Aurora Water eyes incremental rate increases starting in 2017


AURORA | Aurora Water is looking to implement 3-percent increases in water rates every other year beginning in 2017 and going through 2021.

At a study session June 27, Aurora Water presented its financial plan, including the incremental rate increase proposal, to Aurora City Council members as part of an informational session.

Aurora residents haven’t seen a rate increase since 2010, but Aurora Water says it needs the increase in order to meet  its continual goal of being able to supply 50,000 new residents on top of the 350,000 plus that make up Colorado’s third-largest city.

Following the meeting, Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker said the city is still looking into specifically how the rate increase will be implemented. Baker said the increase is needed due to rising costs in chemicals, electricity and personnel since 2010.

In 2013, the city lowered most water tap fees, reducing the cost to connect new homes to the city’s water system by about $8,000.

City officials at the time asked that the water rates be lowered in part to keep Aurora competitive with other metro-area water providers, which they said were affecting the number of housing construction starts.

Aurora Water operates as an enterprise fund with its infrastructure and services being supported through water rates and connection fees that are set on a “cost of service” basis.

Later in the evening, council members approved Aurora Water refinancing $550 million in debt, the savings to be used to help pay for additions and improvements to Aurora’s large and complex water system.

Aurora Water uses debt financing to construct major infrastructure or acquisition of water sources if current revenues are not enough, according to city documents.

Other cities, including Denver and Fort Collins, increased their water rates this year. Denver Water approved a 5-percent increase this year. Their financial plan calls for 3.8 percent annual increases for the next five years.

Aurora’s water system consists of 12 reservoirs that span the Front Range and Continental Divide, providing the city with more than 156,000 acre-feet of storage located in three water basins.

City officials, already eyeing three future reservoirs to grow Aurora’s water storage system, appear to be close to buying land for the future Wild Horse Reservoir in Park County. Lisa Darling, Aurora Water’s South Platte Basin program manager, said at a meeting in April that reservoir is likely to be designed and completed by 2022.

According to city documents, Wild Horse would provide the city with 32,400 acre-feet of water storage. The city is expected to complete the purchase and sale contract for the sea-horse-shaped reservoir by August of this year. Aurora Water officials say the project will cost the city $92 million to build out.