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August 24, 2010

Opponents say review of water supply demand failed to account for conservation

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DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Opponents of the community’s long-term water supply plan on Monday blasted the conclusions reached by an engineering firm hired to review the demand assumptions that serve as the basis of the document.

“We were disappointed when we read the report,” said Dede Smith of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan. “The actual water usage data that we have seen in the last 10 years, with the full impacts of water conservation, should have been factored in when in fact it was not.”

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority board is expected to discuss the report at its meeting today.

RWSA Executive Director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. disagreed with the critical assessment.

“From my review of the report, it does take into account conservation of all types that have occurred in the last eight years,” Frederick said in an interview.

Prepared by Steve Swartz of Swartz Engineering Economics, the report recommends that the RWSA establish a new demand goal for the water plan of 18.45 million gallons a day for the year 2060.

Swartz reviewed the 2004 study completed by consultant Gannett Fleming, which had previously set a goal of 18.7 mgd for 2055. He concluded in the report that the community experienced a “one-time reduction in demand” caused by a variety of factors, including the 2002 drought, and that “data from the past 16 years do not indicate any change to long-term trends.”

The report indicates that increased enrollment at the University of Virginia, combined with increased commercial and residential growth in Charlottesville and Albemarle, will drive local population growth, and thus water demand.

Smith emphasized in her remarks the importance of the 1992 federal Energy Policy Act, which she said would significantly reduce household water usage by requiring more efficient toilets, showerheads and faucets.

“The report does not even mention federal [water efficiency] mandates that have come into place since the 2004 demand study that have dramatically impacted our water use,” Smith said.

Frederick said the Gannett Fleming “trend line from 2004 also took into account future conservation.”

20100823-CSWP-chart
Chart by Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan comparing Swartz's demand trend to that of a linear trend of actual water usage since 1983.

At Monday’s news conference, group member Rich Collins characterized the RWSA as “so committed to its early permitted activity that it is unwilling to explore, much less to decide on, a better option.”

Collins said his group’s alternative water plan, which has dredging as its centerpiece to create more storage capacity, would provide 14 million gallons a day to 16 million gallons a day in “safe yield” for the water supply in 2060. Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, who also sits on the RWSA board, has indicated the City Council should soon be ready to make a decision on the next steps for the water plan.

“I personally am reserving judgment until I have heard from Mr. Swartz,” Norris said in an interview. “If he is not able to demonstrate how his report adequately incorporated … conservation and efficiency, that would give me pause with regard to proceeding with a massive new dam that we may not need.”

“That’s the beauty of the [alternative] plan, we know because of studies we have done that dredging will produce a significant amount of water and the first phase can be done at relatively low cost,” Norris said. “While I am not endorsing it yet, there is an argument to proceed with dredging in the short run.”

Ann Mallek, the chairman of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, said she was comfortable the Swartz study was pointing the community in the right direction to satisfy its long term water needs.

“Demand needs to be based on a long period of time, not just a short period that supports your point of view,” Mallek said in an interview.

“The extra use anticipated by the University of Virginia and future industrial needs all show that we are in the right ball park,” Mallek said. “It wouldn’t bother me to have a water supply that would last to 2060 or 2070. That’s what our citizens want us to do, to plan for the infrastructure that we need.”

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