Within two years, one of the West’s largest water-supply projects will begin pumping its first drop. Even better news for the 500,000 people directly affected: The project will be completed on time and under budget.

Conceived 20 years ago by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), the Southern Delivery System (SDS) will pump Arkansas River water stored in Pueblo Reservoir about 50 miles north to Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city, and three other communities. Recognizing the value in regional resource planning, the communities of Fountain, Pueblo West, and Security helped with funding.

Southern Colorado is achieving greater water certainty for about $147 million less than the $1 billion project estimate. Due in large part to significant cost reductions, CSU will need fewer and lower rate increases than originally anticipated.

When Colorado Springs’ council approved the project in 2009, seven consecutive 12% rate increases, followed by two 4% increases, were anticipated to fund the city’s portion of the investment. Instead, revised projections of two years at 12% and two years at 10% have been implemented, with no additional water rate increases expected to fund Phase I.