John Ott, General Manager
P.O. Box 1012
Durango, CO 81302
email: [email protected]
The Animas Water Company is a locally owned non-profit corporation that provides potable water from groundwater wells to its members in the Animas Valley north of Durango. The Company has been a reliable and consistent provider of clean, safe water for over 30 years and has a current membership of 1106 customers.
The Animas Water Company is a private company which formed in 1969 and had its basic infrastructure installed from 1972-1973, as an effort to provide domestic water services to residents of the Animas Valley, North of Durango. The effort was spearheaded by its first Board of Directors, Ed Searle, Robert Everett, Don Rountree, Don Rodewald and Owen Hafling.
Initially it was considered as a water supply provided from treated irrigation water from the Animas Consolidated Ditch. 3 CFS of water rights were secured for that purpose (and later sold). However, during the formation of the Company, the group was approached by the City of Durango, under pressure from the Colorado Department of Health, to utilize City water supply. The idea was that that arrangement would be temporary until a surface water treatment facility could be built, using the ditch righ
Initial funding came from FmHA with a loan in the amount of $700,000, $620,000 of which was spent, and covered the cost of connection to the existing City of Durango water main at the intersection of old County Road 203 (now known as Animas View Drive) and US 550, extension of that main up CR 203, including a pump station, installation of 8” water main along CR 203 in the West Animas Valley, transitioning to 6” near Trimble Lane, continuing along CR 203 to Hermosa Mountain where a water storage tank was placed. Additional distribution infrastructure was installed clear to Bakers Bridge and a portion of the East Animas Road area. Initial customers (approximately 300 total) were along this main line and tapped the new mains directly for their water service. The initial customer total was likely much larger because at least 6 mobile home parks were served, each being nominally a single customer, yet represented upwards of 200-250 mobile home units. The conclusion to this is the Company began its existence with about 550 users. Initial tap fees were sold for $500 each.
Because the elevation of the water tank on Hermosa Mountain is slightly below that of the main storage tank for the City of Durango, (6850 versus 6912) the system could theoretically have passively received its water supply from the City at existing pressures. However, to ensure that adequate water would be supplied and friction overcome in the 8 miles of pipeline to Hermosa Mountain, a pump station was constructed, (now within Durango City Limits and abandoned), along CR 203 (Animas View Drive).
Additional branch water mains of 2”,3” and 4” size were installed along the CR 203 area, to the North along US 550 and along the Northern portion of County Road 250, funded either in the original construction or added as users not directly adjacent to the new main desired water service. The Contractor for the original system was Four Corners Consolidated Construction of Farmington. Engineer was Morcan Engineering of Delta, Colo. Initially very limited branch service was added to the East side of US Highway 550 to serve trailer parks and the Animosa Subdivision.
From the outset, the Animas Water Company was conceived as a rural domestic water supply. Significant other uses such as irrigation (the CR 203 area had a very established irrigation ditch system), fire flows (lines were not sized appropriately), or industrial uses (due to the residential nature of the area). All other uses are ancillary and occur only if the distribution system can accommodate them.
Initially Company operations were accomplished with a single book keeper, a single full-time maintenance person, a Board of Directors with professional assistance from Morcan Engineering of Delta, Co. (Leroy Black) and Larry McDaniel, Durango attorney.
Water was purchased at the outset from the City of Durango through a master meter at the South junction of Highway 550 and Animas View Drive. The costs to the Company included 1.5 times the Durango water rate and payment for new users (PIFs) at the full City of Durango rates. It was incumbent upon the AWC to fully fund their billing and maintenance efforts by adding charges as they could to these fixed City rates, creating a very tight budget situation for many years. If the City of Durango raised water rates or plant investment fees (tap fees) the Company had to continue to add their fees to those numbers to fund operations. This rate increase occurred a number of times during the contract period with the City of Durango.
The Company was formed based on the concept that it would eventually be able to have its own separate water supply. The Board of the Company did not lose sight of that goal and in the early 80’s took steps it saw as necessary to sustain a self-supporting water source and Company. The Colby Water Tank was installed in the early 1980’s as a way of providing good water pressure to the South portion of the water system which would become the more remote reach of the system once the new supply was developed in the valley and City supply was terminated. In addition, a water storage tank was constructed near Bakers Bridge to, in the same way, provide water supply to remote Northern users of the system. Both projects were funded by additional FmHA monies.
Through cooperation with their engineer and attorney, a decision was made that an independent water supply in the Animas Valley could best be served by wells rather than surface supply. First, well sources in the Animas Valley are excellent. Second, treatment requirements for well water are far reduced from the expense and administration of surface water due to expensive treatment and water reporting requirements. Simple chlorination is all that is required of an eligible well water supply. It was logical to choose a well supply plan for the Company.
In 1983 the Company made the decision to drill wells at the current Chapin and Smith locations. Both wells were supervised by Tim Decker, an experienced hydrogologist, to ensure the best possible yields and fit the wells with engineered screens to maximize production. The Smith Well, located near the upper intersection of CR 203 and US Highway 550 was successfully tested in a 72-hour pump test as did the Chapin well. The Chapin well was eventually cased and screened, and a pump installed, and pump house constructed for metering, controls, and chlorination, the Smith well has not yet been outfitted for production. The significance of the results of both the Chapin and Smith wells was that the Board of the Company could be assured with confidence that adequate sustained water supply was available in the Animas Valley to allow for a stand-alone water company.
New subdivision approvals and construction boomed in the Animas Valley. Subdivisions which are now considered part of the fabric of the Animas Valley were constructed- Buena Vista, Valley Meadows, Gleneagles, James Ranches, Dalton Ranch, Red Rock Range, the Cottonwoods, etc. During the time frame 1990-2004, the overall customer tap count, including mobile homes and apartments grew to over 1500.
By 1994, the AWC was in need of additional water supply commitments from the City of Durango due to this growth. The City was having its own troubles with growth and overall water supply funding and was very resistant to any increase in contracted monthly water use by AWC. This convinced the AWC Board and staff that they needed to proceed diligently to provide a self-contained water supply for the valley to remove the unknowns of City constraints.
The Chapin well was looked at as a supply for the upper pressure zone of the system closer to Bakers Bridge. It was obvious from the development pressures East of US Highway 550 (Dalton Ranch, Animas School, Red Rock Range, etc.) favored well locations more central and on the valley floor compared to the Smith well.
The Red Rocks Well was drilled and tested and cased in 1996, working again with Tim Decker and Leroy Black to ensure a professional level water source. Soon after a site in the Hermosa Meadows Campground (now the Cove Subdivision) was negotiated and a second well drilled and cased with almost identical capabilities, providing a firm supply for the AWC from the two wells coupled with tanked storage. The City supply was no longer needed.
Tanked storage was increased on Hermosa Mountain in the late 90’s in response to a concern that the coming Y2K (year 2000) could have events disrupting water supply. The additional storage was well thought out and the Company now has an excellent overall storage availability.
There was a period of a few years in the mid 90’s when supply for AWC came from both new wells and from the City supply on CR 203, commingling the two supplies for that period. A Termination Agreement was finally executed in 1995 which set forth financial arrangements for settlement of loss of AWC customers and infrastructure to the City as well as rates and fees for continued use of City water. With this Termination Agreement, the AWC was on its own and has been in the years since. City of Durango water has not been utilized since the remaining items of the Termination Agreement were resolved.
Most infrastructure additions made to the AWC during the 1990’s and early 2000’s were completed at the expense of the developers, a normal policy in most locations. This allowed the AWC to direct a sound expanded infrastructure at little or no cost to the Company. Some aspects of the infrastructure eventually needed to be supplied by the Company, such as the 10” PVC backbone from the new Animas School to the entry to the Animosa Subdivision. But for the most part developers installed new water mains and paid significant numbers of plant investment fees, steadily placing the AWC in a healthy financial position. Infrastructure constructed later as was done with funds largely collected from plant investment fees, which is how the financial structure is supposed to work. The extension of the 10” main to the Hermosa Mountain storage tanks and drilling and completing the School Well were the primary later expenses undertaken.
With the completion of the School Well and the 10” main extensions in 2009, the AWC has a very sound self-contained system. Water supply is firm. Colorado can be a very dry state and many water supplies throughout the state continually find themselves in need of finding extra water. The AWC in contrast finds itself in a good position with its water supply with room for growth.