- Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
1871 — Colorado Springs founded
In the city's early days, wells supplied water to Springs residents, but soon more was needed. City founder William Jackson Palmer commissioned the Colorado Springs Company, the first developer of lots, to build an irrigation ditch. The first ditch, the El Paso canal, was built shortly after the city's founding and ran 11.5 miles from 33rd Street to Fountain Creek, meandering through town. The canal emptied into 10-million-gallon Boulder Reservoir in what today is Boulder Park next to Memorial Main Hospital.
A plague of grasshoppers in 1876 polluted the creek, triggering the search for another source. A series of dams, reservoirs and pipelines eventually brought water from Pikes Peak and are called the South Slope, North Slope and Northfield systems. These took some 50 years to build and still provide the city with a portion of its supply.
1950s and 1960s — Western Slope
In the 1950s, the city built the transmountain Blue River System, which was said to play a role in landing the Air Force Academy here. During this time, engineers began acquiring water rights and designing another transmountain diversion project with Aurora.
The Homestake project, which provides 70 percent of the city's water, was finished in 1967, after which the two cities started planning Homestake II. But the site, in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, led Eagle County to deny a 1041 land-use permit, so named for the bill empowering counties to regulate construction projects of statewide concern. The city still owned the water rights, however, and proposed building Elephant Rock and Mount Princeton dams on the Arkansas River. Those ideas were junked in the face of strident opposition from residents and recreational interests.
1962 to 1975 — Fryingpan-Arkansas
Colorado Congressman Wayne Aspinall pushed through the Fryingpan-Arkansas project in 1962. The project's groundbreaking was commemorated by President John Kennedy.
Finished in the 1970s, it included Pueblo Reservoir and allowed Springs Utilities to route water through the Fountain Valley Conduit starting in 1985. Fountain, Widefield, Security and Stratmoor Hills share the conduit.
1970s and 1980s — Buying water
In 1972, the city paid $13.5 million [$38.3 million in today's dollars] for shares in the Twin Lakes Company, which diverts water from the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries on the Western Slope. The water is moved through Twin Lakes Tunnel to Lake Creek and then into Twin Lakes Reservoir near Leadville.
In 1986, the city acquired majority interest in the Colorado Canal, Lake Henry and Lake Meredith in the Arkansas Valley near Boone. These resources were "exchanged" with users downstream for their water rights higher in the mountains; that upstream water was then routed to the city through the Homestake pipeline.
1990s to present — More water
With the annexation of the 25,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's east side in 1988, the city anticipated the need for more water. Although the savings and loan debacle in the late 1980s paralyzed development for a time, suspending that urgent water need, the city began to plan for future generations. In 1996, the water resource plan containing the SDS project was adopted.
Officials began mapping possible pipeline alignments and in 2003 applied for a permit to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
In March 2009, the Bureau of Reclamation issued a Record of Decision, and Utilities then negotiated long-term storage contracts for use of the reservoir.
Pipeline construction began in 2010, and work began in March 2013 on the project's single biggest component, the water treatment plant that will treat 50 million gallons a day.
A second phase of SDS, proposed for 2020 to 2024, includes expanding the water treatment plant and building a storage reservoir for which Utilities officials say there is no cost estimate.
Source: Springs Utilities