PUEBLO, Colo. – A long-awaited pipeline has gotten the green light for construction this year to deliver clean water from Pueblo reservoir to communities in the eastern plains that have struggled for access for years.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC) has been a project for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District since the 1960s. The pipeline would deliver clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 39 communities east of Pueblo in the next several years. This, after many have dealt with contaminated water for more than 20 years.
“A lot of communities down in the lower Arkansas Valley are facing public health issues for violating EPA standards,” said Chris Woodka, senior policy manager with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Primarily for radionuclide, but also some surface contaminants, such as selenium, have been found.”
The AVC was put on a standstill for years because of the lack of funding between communities. But after a 2009 federal law provided an 65% of the needed federal funding, the project was able to get up and running.
The new agreement for the pipeline signed by the federal government and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Pueblo Board of Water Works was signed last week.
“The water quality problems were known clear back in the 1950s when they started planning this project, that they needed a better source of water and a more consistent supply,” Woodka said. “When the conduit’s there, a lot of their water quality problems will be alleviated.
Woodka said the AVC should deliver water to communities such as Avondale and Boone by 2024, and other communities, such as La Junta, as soon as 2027. The entire pipeline should be completed by 2035 – if not sooner.
The $600 million dollar project will pipe the water through the City of Pueblo’s water system rather than building a separate pipe around the city.
“By coming through Pueblo rather than going around Pueblo, we’re able to expedite this project much, much more quickly,” Woodka said.
The water will be from either the Fryingpan-Arkansas project or from participant’s water portfolios, not from Pueblo Water’s resources.
Pueblo Water will charge an initial rate of $2.19 per 1,000 gallons delivered which reflects the operation and maintence costs needed by the AVC. the rate will increase annually at the same rate as Pueblo Water’s other customers.
Compared to other pipelines from El Paso county to the Pueblo reservoir, Woodka said this one will be different.
“They’re pumping water uphill. The Arkansas Valley Conduit will use gravity to flow the water from Pueblo all the way down to Lamar,” Woodka said.
Federal funding so far has totaled $40 million, while $100 million in loans or grants is available to AVC
through the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The District has contributed $4.8 million through its
enterprise, while participants have paid $1.5 million since 2011.
Pueblo County recently contributed $1.2 million to build delivery lines to Boone and Avondale with
local American Rescue Plan Act funds, and other counties or cities in the Arkansas Valley are expected to
contribute as well.
“We’re further along today than we ever have been. We’ve had people say no, it’ll never happen. But now we’ve got momentum and I think people are excited and ready to get going on it,” Woodka said.
For more information on the project visit Southeastern Water Conservancy District’s website.