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Family faces tough decision as water resources tap out in Southern Colorado

FOUNTAIN, Colo. (KRDO) —  Jessica Woelfel’s family is weighing whether or not they can continue living in their home of six years in Midway, south of Fountain, as affordable water options dry up.

“It’s forcing us out of our home," said Woelfel. "We’re going to have to move and we own this place. We’re kind of down to the last resort here."

Because her family doesn't live in Fountain City limits, they can’t receive Fountain City water. Because they don’t live in Pueblo, they can’t get a key for access to Pueblo water. The family says Wigwam utilities quoted them $50,000 for a new water tap and pipes to their home. Unable to afford that hefty bill, her household pays Koury Transport to truck in water from the Pueblo area at a rate of $85 per 1,000 gallons.

“We can only afford 2,000 gallons a month, so we spend about $170,“ said Woelfel. 

According to an estimate from the U.S. Department of Interior, the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day for indoor home uses. It means a family of three like the Woelfels, on average, uses more than 7,000 gallons of water per month.

Owner of Koury Transport, Grant Koury, says he does everything he can to keep costs low. But the business model factors in upfront water costs, rising fuel prices, heavy equipment, insurance, delivery, and labor fees.

Koury told 13 Investigates the company services 20 to 40 Midway-area homes twice a week. Each roundtrip takes about five hours. Koury says his business also faces limited water supply coupled with increasing demand.

“It’s sad because I have a 13-year-old daughter who lives with us and I have to tell her ‘no’ sometimes to getting a shower,“ said Woelfel.

Meanwhile, the Fountain Utilities Department is evaluating how it can accommodate thousands of new taps amid rapid development plans.

“Water, especially in the Front Range of Colorado is a very limited commodity,” said Dan Blankenship, the utility director for the City of Fountain.

The city of Fountain currently provides water to 8,700 taps. A recent study revealed a way to improve the water delivery system. City leaders are implementing a plan that would increase the number of available water taps in Fountain by 1,000 to 1,200.

“We have adequate supply to meet our current customers’ needs,” said Blankenship. “It’s just meeting the needs of those who want to develop the land.”

The Fountain Utilities Department calculated the demand for new water taps across all proposed development projects. It’s more than three times the current supply.

“We listed all of the development projects, and of course it would take a number of years for these developments to build out, but the total is almost 30,000 [taps],” said Blankenship.

A separate study expected to be complete in October is investigating alternative water sources to accommodate the growing demand. Meantime, Blankenship says there is no cap on water usage for Fountain residents. However, the city does promote a water conservation program.

It's not just water, either. Blankenship adds that Southern Colorado cities will have to figure out how to keep up with rising electric and gas demands as well.

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Lauren Barnas

Lauren is an anchor and MMJ for KRDO and 13 Investigates. Learn more about Lauren here.

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