By Shari Phiel
A report presented by the Utility Advisory Board at the Tuesday, June 9 Board of Trustees meeting highlighted the importance of managing Berthoud’s water resources in the coming years.
Presented in part by UAB member Mike Cook, the report addressed three primary topics; to make sure the Town is making full use of the water it owns, to find additional ways to generate revenue from that water and to find ways to reduce the water enterprise’s expenses.
Suggestions from Cook for Board consideration included inter-governmental agreements for water exchange and an annual rental agreement for surplus water from Welch Reservoir.
“Last year there was a significant amount of water left in Welch Reservoir that reverted back to [Handy] Ditch Company. There’s some opportunity to make use of that,” said Cook.
Another suggestion included filling a local lake or pond to ensure water belonging to Berthoud is used to the fullest extent and isn’t running downriver. “If you can’t sell it or market it, give it to the school district to let them irrigate the area where the schools are” noted Cook, adding it would contribute to the green spaces in Town.
Cook also noted the importance of making sure all of the Town’s water is accounted for and billed when possible. Citing a March 2009 report from Berthoud’s water attorney Paul Zilas, Cook said, “We processed 999-acre feet of water at the plant. Of that, we billed for 771-acre feet. So 77 percent of the water was billed.” Some of the unbilled water goes to Town properties such as the parks and town pool, along with other items like flushing the water lines at the treatment plant.
According to the report from Zilas, approximately 16 percent of the Town’s water use is unaccounted for. Public Works Directory Tony Huerta thought that number will be lower based on numbers he has seen coming from the plant.
Trustee Jeff Hindman also noted the importance of generating water revenues to help drive down current billing rates. “That is the number one complaint in Town. Our water rates are high.” He also noted water demand levels are similar to those from 1996.
Noting that additional investigation needs to be done, Trustee Michael Patrick suggested the board allow the UAB to work with Zilas on an as needed basis. “The issues that you raised, technically, with the carriage agreement requirements, with the right of first refusal, those things are things that Paul will have to help you with, I suspect.”
The Board approved a motion to allow the Utility Advisory Board to work with Zilas to resolve any legal issues, and the UAB will continue working with Town staff to further investigate other questions raised during the meeting.