Planning, Partnerships Make 50-mile Water Pipeline Successful

Colorado’s Southern Delivery System is one of the largest water projects underway in the western United States and an illustration of synergy between stakeholders
Planning, Partnerships Make 50-mile Water Pipeline Successful
The Southern Delivery System is a regional project to carry water from the Arkansas River stored in Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. The project will deliver water beginning in 2016.

Interested in Rehab/Relining?

Get Rehab/Relining articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Rehab/Relining + Get Alerts

In a day when many municipalities are squabbling over water resources, the Colorado Southern Delivery System is one example of communities working together to assure adequate water supplies for their citizens in the future.

And when the water supply project — one of the largest in the western United States — comes in 15 to 20 percent under budget, the story gets even better.

The 50-mile SDS (Southern Delivery System) pipeline will link the City of Colorado Springs and three neighboring communities, with the Pueblo Reservoir on the Arkansas River. The line will carry water needed for continued growth in the area, supplement existing raw water supplies, and protect against future droughts.

The pipeline and associated infrastructure will be ready for service in early 2016.

“The project will give southern Colorado access to water in the Pueblo Reservoir — water all the (participating) communities have rights to use,” says John Fredell, program manager for SDS. He describes the pipeline as a “big straw in the Arkansas River” that will give the area a new source of raw water and reduce dependence on the Colorado River.

Pipeline project

The Pueblo Reservoir is located an hour’s drive south of Colorado Springs and, when full, has a capacity of over 357,000 acre feet of water. The pipeline begins at a new outlet structure on the reservoir, then extends north 50 miles to a new water treatment plant under construction in Colorado Springs.

The line is 66 inches in diameter and constructed of spiral wound steel sections, welded at the joints.

Along the way, the pipeline will serve the City of Fountain, Pueblo West and the Security Water District, each of which have invested in the SDS. The project includes three pumping stations.

At one point near the northern end of the line, a mile-long tunnel has been dug to bring the line underneath an interstate highway, two railroad lines, and an environmentally sensitive creek. Most of the rest of the pipeline was installed using open-cut methods.

Keys to success

Value engineering, innovative purchasing arrangements, and extensive public outreach have been the keys to success, according to Fredell and SDS public outreach manager Janet Rummel. The measures are expected to bring the project in at more than $150 million under the original budget of nearly $1 billion.

Fredell is proud of the value engineering approach taken on all aspects of the project and has examples to prove his point. “We got ideas from many people on how to scrub this project and make everything more efficient,” he says. “We looked for ways to do things better, smarter, faster.”

One result was rejection of the original plan to double-lap weld all pipe section joints, reserving the stronger welds for critical areas under roadways and at other stress points. The majority of the welds are single lap, and were performed in situ by welders who crawled up inside the pipeline to make the welds. The change has resulted in a 10 to 20 percent reduction in the cost of each section of pipe, as well as less disruption at the surface.

The new water treatment plant in Colorado Springs, scheduled for 50 mgd with the potential to expand capacity to 100 mgd, is another example. “The initial design had processes located in different buildings all around a campus,” Fredell says. “We redesigned it to have all the processes under one roof. It’s not only cheaper, but operators don’t have to go outside and walk from building to building to have access.”

Operators also had a hand in equipment selection. “We visited an identical plant in Salt Lake City, and our operators reviewed the equipment and made some good suggestions and modifications for our plant,” Fredell says.  Operator suggestions on the filtration design have won approval from regulators and will improve efficiency and save money.

The same with pump stations, where changing contractors and getting more aggressive reduced projected costs from nearly $100 million to $76 million.

Bidding process

A unique purchasing plan saved additional money. It also reduced risk and guaranteed participation by local contractors.

Instead of awarding a single contract to build the pipeline end-to-end, SDS broke the job into a series of smaller contracts that enabled local contractors to bid. “Plus, it was during the recession, so we were assured good competition on the bids,” Fredell says.

Rummel says the SDS put local contractors to work and created a positive impact on the local economy. She estimates that at least $500 million of the total project cost is being spent in Colorado. “We wanted to make sure local contractors had the ability to bid,” she says.

A regional project

While value engineering and procurement strategies helped save money, the success of the project owes as much to a thoughtful public outreach program.

Rummel explains that the effort to keep the public informed started early and touched all bases. Public involvement was part the overall project team, ensuring that public concerns would be part of the decision-making throughout the life of the project.

“This is a regional project,” she explains, “affecting lots of people, businesses, and communities.”

In order for it to be successful, Fredell adds, SDS committed to a proactive program right at the beginning of the process — not in the middle, or at the end (when damage control is about all that can be accomplished).

Rummel cites one example where construction would have affected the route that school children were taking to cross streets going to and from classes. “We looked at different approaches, but then decided to hold off construction until summer when school was not in session,” she explains.

In another, the mile-long tunnel under the Interstate highway was dug from west to east instead of east to west, which was called for in the original design. The reason? To avoid 24-hour construction and staging area noise and light that would have bothered residents near the east end.

Other lessons learned, according to Fredell, include flexibility and follow-through.

“You must be willing to compromise,” he says, “and you must keep the commitments you make when you’re dealing with so many different entities.”

He adds that having options also helped. “We had two different alignments or routes — one directly from the Arkansas River, the other through Pueblo County. We let everybody know we had options, and that really helped.”

Finally, in a project of this size, permitting and hearings were critical. “We took them very seriously,” Fredell says. “We worked far ahead and planned for them very thoroughly, from start to finish — from the room setup, to the food, to the scheduled speakers. You really have to think these things all the way through.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.