaries outside of Utilities’ water service area and is responsible for planning and providing water to the customers within its boundaries.
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Fort Collins Utilities continues to acquire a diverse water rights portfolio through raw water requirements for new development and through acquisition and conversion of agricultural rights for municipal use. Our policy historically has been to acquire water rights before they are needed, which has made the Utilities more resilient to fluctuations in the cost of raw water.