Douglas County Government does not provide water services to residents. Several different water providers serve the needs of the County. If your property does not have access to a supply of treated domestic water, as is the case in most rural areas of the county, it is your responsibility to locate an alternative supply. It most likely will be an individual domestic well, for which a permit must be secured from the Colorado Division of Water Resources, also known as the State Engineer’s Office.
When considering the purchase of a property, it is recommended that you verify that sufficient water rights exist and that those rights are being conveyed at the time of sale. In certain instances, the water rights for one or more of the aquifer layers have been severed from the land or retained by another owner. If a well permit has been issued for the property, verify the limits of water use set forth in the permit. A typical exempt well on a 35-acre parcel allows for household uses, animal watering, and 1 acre of irrigation. Other permits, depending on the size and location of the property, may be restricted to household water use only. This type of permit does not allow water for any outdoor uses, such as landscaping or animal needs.
Most rural properties within the County rely exclusively on non-renewable groundwater sources for their wells. Properties closer to the Pike National Forest are at the edge of the Denver Basin aquifer and can experience decreased well productivity over time. Water solutions can be costly if a well fails (e.g., cisterns, well re-drilling).
Groundwater supplies are finite, and their depletion affects property owners throughout the County. Water conservation practices are critical for ensuring that water supplies will be available for future generations. Landscape irrigation is typically the largest component of residential water use, and owners are wise to appropriately restrict the amount and type of ornamental plants and turf grass on their property. Water for produce gardens and animal uses should also be considered when assessing your overall water demands.
Electricity and maintenance costs associated with operating a groundwater well can be significant and should be factored into your budget. Improper maintenance can greatly reduce the life of your well. A limited number of rural properties are served by a community well system or part of an established water district. It is helpful to understand the rate structures of such districts, along with any conservation requirements they may have.
Domestic Wells and Rural Water
Visit the following links for water-related information:
- Domestic Wells and Rural Water
- Colorado Division of Water Resources for permitting
- Douglas County Rural Water Authority for well and water information
At lower densities, sewer service is generally provided by on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) (often referred to as “septic systems”). Tri-County Health Department issues septic-use permits, which are required for the construction of any new septic system, or whenever a property with an existing septic system is sold. The type of soil, depth to groundwater or bedrock, slope, etc. are important in determining the cost and function of a system. Leach-field areas must be protected from vehicles and horses, or other types of livestock, to avoid costly system repairs. Regular pumping is also required to protect the longevity of the septic system.
Electricity, Gas, and Alternative Power
Douglas County has three energy providers: Xcel Energy, Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), and Mountain View Electric Association. The majority of rural area services are provided by IREA. It may be expensive to extend lines in order to accommodate land and homeowners in remote areas of the County. It may also be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric services. Identify the service provider and research these issues prior to building. Natural gas may also be unavailable through a utility provider, making it necessary to contract with a propane delivery service to meet these energy needs.
Roof or ground-mounted solar panels are allowed through the building permit process. Ground-mounted solar facilities must be placed outside the building setbacks set forth in the County’s Zoning Resolution. Residential-scale wind energy conversion systems are being developed within the industry and, at present, are subject to a more extensive land-use review process. The specific characteristics of a property will determine if wind energy systems are feasible.
Postal and Parcel Delivery
Mail, newspaper, standard parcel and overnight package delivery can be difficult in some rural areas. Prospective and current rural homeowners need to confer with service providers as to their status.
An often confusing issue for new residents relates to the fact that your mailing address may not reflect the jurisdiction in which you live, but instead where you receive mail service from (based on your postal zip code). While living in unincorporated Douglas County, your address may indicate Castle Rock, Parker, Larkspur, Sedalia, Franktown, Littleton, or another jurisdiction. Douglas County offers governmental services in these areas.
Rural residents may run into difficulties with telephone and internet use. Internet providers are not available in many parts of rural Douglas County and cellular and internet service is limited, especially in areas in or near the National Forest.