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April 07, 2010

Mayor Norris calls for new demand projections on fifty-year water plan

Reader comments (0) DailyProgress
By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said Monday he needs one more piece of information before he and other elected officials can make a decision on the future of the long-term community water supply plan.

New cost estimates for several elements of the water supply plan will be available this spring, but Norris said that information may be useless if the adopted plan provides more water than the community needs.

“I’m not comfortable supporting a long-term water supply strategy based on [projected water usage] numbers that are far off from actual usage,” Norris said.

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In 2007, the water plan adopted by the city and county was estimated to cost more than $140 million and includes construction of a higher dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir and a new pipeline to carry water from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to Ragged Mountain.

Supply-demand

Click for larger image, which originally appeared in Our Water, Our Future, Charlottesville Tomorrow's in-depth look at the water supply plan

The water plan is based on fifty-year water demand projections estimated by consultant Gannett Fleming.  Those projections updated a 1997 analysis by Vanhesse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) which called for 18-21 million gallons a day (MGD) of water to satisfy the urban area’s demand in 2050.

Gannett Fleming’s 2004 study concluded the community would need 18.7 MGD in 2055. Those figures assume that water conservation measures will reduce demand by 5%.

Download Download Gannett Fleming's 2004 demand analysis

Norris pointed to claims by Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, a group opposed to the current plan, that in 2009, the community used 28% less water than projected in the demand analysis.  According to RWSA figures, the community used 9.105 MGD of water in 2009.

20100405-CC-O'Connell-Frede Out-going City Manager Gary O'Connell appears before Council in his capacity as new executive director of Albemarle County Service Authority
Tom Frederick, the executive director of the RWSA, was on hand before Council Monday night to provide an update on the studies being conducted as part of a reevaluation of the plan. 

Schnabel Engineering will deliver a revised preliminary design for a new  Ragged Mountain Dam by late May, Frederick said.  The final report for the dredging feasibility study, which will include protected costs, is being conducted by HDR Engineering and will be ready in June.

“We anticipate that the City Council will have an opportunity to be directly involved, as will the county boards, in helping guide what decisions are made by the community,”  Frederick said.

With respect to the demand analysis proposed by Mayor Norris, Frederick said his staff does not have the resources to take on a new study at this time, because his employees are busy coordinating the other ongoing studies. He also cautioned Norris that forecasts require many years of data before trends can be identified.

“Water use has declined somewhat since 2006,” Frederick said.  “The big question mark is, is it going to continue to flat-line as some people suggest? Or are we in a cycle that’s going to turn around and maybe go back up again?”

No other Councilors except Norris appeared to be willing to spend money to perform a new demand analysis by the end of the summer.  Councilor Kristin Szakos asked it were possible to extrapolate the data from the 2004 analysis to produce a ballpark figure that could satisfy Norris’ concerns.

Frederick said his staff could likely work on that, but it might not produce the best demand analysis possible. Norris suggested the RWSA should pay for a full study now, given that state regulations require a new analysis to be completed by the end of 2011.

“If we don’t get started now, it’s going to be too late to inform a very important decision that needs to be based on the best possible information,” Norris said.

Before moving forward, other Councilors said they wanted more information on how much a new demand analysis would cost, and if the RWSA could pay for the study.  The matter is expected to return to Council at a future meeting.

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