Two proposed ballot initiatives voters may be asked to consider this fall would, if passed, fundamentally change the City’s Home Rule Charter (equivalent to the city’s “constitution”), making Greeley the only city in Colorado to require a special election to approve routine water management decisions.
“Greeley is proud to deliver safe, affordable, and reliably great tasting water to its citizens for over 100 years. At a cost of less than ½ cent per gallon of water – our diversity of water sources ensures reliable water delivery to our customers’ faucets regardless of drought conditions,” said Sean Chambers, Greeley’s director of Water and Sewer.
“If passed, the proposed charter changes would impair Greeley’s ability to make smart, timely water decisions, jeopardize the future of our water system and likely increase water rates,” added Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board.
The proposed ballot measures would require water-related decisions to be voted upon as many as three to five times a year at an estimated cost of approximately $200,000 per special election. Prior to each election, the city would be obligated to contract with an outside engineering firm to analyze and report on proposed projects and confirm the finding of the city’s licensed professional water resources and civil engineers, along with outside hired experts, prior to setting any item for a vote.
“Since our citizens established Greeley’s 1958 Home Rule Charter, essentially our constitution, this governance has served our community very well, establishing a long history of responsible water planning and positioning our city as a leader in water management and conservation,” Evans stated. “We have a robust and reliable water system managed by experienced and independent board members, appointed by our elected City Council. There are significant checks and balances as well as opportunities for the public to have a say in water decisions under our existing charter.”
In addition to potentially increasing water rates, Evans added the ballot initiatives would negatively impact the city’s ability to purchase water from and lease water back to area farmers, impairing their farms and regional economy. Some 30% or more of jobs in Weld County are related to agriculture.
“All our water is connected and if Greeley has to delay basic decisions like buying additional water shares from farmers and leasing that water back to them because of special elections, many farmers may not be able to lease water when they need it, putting thousands of acres of irrigated farmland at risk,” Evans said.
“These measures could jeopardize the city’s long-standing practice of using non-potable groundwater or recycled water to irrigate parks, golf courses and cemeteries. This would force the city to use treated water, thus reducing the amount of water available for drinking as well as the water we lease to farmers and ultimately drive up water rates for all Greeley customers,” added Evans.
The city’s ability to use its essential drought water supplies could also be impaired. When the runoff from the Cameron Peak Fire shut down the city’s ability to use its Poudre River supplies, the city was able to meet customer needs using a trade of its Poudre River supplies for water from Horsetooth Reservoir. These ballot measures could make this operational shift much more difficult or nearly impossible to occur in a timely manner. With more natural disasters occurring and increased periods of drought, it’s critical to have multiple sources of water and the flexibility to use them.
To learn more about the potential impacts to Greeley Water from these initiatives please visit Greeleygov.com/YourGreeleyWater.