Council delays vote on regional water plan
By Sean Tubbs
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Charlottesville City Council has delayed adoption of a regional water plan that would demonstrate to the commonwealth of Virginia that the community is prepared to withstand a severe drought.
The Council was poised to adopt the motion, but Mayor Dave Norris said he had more questions following the receipt of an email from a member of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan that questioned whether the plan was using up-to-date information.
“I haven’t had a chance to review all the information that came in today,” Norris said.
State law requires the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to adopt a plan by Nov. 2.
Following a major drought in the fall of 2002, the General Assembly passed a law requiring all communities in Virginia to demonstrate they had a plan in place to withstand times when rainfall cannot replenish water supplies.
“When you hear that we’re in a ‘drought watch,’ that’s because it was set in motion by the law,” said Thomas L. Frederick, the executive director of the RWSA.
Part of the plan required the RWSA to hire a firm to prepare a new 50-year demand forecast. AECOM’s work projected that the system should plan for a “safe yield” in 2060 of million gallons of water a day in order to allow it to make it through a drought.
That is a lower figure than calculated by the firm Gannett Fleming in 2004 when it projected the community would need a safe yield of 18.7 mgd.
Rebecca Quinn of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan said the drop in numbers is a major reason why her group’s members are opposed to the expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir and construction of a new pipeline to connect it to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.
The RWSA will consider whether to issue bids for construction of the dam at its meeting later this month. There is no firm date for when the pipeline will be fully designed and constructed.
“We now know that we already have abundant water for decades,” Quinn said. “Any water stored can’t be distributed to 80 percent of the urban service without the pipeline. We will have no increased drought security for 20 years.”
Democratic City Council candidate Dede Smith said the plan uses old information and claimed a 2002 study of the South Fork reservoir was used rather than a newer one produced by the firm HDR.
“We had more water than they reported we had ten years prior,” Smith said. “For you all to accept and approve the regional water plan with what we know is inaccurate information makes you complicit.”
Frederick responded that the two studies were conducted for different reasons and thus had different results.
Norris said he felt the HDR study of the reservoir should be included in the plan.
“That’s a very valuable set of data that we paid a lot of money for and it should be referenced in the report,” Norris said.
Other councilors agreed, and Huja made a motion to vote on the plan with the stipulation the HDR report be referenced. Brown seconded, but asked Norris if he wanted more time.
“If councilors in the coming days have a chance to read the email, please try to [do so],” Norris said.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will take up the plan at its meeting on Wednesday.
The Albemarle County Service Authority had scheduled a vote on the plan for a special meeting Thursday, but has decided instead to take up the matter at its regular meeting on Oct. 20.