PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) — Federal and local officials earlier this month approved a $600 million project to bring cleaner water to towns along the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. .
The project, called Arkansas Valley Conduit, is designed to address chemical and mineral contamination of local water supplies that participating communities have struggled with for decades.
Two weeks ago, the 130-mile project was finalized by the US Bureau of Reclamation, the Pueblo Water Board and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, making funds available to begin construction.
The conduit will carry water from the Pueblo Dam, be treated by the water board system, and connect the board’s transmission line to the new line to begin at the intersection of US 50 and 36th Way, near from the Pueblo airport.
Chris Woodka of the SCWCD said the conduit will start near Avondale, just west of where the water board system ends, and connect through towns such as Boone, Fowler, Rocky Ford, La Junta, Las Animas and will end in Lamar near the Kansas state line.
“We call it the main line that will provide water to 39 communities east of Pueblo, and the district is building the distribution lines for those communities,” he said. “We are getting loans to help these communities pay for their infrastructure upgrades to connect to the pipeline and use that water.”
Woodka said the project was initiated by the federal government agreeing to cover most of the costs.
“It will also create jobs,” he said. “It’s still too early to know how much. We’ll have a better idea after construction starts.”
The pipeline will transport water for drinking purposes only; agricultural water will continue to be transported through existing ditches, canals and other means.
La Junta officials said Thursday they had no comment on the project because they have not decided whether to be part of it.
But Destinye Villalobos, whose family owns a ranch north of the Conduit Road, said most people would accept better water – even if they have to pay a little more for it.
“The existing water tastes quite harsh, very mineral, you can really tell where it’s been,” she said. “My dad has to bring a tank in the back of his truck every day to fill it with water. So not having to do that would be better for him. My grandparents live there and work on the ranch. I I’m not going to make them drink the water that cows drink.”
Woodka said that while the project won’t be completed until 2035, communities on the western end of the pipeline could start receiving water by 2024.