Facts about Stormwater and SDS


The following provides factual information about the SDS impacts to Fountain Creek, the stormwater requirements for SDS, and history and actions the City of Colorado Springs is taking to manage stormwater.

Please click on the fact below for more information.

  • Floods have occurred on Fountain Creek prior and through out recorded history. Link to the history of floods.

  • SDS is not delivering water to customers yet.

  • Water returned to Fountain Creek after it has been used and treated is called “return flow.” Once operational, the return flow SDS will contribute to Fountain Creek will be minimal. The initial amount of water transported through SDS will only be approximately 10 percent of what the system is capable of delivering in Phase 1 (about 5 million gallons of water per day). Storm flow, on the other hand, is water that enters a creek or river resulting from rainstorms and snow melt runoff and can raise the creek height by multiple feet. 

  • The Final SDS Environmental Impact Statement studied impacts to stream flows and concluded average annual stream flow in Fountain Creek in Pueblo would increase by an additional 2-3 inches of water when SDS is fully operation in 2046.

  • SDS will not cause flooding on Fountain Creek.
  • Condition 23 of the 2009 Pueblo County 1041 permit stipulated that, “ the Applicant shall maintain stormwater controls and other regulations intended to ensure that Fountain Creek peak flows resulting from new development served by the SDS project within the Fountain Creek basin are no greater than existing conditions.” See entirety of Condition 23 and E-2 Appendix.

  • The purpose of this language in the permit was to ensure that the existing peak flow levels were not exceeded as a consequence of SDS water deliveries. The 1041 does not require Colorado Springs to mitigate other stormwater impacts.

  • Compliance with Condition 23 would only be measured after SDS provides water to new development.

  • The controls and other regulations required by Condition 23 are found in Colorado Springs Drainage Criteria Manual adopted 2014. See Volume 1. See Volume 2. The regulations are considered among the strictest in the state and are now being adopted by other jurisdictions within Fountain Creek watershed.

  • SDS remains in compliance with its permits.
  • The federal Record of Decision (ROD) for SDS stipulated “participants will consult with Reclamation each year on the average flow in Fountain Creek after SDS becomes operational. If the average annual stream flow of Fountain Creek measured at Pueblo exceeds the scope and range of flow estimated and analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, then Participants will coordinate with Reclamation within their adaptive management plan, to evaluate the cause(s) for the change in flows and determine whether appropriate response actions, such as monitoring and/or mitigation measures, are warranted.”
  • A number of conditions contained within the Pueblo County 1041 permit for SDS and the Record of Decision require mitigation that benefits the Fountain Creek Watershed and Pueblo County.

  • In order to mitigate the impacts of SDS to Fountain Creek in Pueblo County, SDS will pay $50 million to the Fountain Creek Watershed District. See SDS 1041 Terms and Conditions – Condition 6.

  • In order to continue its efforts to protect against future spills to Fountain Creek, to increase its opportunities for reuse, and to mitigate possible water quality impacts by the SDS Project to Fountain Creek, Colorado Springs Utilities committed to invest an additional $75 million for wastewater improvements by 2024. Since 2010, Utilities has invested $47.4 million in these improvements. See SDS 1041 Terms and Conditions – Condition 7.

  • In lieu of completing a sediment removal project on Fountain Creek that would assist the City of Pueblo in preserving the flood protection function of the Fountain Creek levees at or above the 100-year flood level, in 2011 Colorado Springs Utilities paid Pueblo County $2.2 million for the County to implement sediment control measures. Pueblo County has not completed that work to date. See SDS Terms and Conditions - Condition 8.

  • SDS mitigation also includes other improvements to Fountain Creek, fish hatcheries and funding of State Wildlife aquatic research on flow, water quality and habitat.

  • In total, since 2000 Utilities has committed more than $300 million to improve Fountain Creek. See the full list of commitments.
  • The City of Colorado Springs manages stormwater and compliance with the MS4 permit required by the CDPHE and EPA under the Clean Water Act.

  • For years, Pueblo leaders expressed concerns about floods on Fountain Creek and were concerned that the operation of SDS would exacerbate floods on the Creek.

  • Important regional relationships made it possible to reach agreements with Pueblo County to support SDS, and stormwater management in Colorado Springs was one of the key provisions of that support.

  • Colorado Springs leaders began efforts to secure funding for stormwater. After two separate ballot measures to address the funding of stormwater capital projects failed to obtain voter approval in Colorado Springs in 2001. In 2004, Colorado Springs City Council directed staff to investigate the creation of a fee-based stormwater enterprise.

  • In 2005, an ordinance to establish the Stormwater Enterprise (SWENT) was approved by Council. Council established the “service fee” structure for SWENT, which required no voter approval, in 2006, with fee collection starting in 2007. SWENT collected approximately $15.8 million per year.

  • In November 2009, Colorado Springs voters passed Issue 300, which addressed the transfer of money between the City and its enterprises. The Issue 300 campaign was led by anti-tax advocate Doug Bruce who attacked the lawfully established SWENT by depicting the enterprise fee as a “rain tax.”

  • As a result of the passage of Issue 300, in December 2009, Colorado City Council voted to terminate SWENT.

  • From 2004 to 2014, the City reported spending $243 million on stormwater from a combination of funding sources (general fund, bonds, FEMA grants and SWENT).

  • After a failed ballot measure in 2014 for regional funding of stormwater, Colorado Springs City Council approved a resolution in January 2015 that committed the City to spend $19 million annually -- $16 million from the general fund and $3 million from Colorado Springs Utilities, on stormwater management.
  • While Colorado Springs had a stormwater management program in place, the City recognized that its program had not met its goals and needed improvement due to funding limitations, staff turnover, a poor economy, and the need to respond to multiple natural disasters. The City conducted a comprehensive review of its stormwater management program in 2015 and developed an improvement plan. Specific components of the city’s new stormwater plan include:

    • Increasing funding to at least $19 million per year allocated to the MS4 Program, O&M, and capital projects. In addition, other City departments have an annual budget of $1.5 million for stormwater related activities important to MS4 permit compliance such as street sweeping and spill response. Additional stormwater funding will come from private developers, the PPRTA, and others.

    • Increasing full time staff dedicated to project over a two-year period from 28 to 58 staff members by 2017.

    • Emphasizing enforcement for construction site operators, industrial site owners, and private developers who are not in compliance.

    • Increasing emphasis on inspector training, record keeping, and prioritization of O&M activities.

  • The City’s efforts are not just a short-term fix, but also a long-term sustainable solution.

  • The City’s MS4 program must be in full compliance with state and federal standards at all points in time. That does not change with a new mayor or council. The new plan addresses issues raised in the Environmental Protection Agency audit in February 2013 and August 2015.

  • To ensure stormwater capital projects would also benefit Pueblo County, Colorado Springs representatives worked with Wright Water Engineers, representing Pueblo County, to prioritize capital improvement projects that have a direct benefit to Pueblo.

  • Additionally, the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo County have been discussing Pueblo’s concerns about sustainable stormwater funding. In order to address stormwater management issues not included in the SDS 1041 permit, the parties are working to finalize an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that will memorialize the City’s stormwater commitments. The parties agree that an IGA is the best way to resolve these matters and avoid costly litigation.

SDS Phase I

  • Pueblo Dam connection
  • Raw and finished water pipeline
  • 3 water pump stations
  • 1 water treatment plant

Contact Us By Mail

Colorado Springs Utilities
Southern Delivery System
121 S. Tejon Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80947


For General Questions

Phone: 855-737-4968
Email: sdsinfo@csu.org
Media contact: 719-668-8793

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