Woody Harrington

Craig Karn has seen the future of access to water for home building, and it looks expensive.

A landscape architect and land planner in Colorado who grapples with the state’s myriad water restrictions and advocates for “total hydrology management” with his home builder clients, Karn has watched tap fees in the region skyrocket.

“Water is becoming economically unavailable,” says Karn, a longtime member of the NAHB’s Environmental Issues Committee who currently chairs its Water Issues Task Group and is founder of Denver-based consultancy Consilium Design. “What we’re seeing across the West are increasing costs and, in some cases, just lack of availability of water. Tap fees are going through the roof.”

He points to the city of Thornton, Colorado, which recently proposed to increase tap fees by 62%.

“That’s $40,000 a door just to have the right to have water,” Karn says, noting other examples in the region that are making development increasingly expensive. “Most jurisdictions here, you can’t annex your property if you’re not bringing the water with you.”

A client attempting to develop townhomes in Parker, Colorado, was targeting prices in the $400,000 range. But when they penciled in the $41,000 tap fees in that municipality, they realized prices would need to be $500,000 or more.

“We just place so much of the burden for water infrastructure and expansion on new construction,” Karn says. “Water has gotten so expensive, it is stopping annexation and development in a lot of jurisdictions here.”

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