Mt. CB Water and Sanitation brings new water plant online

Significant capacity increase to handle growth

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

A new $23 million water treatment plant is online as of early January and it is operating in the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District. The overall project is not expected to be completed until the middle of the summer. It will take that much time to totally transition from the old plant to the new and then decommission the old plant and bring out the old equipment.

Mt. CB Water and San district manager Mike Fabbre explained that the project included the new plant, a new pipeline and a new pump station. The old pump station was built in 1976 and the plant in 1985. “Both were reaching the end of their useful life,” he said. “This project brought everything up to date and has provided the system with redundancy we didn’t have. The project is on schedule and within budget at this time.”

The old plant could treat and produce 1 million gallons of water per day while the new one can produce 1.5 million gallons. It is designed so that with some adjustments and upgrades the capacity can easily move to 2.3 million gallons. That would handle full build-out of the district. “That is quite a ways out,” Fabbre admitted.

Given the people fluctuations of a tourism-based community, the old plant came close but never reached the 1 million gallon per day threshold during peak season. In recent years it came close to capacity during busy periods such as Christmas or the Fourth of July. Fabbre emphasized that while the new plant increased capacity by 50 percent, that number can be deceiving given the ups and downs of a tourist town. Off-season might see the need to produce 250,000 gallons of water a day while July Fourth might soon require 1 million gallons or more in the future.

District set up with water for growth

The district has enough absolute water rights and physical water to run the new plant to its new capacity. The district also has what are called conditional water rights to accommodate more extensive growth in the district. That would entail constructing water holding reservoirs in Washington Gulch and the North Village to capture the water. Basically, Fabbre said that the district has enough water on paper to serve the district when it is 100 percent built out with development. “We have a tangible path forward when it is needed to meet the demand of full build out,” he explained.

Fabbre said the $23 million price tag for the new facility might sound expensive, but he said it is within the normal cost for that type of major infrastructure. He noted that other Colorado mountain communities are also dealing with the need to upgrade water treatment facilities and the price is never cheap.

“We have a 20-year bond through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to pay off the $23 million,” he said. “It seems like a big number, and it is for a small community like ours, but it is average for Colorado. The good news is that because of timing and the COVID pandemic we also have the lowest leveraged loan interest rate ever locked in through the state at 1.29 percent. That is excellent and is saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. As a comparison the interest rate on our 2001 wastewater plant improvement ended up at more than 4 percent. This recent timing worked out very well for us.”

Fabbre said because the board proactively instituted some rate increases in anticipation of the improvement projects no further major rate increases are expected. “We are pretty set up because the board was proactive,” he explained. “We might have to increase rates slightly to keep up with inflation and certainly anything can happen, but our 20-year outlay is looking at single digit increases.”

The new plant also includes the latest state of the art technology to treat water for the district. “The bottom line is that this new plant was needed and puts us in a good position for the future,” concluded Fabbre. 

The plant was officially online as of January 12.

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