CEPOA – DEEP WELL EMERGENCY QUESTONS #2 October 12, 2021
On behalf of the Board, I thank you for your attendance at our Emergency Deep Well Meeting last week. Prior to the meeting you had the opportunity to submit questions, which we answered and posted on the website. Now, you may have even more questions – especially for those who decided to leave the meeting before it was over. We have received a few more questions and comments through the ‘Contact Us’ tab at cepoa.org and via the Zoom meeting. These are shared below:
1. The first clarification comes from former Board President, Keith Lehman. He writes: “The present issue of well monitoring is not a Roxborough Water issue but rather A Denver Water Board issue. The promise or statement from Roxborough Water regarding “keeping” our wells still is true today as they have no vested interest in regulating our wells.
This is a Denver Water mandate and has no relationship to our Roxborough Water delivery system. All of the negotiating is between the CEPOA and Denver Water.
Roxborough Water is a separate entity in this process with no interest or issue regarding our wells. They are and will remain a partner in suppling our water with no
Interest that involves our wells.”
2. Another clarification comes from Ryan Patterson. The cost of running the deep well for the next 10 years is going to be about $200,861 assuming that it doesn’t break down again, which given the rate at which the water level is dropping and the lifespan of the last pump / motor, is not a good assumption. This is derived by $61,000 to fix the well + $10,000 per year in electricity at an electrical inflation rate of 4.68% per year (according to this website, that’s the historic average increase in Colorado for commercial electricity over the last 15 years). In other words, if it were $10,000 in 2021, it will be $15,829 by 2031.
For 20 wells, that’s $1000 / year that each of those wells would cost the HOA over the next 10 years. For that cost, the HOA could have bought each of those well owners 175,380 gallons of water! I’m probably one of the biggest water users in the neighborhood with kids, growing nearly 100 trees, a huge yard, 75 shrubs, and a swimming pool. Last year I consumed 113,000 gallons. Of course, the HOA isn’t going to be buying people water, but this statement shows just how uneconomical running the deep well is.
3. Shouldn’t we wait to hear the court’s decision on how much augmentation is necessary before we make a definitive statement that there will be no future repairs of the wells or well pumping? I also don’t agree with the language that this will permanently solve our water issues. Both options on the ballot START with go to Court to determine revised pumping requirements on our new conditions. The Denver decrees require pumping to replace water taken from the Denver aquifer. If no water is taken out of the Denver aquifer, there will be no pumping required and we feel that permanently solves our water problems.
4. Why would we state that the LFH pumping requirements be reduced by 1/2 when it will be reduced by 3/4 with only 25 people using Denver wells for outside usage?
Currently we are required to pump augmentation water for both indoor and outdoor usage estimates. Our Attorney is going to ask the Court to reduce pumping for the indoor use that is now provided by Roxborough. We assume he came up with the estimate of 1/2 savings because Option 2 would eliminate 1 of the 2 uses. Until we go to Court and have a water engineer determine exact numbers, we all made estimates to give the membership a rough idea of possible outcomes. As our Attorney explained there are lots of variables. Your figure of 3/4 is also an estimate because it assumes that all 79 Denver well users use the same amount of indoor water.
5. Why would we repair the well until we hear how the court responds?
We have no intention of repairing the well until the membership votes and we hear from the Court. Our hope is that option 1 will provide enough G3T water rights that we can stop pumping and keep a few Denver wells.
6. If the subdivision has to permanently discontinue Denver-well usage, does the HOA have a range of cost estimates regarding the capping/plugging and abandonment of these wells?
First, our instructions to our attorney are to get the most inexpensive method possible on terminating Denver wells. The courts or State will decide the required method of capping the wells.
Atty. Jeffers’ explained the differences between the low-cost Capping (welding shut) vs. a higher cost Abandonment (pull pump and fill with concrete). Cost of abandonment will, of course, depend on several variables: location of well cap, condition of the pump, casing, and depth of the well. We have contacted https://www.hierdrillingco.com/ and their estimate was approximately $1500-2000 for a clean pull on a well of 400’.
7. Will there be a Special Assessment for whatever option we choose? As the Attorney explained at our meeting, there are many variables when you go to Court (other water owner dissent, need for experts, deposition costs, pre-trial conferences, and, if needed, going to trial. He gave us his best estimate which included filing an application with the Court for a change to augmentation. No one knows how much opposition other water owners will raise. We will help our attorney whenever possible to reduce costs but must rely on his experience. We have $70,000 more than the Attorney’s estimate, if needed, before we will need a special assessment. If it appears that we will need a special assessment, we will notify the community in advance.
8. How long does a pump last? Depends on how well it is maintained, how often it is used, quantity and quality of water being pumped, whether the water level drops, the amount of electricity used to lift the water;…. perhaps 8-12 years. Ours was 8.
9. Are we planning to get another estimate for repair? We tried 5 companies before we could even find one who could service our deep well community. We have had a long relationship with Colorado Pump. They had a hard time finding a replacement because that pump is no longer made. With current supply-chain issues the cost and availability are in limbo. Thankfully, the town of Castle Rock is carrying us through October of 2022 by leasing their waste water to us for a very reasonable rate. That temporary fix allows us time to negotiate the water decrees.
10. Are there any grants we can apply for to provide assistance with this issue? None available because we already have a reliable, reasonably priced source of water with Roxborough Water and Sanitation District.
CURRENT WATER STATUS AND BOARD RECOMMENDATIONS – OCTOBER 3, 2021
REMINDER: Denver Well Usage Reports are due upon receipt. Arapahoe well users are reminded to read their meters on Oct. 1, 2021 and then return their reports by 10/5/2021. So far only 38 of the 79 Denver well usage reports are in.
Dear members, we are grateful for all the thoughtful questions you have sent us! We have been working our hardest to get as much information as we can out to you prior to our meeting date. Since many of you have the same questions, we will answer below and save attorney costs. However, we feel we can proceed without exact numbers because we all have Rox water available for indoor and outdoor use. We also have current and past board members within our community with years of water experience and historical costs for deep well repairs. We have studied this issue for many years with numerous discussions with state officials, prior board members, and pump companies and so we feel we are well positioned to make a recommendation.
We have also posted a link to ‘Beginner’s Guide to Augmentation’ on the website at cepoa.org to help you understand how those decrees work. Each of these decrees stand alone – two for Denver Wells and one for Arapahoe Wells.
CURRENT STATUS OF DEEP WELL Currently the pump and motor are both broken so we are unable to meet this year’s augmentation commitment. In the meantime, the Board is pursuing an agreement to purchase reusable septic return water from the town of Castle Rock to cover our remaining 2021 pumping requirements and possibly into 2022. The total cost including attorney fees will be approximately $10,000 this year and $20,000 next year.
CLARIFICATION ON ROXBOROUGH AGREEMENT AS RELATES TO DENVER WELLS
The promise or statement from Roxborough Water regarding “keeping” our wells still is true today as they have no vested interest in regulating our wells.
This is a Denver Water mandate and has no relationship to our Roxborough Water delivery system. All of the negotiating is between the CEPOA and Denver Water.
Roxborough Water is a separate entity in this process with no interest or issue regarding our wells. They are and will remain a partner in suppling our water with no interest that involves our wells.
3 IMPORTANT FACTS THAT IMPACTED THE BOARD’S RECOMMENDATION:
- In a trip to the State Water Division, we were told that the 9.5 million gallon pumping requirement was based on 1987 estimates of Denver well usage by our entire subdivision AND that these pumping requirements continue forever, unless we get the court ordered decrees changed. It made no difference to them that when we hooked up to Roxborogh Water, Roxborough inspectors verified that Denver well water was NOT being used for household use. You owe 9.5 million gallons of water back every year until the decrees are changed, period!
- Roxborough Water allows outside irrigation at its very reasonable rate of $5.75 per 1,000 gallons of water. There is no limit on usage but conservation is always encouraged in arid states. You are only allowed outside watering on two days (Thursday and Sunday) during the summer months and no watering is allowed between 11am-6pm. You can still hand water outside landscaping any day of the week.
- The Board estimates that using Roxborough water for outside irrigation only costs each household approximately $0-$200 per year. It costs our community almost $10,000 a year for electricity to run the deep well pump. Therefore it is not a significant hardship on any household to stop using their Denver wells and pay for Roxborough water.
Approximately 25 of our 103 lot owners have stated they would like to continue using their Denver Well for outdoor use instead of paying for additional Roxborough (Rox) water. Rox water cost is $6.50 per 1000 gallons up to a total of 20,000 gallons (see rates and fees here – Chatfield East is Tier 2).
This small use of the Denver wells requires the whole association to keep pumping 9.5 million gallons of water under the court-ordered Water Decrees.
Even if we were able to inexpensively fix the well, we must pay $10,000 a year for electricity and pay all future LFW well expenses including routine maintenance and drilling a new well if the well caves in or goes dry.
After years of exhaustive study, including visits with the State Water Division and our experienced Water Attorney, the Board recommends that we spend our limited funds to change the old court ordered water pumping decrees so that we are permanently relieved of this large pumping liability. Unfortunately, this may require members to disable or plug their Denver Wells. However, we are fortunate to have a reliable government source of water, at a very reasonable price, that can be used for both indoor and outdoor use.
QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS
- Is there any way we can apply for a private well permit? If individual lot owners were interested in drilling an Arapahoe well, they would need to apply for a permit with the State to determine if they are able to put in new wells considering that we are all receiving public drinking water with Roxborough.
- If we have to cap our wells how much does that cost? Our best guess is $1500, but we may be able to negotiate a group price.
- What happened to the statement that if you vote to get city water you can keep your well? At the time this statement was said, there were a lot of unknowns of future community water liabilities and costs. Since we have received Roxborough water, we have had 5 additional years of use of Denver wells. As we all know, the LFH well will not last forever and currently the decrees require we augment the water loss through pumping our LFH well. When things break, the community is still responsible to pay and it is important to evaluate costs/benefits at that time. The current Board does not feel that the cost of the LFH Well is worth the benefit to allow a small percentage of the community (i.e.; approximately 25 members) to pump Denver Well water whenRoxborough water can be used for all of our water uses. We need to come up with a more permanent solution, which may require the Denver Well users to stop using their wells. We have asked our Water Attorney to only concede our minor outside water usage from Denver wells if the Court or other members of the decree REQUIRE it.
- Without knowing the cost to fix the deep well or the process for paying for it how can we even vote on it? We are waiting on estimates as of this writing, however, historical costs for a well repair in 2013 was $40,000 and we know the current operating well costs are approximately $10,000 a year for electricity. These are only temporary fixes and the well may break again. The water decrees require that we continue our pumping obligation forever unless we get the decrees changed.
- Can we get the augmentation plan revised? Short answer is yes. This is a lengthy process. The water attorney will talk all about this at the meeting why this is his recommendation. This is a permanent solution to eliminating or reducing our water costs. This is also the CEPOA Board of Director’s recommendation.
- Would both Denver and Arapahoe well users be asked to discontinue use? We are recommending renegotiation of Denver Well Decrees only, so we anticipate no change to Arapahoe Well Decree requirements. The Arapahoe Well Decree requires a completely different augmentation requirement, which does not have any relation to the community LFH well.
- How will post-pumping depletions be paid in the future even without pumping? If the court determines post pumping requirements are needed, the water attorney believes our G3T water rights will most likely cover this liability for post pumping requirements.
- How long will post-pumping depletions be paid into the future? On our visit to the State Water Division, we were told the existing decrees require us to pump for infinity unless we go to the court to get this changed. This is the major reason for the Board’s recommendation to get these decrees changed.
- Could we temporarily discontinue well usage until another replacement source is found? If you are talking about LFH well usage, our attorney is working on this suggestion. If you are talking about Denver well users, the court and down-stream users only consider that Denver wells are available for production because there are no meters on the Denver wells to monitor actual production – therefore the answer is no that volunteering discontinuing outside use of the Denver wells will not get us out of our pumping requirement so the answer is no to a temporary discontinuance of Denver wells.
- Will well users receive consideration for lost property rights and expenses put into well construction, purchase of LFH rights and engineering/legal fees for decrees and Supreme Court cases? The original water decrees were for the entire association, so according to our attorney, in order for us to change our court ordered decrees we have to get out of it as an association. Fortunately, we have a sustainable source of public utility water at reasonable rates.
- Will the LFH well be abandoned? We do not know the answer to this since it will be dependent on what the court orders.
- Will Denver/Arapahoe wells be locked down or abandoned? If it is required by the decrees that we no longer use Denver Wells, they will probably need to be disabled or abandoned, depending on what the court orders. Again we will offer the cheaper solution of having a plumber or electrician certify that the well is disabled.
- Can we approach Castle Pines North, Denver, Aurora, Centennial Water, or Central for possible alternate replacement sources? Our water attorney is currently pursuing temporary solutions to our immediate deep well pumping requirements. However, he does not feel that this is a long-term solution to deep well pumping.
- Can we approach Centennial about buying back the reusable septic returns? That is what we are already doing – but through the Town of Castle Rock. So far Castle Rock has given us a verbal commitment, and we are working on a contract for 2022 also.
- Could we get a loan from CWCB for rehab of the LFH well or purchase of alternate supplies? Loans are not available unless the community is out of water. Fortunately, we have an outdoor and indoor source of water from Roxborough at a reasonable price.
- What will happen to our rights to LFH water if the LFH well is abandoned? This is a question for our water attorney Jeffers.
- Is the well assessment & report available ahead of time? As soon as we get it we will provide the information.
- Can you send me a sample ballot? We will have the ballot posted and available at the meeting as soon as it is approved by our attorneys.