25 March 2008

Water Supply In Cville

Everyone is bleating about the cost of the SFRR-to-Ragged Mountain pipeline. Has anyone else noticed that in order to keep the current system working, we would still have to replace the failing pipeline from Sugar Hollow, or am I the only citizen out here that remembers that plank from the original "State of the Water Supply" reports in the planning process? Regardless of which method you choose there's a pipeline cost involved. So what are the comparative costs of the two pipelines?

The other costs in the system--repair & upgrade to two water treatment plants--would have happen no matter which method you choose as well. These are basic infrastructure costs that have to be done. You have to figure them into both plans, otherwise you are not comparing apples to apples.

All of this seems to me to be very misleading. Dredging isn't a silver bullet, if dredging costs $56 million yet has to be done over and over again. $56 million next year, $56 million 5 years from now, $56 million 5 years after that--not very cost effective. And let's face it, that suggested airport runway only needs to be built once.

For the South Fork to be viable as a long-term water supply plan, you have to figure in the costs of addressing the reasons for its excessive sedimentation. What are those? Does that happen because there's too much farmland and impervious surfacing around the waters flowing to it or are there other causes? If a study were done, it might be found that we cannot sufficiently impede the sediment continually filling up South Fork. Or it might be found that it's possible to do, but the cost of addressing the causes of sedimentation far exceed what we would be willing to pay as a community. Still, this is a plank that needs to be address when comparing possible plans for long-term water supply.

In which case, a Ragged Mountain upgrade would be vastly less expensive over both the near and long term, since that dam does not have a sedimentation issue, due to the limited open-water feeders to that reservoir.

Oh, and the reservoir running under 64? Isn't that a red herring argument? We already have a very long bridge on Earlysville Road which runs over the South Fork reservoir. We're already taking that risk with our water supply--we chose to take it many years ago.

I also want to see a comparison of the environmental cost of losing the trees around Ragged Mountain versus the environmental gains from releasing flows that would bring two streams back to their natural state. Every time someone puts in a new subdivision in Albemarle County, we lose that many trees--it's a cost we're familiar with. But what are the benefits of having natural flows, particularly in the Moorman's (which now runs, I think, at a mere 67%)? Does our natural habitat's biological diversity rest in the headwaters? If so, then restoring the Moorman's could have a greater impact in preserving our overall environment than saving the trees further south at Moore's Creek would. And what is the environmental cost of finding the acreage to dewater all that silt, time and time again? I know we covered this when we were going through the water supply planning process (for years), but those arguments have gotten lost in this kerfluffle. Someone please tell me the environmental gains from the Ragged Mountain plan again?

I'd like the Citizen's Water Supply group to address some of these, since they have chosen to take on the position "New dam = bad." If they want to sell me on their solution, they have to do more than give me a negative bill of goods on the solution that we all thought was so brilliant last year. I'm tired of negative campaigning.

Oh, and the arguments can't be based upon curbing growth. I already accept that growth will slow in the coming years. However, for 3 years running we've had water restrictions in place. It's not the 2002 drought I measure against. I measure against the number of months each year in which we have water restrictions based on lack of rainfall. Those months are increasing. We DO have a growing water supply problem and it's current--it has nothing to do with projected growth in my mind. Perhaps we should make those restrictions permanent--I think there's a strong argument for that. But can anyone prove to me with numbers that permanent water restrictions will address basic water supply over the next 50 years if, every year, we are taking more out of the system than is replaced by rainfall? And can anyone prove to me that there's the will on the part of our residents to permanently change their water use habits to meet those numbers?