Montezuma Water Company’s History
In the 1950’s and early 1960’s the pollution on the Dolores River had increased to the extent that farmers of the Montezuma County area became aware of probable health hazards to their families. This was due to the fact that most farms were served through the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company’s ditches and canal, from which they filled cisterns for domestic water supply. A few farms had wells for domestic water use. However wells in the area produce a very poor quality and, in addition, most wells would go dry during the winter months. It became apparent to many farmers that they would have to begin hauling their domestic water, as many were doing in the western part of the country.
In early February of 1961, John Porter, who was a member of the County and State Farmers Home Administration Boards, became aware that FmHA could finance rural water systems. Mr. Porter met with Chuck Englehart, Revis Higgins, Charlie McAfee, and Charles Porter all from the Lewis area. Together they wrote a letter of intent and requesting aid from FmHA.
At about the same time the group in Lewis was organizing, another group in the Lakeview area was contemplating a similar system. Pat Wilson, J.T. Wilkerson and Fritz Murray were working with the Lake View Grange to secure financing.
In June of 1963 a meeting of all interested persons was held at the Empire Electric building in Cortez. Representatives from Boettcher and Company, Morcan Engineering Co. and FmHA were present to discuss financing and engineering. From this meeting developed the concept of one large domestic system to serve most of the rural Montezuma County. A steering committee was formed with Harvey Torres serving as chairman. Others on the committee were Chuck Englehart, Frances McCabe, J.T. Wilkerson, Roy Diffendaffer, Everett Tibbits, Gaylord Gardner, Herbert Shull, and James Lambert.
Meetings were held and interested people were collecting donations for the purpose of hiring an engineer to prepare a preliminary report on the feasibility of a rural water system.
By October 11, 1965, test wells in Lost Canyon were completed and on November 15, 1965, Morcan Engineering Co. of Delta submitted their preliminary report to the Board of Directors of Montezuma Water Company. On the same day, an application was submitted to FmHA for a loan in the amount of $1,276,000.00.
On the 21st day of December 1965, the Amended Articles of Incorporation were signed and mailed to the Secretary of State, State of Colorado. The Company incorporated under the Statutes of the Colorado Non-Profit Corporation Act.
In 1966 right -of- way for mainlines and for a tank was obtained. Late 1966, the loan with FmHA was closed so construction could begin. At this time there were approximately 650 applications for service. People who originally requested service were charged $125.00 for a membership.
By the fall of 1967, construction of the initial system had been completed and water was being transported in pipelines from the Lost Canyon wells as far north as Cahone and as far south as the Ute Mountain Reservation.
By the summer of 1970 the company had expanded and the wells were not able to provide enough supply for existing customers. The company approached the Town of Dolores for service of treated water. A line was constructed under the Dolores River to tie into the Towns lines. High water washed this line out so the line was attached to the bridge.
In 1971 the company secured its first surface water right of ½ cfs for $10,000 and shortly after traded taps for another ½ cfs. By the end of 1972 the Company was providing water service to approximately 925 households in two counties.
In 1974, due to the hard work of W.T. (Dopey) Butler and Leona Alber, the company was able to purchase 10 cfs . This enabled the company to have enough water rights for the present time and for many years to come. At the end of 1974 the company’s main problems were inadequate water treatment and insufficient line capacity. The company was serving 1,200 + customers.
From 1974 to 1983 the company continued to purchase treatment from the Town of Dolores but the company was growing too fast. Rural residents would routinely run out of water or water that was received was muddy and a boil order was required. Approximately 1,950 households were being served by the end of 1983.
In January of 1984 five (5) Board of Directors resigned their position on the Board over a personnel dispute. W.T. Butler and Harvey Young were at the meeting, they were asked to fill in and they did so. In March of 1984 the five vacancies were officially filled
With all the growth and problems mentioned previously, the company decided in 1984 that it was time to build a water treatment facility. The Dolores Tunnel was also completed in 1984 and this would be the source for MWC. Property was purchased from Eldon Nelson on Rd T. The construction of a MWC water treatment plant began. The plant was completed in 1985 with two filters installed, bringing the treatment capacity to 2 million gallons per day. The existing members of MWC were assessed $350 for each membership as well as acquiring a loan from a local bank. Members were allowed to stuff envelopes, watch pumps, or make payments as a means to help pay their assessment.
The company has used its own personnel since 1988 to complete several major projects, such as seven (7) miles of mainline in the Pleasant View area, four (4) miles of mainline in McElmo Canyon, eight (8) miles on Penstock project, sixty-six (66) miles in Dove Creek/Egnar, 4 pump stations, and the renovation of the office building in Dolores. The company’s crews completed the construction of a transmission line to provide service to the Dove Creek area in 2007. This gave the company the ability to provide all MWC member’s water with water from the company water treatment plant. 2008-2009 the residents of the Trail Canyon area Rd 2O south of Rd P came together and purchased an adequate number of taps for approximately 6 miles of mainlines to be constructed to provide service in the area. 2010 the residents of the Goodman Point area formed a District and were able to provide funding for 11 miles of mainline, pump station and a storage tank. In 1990 Summit Ridge Water District started receiving water for their distribution system from Montezuma Water Company. In 2009 Montezuma Water Company and Summit Ridge Water District signed an agreement for MWC to manage the SRWD distribution system. 2010 brought the consolidation of the SRWD with the MWC.
Currently the company has approximately 5,000 members, providing service in 3 counties with over 200 hydrants, and 20 full-time employees. The company provides 24-hour service 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The company expanded the water treatment plant in 1999 adding 2 additional filters and a new sedimentation process. The expanded plant has a capacity of 4 million gallons per day. The new sedimentation process allows the plant to be more efficient and produce a higher quality of water. It also allows MWC to meet the requirements of the future in regard to the new safe drinking laws. MWC is continues to work on a SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) that will allow operators to monitor tanks and metering sites placed throughout the system and control plant operations from a computer at the plant.
2008-2009 the company constructed a new pump station at the water treatment plant that houses new pumps. These pumps (high service and new backwash pumps) replace the old pumps in the plant. A chloramine feed system was constructed for secondary disinfection.
In March of 2013 Ultra-Violet (UV) disinfection was added to enhance the disinfection capabilities of the Water Treatment Plant, and at the same time lower the amount of chlorine necessary to achieve EPA required levels of disinfection. This has a two-fold bonus, it lowers chemical costs for MWC and lowers the level of disinfection-byproducts in the treated water.