Management Plan Adopted For Long-Awaited Arkansas Valley Conduit

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The long-awaited Arkansas Valley Conduit has gained more traction. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District have adopted a management plan for the pipeline. It will eventually channel clean drinking water from Pueblo Reservoir to six counties in the lower Arkansas River Valley, serving an estimated 50,000 people.

Data from the state shows many drinking water systems in the region have naturally occurring radioactive contaminants. Sam Braverman with the Bureau of Reclamation says this is the latest development to help get the ball rolling on the pipeline.

"There's a lot of people down there with radioactive water, really, in their houses and we're excited to be working collaboratively to get clean water and help out some of these communities down there."

Braverman says the plan guides everything from stakeholder meetings to communication, with the goal of breaking ground in 2022. Under the plan, water will be delivered to a point east of Pueblo by the Pueblo Board of Water Works. 

According to press release, a contract among the Bureau of Reclamation, Pueblo Water and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy Districtis is in the discussion stage. Officials say the agencies are continuing to meet regularly, using remote technology, to work on activities including design, land acquisition and environmental review that will lead to construction. The pipeline is estimated to cost between $560 - $610 million.

"We've started final design for the first 12-mile segment of pipe which would stretch from a connection point east of Pueblo to Boone," says Braverman.

He says that part of the project would also include the construction of a water treatment facility.

In the meantime, feasibility studies are being conducted to determine possible ways to help create water distribution and treatment systems to provide clean water.

"Some of these are really small providers and they don't have the funds to deal with the water quality issues," Braverman says. "These studies will allow them to connect together regionally and allow a bigger provider, like Rocky Ford or La Junta to possibly help out in the interim."

The conduit was authorized in the 60s, but has stalled off and on because of funding issues. In February, Congress allocated $28 million for construction and an additional $8 million was requested in the President’s budget for next year. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has also approved a $100 million in funds that the legislature has yet to approve.