As the city of Greeley grows, so too does its expenses. Water prices, especially, can make growth a painful prospect for a city and its residents. But Greeley’s water leadership continues to find innovative ways to navigate such expenses without passing overly-burdensome costs onto ratepayers.
One way is to capitalize on existing practices and enhance them, such as using untreated, or nonpotable, water for irrigation – which can save the city and ratepayers millions. City water leaders are working on a plan to use more nonpotable water throughout the city and encourage its use in new development through a new policy under development now. The bottom line is to send treated water to faucets rather than parks and playgrounds.
“We can ensure that Greeley continues to have an appropriate landscape and urban forest, etc., because we can maintain affordable water to irrigate parks, open spaces, schools, community gardens, and the like with the lower cost non potable water delivered through ditches that don’t have to go to through treatment,” said Sean Chambers, director of Greeley Water and Sewer.
For decades, the city of Greeley has worked diligently to spare ratepayers as much as the rising water costs in the region as possible. One surefire way to do this is by using untreated water for irrigation purposes. Commonly called nonpotable water, cities can obtain this water at almost half the cost of treated water and reduce the city’s treatment demand and system expansion needs.
Nonpotable water has been the outdoor irrigation solution for more than 100 years. Greeley’s No. 3 ditch has been irrigating city parks, gardens, and crops since 1870 and it remains in use today. Today, the city uses nonpotable water on 17 parks, two baseball parks, two golf courses, one community garden and one cemetery. Additionally, the city provides nonpotable water to homeowners associations, fire stations, the Farr Library, nine schools and the University of Northern Colorado ballfields. Until recently, however, this system has not been expanded while the city’s growth has swelled beyond 110,000 people. While the city at present uses on average 2,500 acre-feet a year for nonpotable irrigation, the projected long-term need is 9,000 acre-feet or more.
City water leaders are working on a new policy that will guide developers in their projects when building large subdivisions and projects. The initial plan is to require nonpotable water for projects greater than 2 acres of common irrigated area. While this may result in higher upfront development costs, the city also has plans to defray those costs with reduced fees that developers would normally pay at higher rates. Overall, non-potable water use saves customers money. Non-potable water rates charged to customers are 70% the cost of treated water. Discussions with the development community are ongoing before plans are formally presented to city leaders.
At the same time, the city also is working on a long-term plan to expand nonpotable water options to larger business and educational campuses through existing ditch networks. That will involve extending nonpotable specific infrastructure as well.
“It will help holds rates low because it’s making lower-cost water available,” Chambers said. “So the city is not building as many facilities or expanding treatment plants. That’s the ancillary benefit to existing users, that we’re not expanding our potable footprint to accommodate new outdoor irrigation.”
The next time you visit your neighborhood park, you can feel assured that the lush, green landscape comes at a lower overall cost, keeping your water rates low.