Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

Housing residents unaffected by water-rate hike

A water tower looms over a neighborhood block inside the Schriever housing area. Housing area residents will not be affected by a water-rate increase recently announced by the base’s water supplier.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Prater)

A water tower looms over a neighborhood block inside the Schriever housing area. Housing area residents will not be affected by a water-rate increase recently announced by the base’s water supplier. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott Prater)

By Scott Prater

Schriever Sentinel

Schriever housing-area residents can rest easy. They won’t see the heavy water-rate increase that some Cherokee Metro District customers have recently experienced.

However, it is unknown when or how much Schriever Air Force Base will be affected by the rate increase.

Cherokee, the base’s sole water supplier, is experiencing difficulty obtaining water to supply to its customers. It had relied on wells in the Upper Black Squirrel Basin and various other water districts, but recent court rulings have cut its water rights by as much as 40 percent.

The district’s residential customers east of Powers Boulevard have seen recent rate hikes of as much as 87 percent.

Schriever, on the other hand, purchases water from Cherokee in a different manner.

“Schriever Air Force Base has a contract with Cherokee Metro District for water, which has negotiated rates,” Michael Wittkopf, 50th Contracting Squadron chief of base infrastructure said. “At this time, we have heard there is a rate increase which will affect us, but until we get the official request from Cherokee, with the supporting documentation for an increase, we are not in negotiations. Once we receive the appropriate information we will negotiate the new rates.”

Base officials have entered into conversations with the water district and Cherokee understands and agrees that it cannot raise the base’s water rates without a modification to its contract.

“As good stewards of tax-payer dollars, the base is responsible to ensure water rates are fair and reasonable,” Mr. Wittkopf said. “There are other Air Force agencies with utilities experience that are available to assist us if needed.”

Likewise, Tierra Vista Communities, the company that owns and operates the base housing area, also entered into a contract with Cherokee for bulk water and waste-water capacity.

“Our contract with Cherokee states that the bulk water rate represents Cherokee’s preferred rate for Schriever,” said Tierra Vista Project Director Pete Sims. “We buy the water from Cherokee, then deliver it to our residents. Our bulk rate is subject to change along with Schriever’s, but we have not been advised of an increase yet.”

Mr. Sims was careful to say that no matter what happens with water rates for Tierra Vista, Schriever housing area residents will not notice a difference because utilities are included along with rent here.

“Housing area residents’ Basic Allowance for Housing covers rent and utilities,” he said. “In the event of a rate increase, Tierra Vista would end up taking the hit on operating expenses. But, each year the Department of Defense performs a study on local rents and utilities, and they make any necessary adjustments. We may see a lag, but BAH would be adjusted in future years in the event of a steep increase in utilities.”

Due to the nature of its Water Service Agreement with Cherokee, Tierra Vista also reported that it would not face water restrictions at the base housing area.

“We are not under water restrictions because of our bulk purchase agreement, but we are also environmentally conscious,” Mr. Sims said. “We have gone to great lengths to minimize our outdoor water use through low flow irrigation heads, our water optimizing irrigation control systems and our aggressive Xeriscape design. It’s the responsible thing to do in Colorado where water is such a limited resource.”

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