Greeley has a long history of investing in its water future. The foresight and diligence of past city leaders and water pioneers ensured Greeley continuously seeks opportunities to plan for, and secure, Greeley's water needs.
The proposed Terry Ranch Water Project is an innovative water supply and storage project being considered and evaluated to help fulfill the water needs of Greeley's growing population. If ultimately determined feasible and approved by the City of Greeley Water Board and City Council, this generational project will be another step forward to ensure the City of Greeley's long-term future water security.
The City of Greeley has an extensive water system that includes two treatment plants, seven reservoirs, four river basins, and over five hundred miles of pipeline. These systems make up Greeley's reliable water supply. Through diligent planning and foresight, Greeley has made many strategic investments to ensure the city is well-positioned for short and long-term water needs. Today, ensuring a reliable water supply in the face of anticipated population growth and the consequences of a variable climate requires the same level of investment in innovative thinking and strategic planning that has positioned Greeley to date.
The Terry Ranch aquifer was identified as a viable water storage option during the city's long-term strategic efforts to enlarge Milton Seaman Reservoir. Since 2003, the city sought to enlarge the existing Milton Seaman Reservoir. Enlarging this reservoir on the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre River requires a variety of federal, state, and county permits. The city has been engaged in the federal National Environmental Policy Act permitting process to allow the reservoir's expansion since 2006. Federal permitting has been a long, arduous, and expensive process, and final authorization is uncertain.
As part of permitting for the Milton Seaman Reservoir enlargement, Greeley is required by federal agencies to evaluate other, less environmentally damaging alternatives. It was during this continuous evaluation process that Terry Ranch was identified as an alternative solution.
For comparison, the entire City of Greeley currently uses about 25,000 acre-feet per year. Non-tributary means this groundwater is not connected to surface streams and reservoirs and is instead solely an underground water source. Unlike most groundwater used in and around Greeley, non-tributary groundwater is deeper, and can be used and reused many times. The two sources, non-tributary (underground) and traditional above-ground sources (reservoirs), diversify the city's water supply and acquisition.
A key feature of the project will be the use of the aquifer to store treated surface water. Greeley would not pursue this project if it were to only extract a single use source of groundwater. Rather, the city's long-range plan is to inject and store water from surface sources underground for later use. The Terry Ranch aquifer is well suited for injection, and the State of Colorado has rules and regulations that guide this approach to aquifer storage and recovery (ASR). Additionally, the city can develop its use of the water and its capacity for recharge of the aquifer incrementally over time to match customer demands
Greeley does not currently own this groundwater or the associated aquifer storage and has developed an agreement to acquire ownership of the water and storage rights from the owners, Wingfoot Water Resources (Wingfoot).
The city is using an innovative, low-risk purchase arrangement to acquire this water and storage. Rather than paying money upfront, the city is issuing the seller, Wingfoot, water supply credits.
Each credit will be worth one acre-foot of water supply redeemable to meet the city's raw water dedication requirements – payments in the form of water or cash required of developers or builders to construct in the city. The water supply credits are only redeemable within the City of Greeley. Wingfoot will benefit by being able to sell credits to developers and builders.
Greeley benefits by not having to pay for the project all at once. This arrangement shares financial risks between the City of Greeley and Wingfoot, which results in lower water rates for Greeley water customers.
Wingfoot will not own or operate the Terry Ranch Project. In addition to providing Greeley full control of the groundwater and groundwater storage rights, Wingfoot will provide $125 million toward construction of the project infrastructure.
Research to date shows the Terry Ranch Project to be a promising opportunity for a high-quality water source and with fewer environmental impacts, less permitting risks, and an overall lower cost than the Milton Seaman expansion.
Before finalizing the purchase, Greeley is conducting extensive testing and analysis, including drilling additional wells and collecting extensive water quality data. Critical analysis will be peer-reviewed, and the results of these studies will be available in early 2021. The Water and Sewer Board and Greeley City Council, with input from Greeley residents, will weigh results to decide whether to move forward with the purchase.