Brighton City Council approves water lease with Denver as insurance amid low reserves

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON – In response to drought that has sapped the city’s raw and treated water supplies, city leaders approved a deal Feb. 5 to lease treated water from the City of Denver Water Department to augment its reserves.

Unanimously approved by City Council, the $254,160 purchase of 750 acre-feet of water will be paid from the Utilities Department’s unencumbered fund to cushion the city’s diminishing supply and serve as a buffer against service interruptions. The agreement will be in effect for three months, starting Feb. 6 and ending May 1. 

According to Utilities Director Jim Landeck, the water would strictly be used for augmentation since the city is required to return the water it pumps from its wells to the river. He described the lease as “an insurance package” for the city.

“The City of Brighton, as are most cities in the Front Range, are looking ahead at the current conditions of snowpack in the mountains,” he said. “We believe it would be prudent for protection of our citizens and our water supply to lease some additional augmentation water so that we can continue to pump our wells.”

In his staff report, Landeck said the decreased water availability has impacted the city’s raw water supply by reducing available ditch deliveries, free river deliveries and is increasing the city’s obligation to the river.

Additionally, Thornton city officials, through Westminster, recently notified Brighton they will be decreasing their potable water supply to Brighton by 40 percent over the next six months.

“We have worked out an arrangement with Thornton that although there is a desire for them to reduce the supply to Brighton for the entire year, we are going to receive our full allotment during the peak summer months and reduce more during the off-peak so that it balances for the year and minimizes the impact to the citizens,” Landeck said.

Mayor Dick McLean asked whether Denver is willing to extend the agreement in the event Brighton needs more water. Landeck said Denver has indicated they would consider renegotiating additional supplies with Brighton at some point in the future.

In regards to the city’s reserves, Landeck believes the city can supply a normal year of water to customers. He said the concern is that if the drought continues beyond this year, it may be necessary to set conservation efforts this year to provide some additional cushion for next year.

McLean said the city will consider very strict watering restrictions for the coming months. Landeck said the months of February and March are critical for the snowpack levels that feed into rivers and water supplies after melting. If current trends continue, he said he will revisit council in March to discuss conservation plans and long-term drought management plans.

In other business
— General updates will be made to the city’s building and construction codes, as unanimously approved by council. The ordinance also includes updates to the fire codes. Although the Brighton Fire Protection District recommends sprinkler systems be installed in single-family dwellings, it won’t be required in Brighton’s fire code. City officials believe economic conditions aren’t right for the requirement and that the requirement would result in less incentive to build in the city.

— Council also went into executive session for a performance review for City Manager Manuel Esquibel.

— Council unanimously approved amendments to the city’s cemetery rules and regulations for 2013.

— In three separate motions, council voted 7-2 to make appointments to three boards and committees. Donald Rowe was appointed as an alternate member of the Liquor Licensing Authority to fill an unexpired term expiring in January 2014. James Vigesaa was appointed to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee for a three-year term expiring in December 2015, and Ruth Erickson was appointed as an alternate member of the Brighton Parks and Recreation Advisory Board with a term expiring in January 2017. Council members J.W. Edwards and Wilma Rose abstained from the vote since they weren’t at the interviews.

— A public hearing for a 23.6-acre parcel of land known as the Southwestern Development Park Property was scheduled for March 19 to determine whether the property is eligible for annexation.