On September 4, 2007, Tom Frederick of the
Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority
briefed the City Council on the status of the area’s drought warning.
“Our current recommendation is that the drought warning that is already in place should be maintained for now,” Frederick said. He added that the area received more rainfall than expected in August, but the month’s total was still below average.
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“The total deficit for the year is seven inches, which is significant in water supply terms. Our reservoirs did reach their lowest point of the year on August 21st.” Rainfall that weekend brought levels back up, but since then they’ve been falling again since August 29. Frederick projects that by the end of this weekend, levels will be back to August 21 levels.
Frederick said the short-term water forecast is for mostly sunny skies with little rainfall, and that the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Services suggests the best chance for significant rainfall could come in the next two months, before the end of the tropical weather season. He said a very dry winter could present a frightening scenario.
“One thing we think is very important is that we see ourselves on a path where we can fill all of our reservoirs this winter and spring. In the event that next year turns out to be a drought year, it’s extremely important to have the benefit of all our available safe yield,” Frederick said. “And that’s only available if you start in the May-June time frame with everything topped off at full.” RWSA staff is studying the winter of 2001 to find out what lessons can be learned. In the meantime, he says area residents on municipal water have consumed less water since the warning was declared.
Mayor Brown mentioned that he’s received a lot of comments from the public regarding the impact development may be having on water levels. He asked City Attorney Craig Brown to clarify that adequate water supply can’t be taken into consideration with by-right developments. He also asked Frederick to brief him on updates to complete the
50-year water supply plan
Frederick said the RWSA filed a permit to build the new dam at Ragged Mountain Dam in July 2006, and the application is working its way through various state and federal regulatory agencies. He said his staff hopes to work out some of the requested conditions for a permit, and that he hopes the state Department of Environmental Quality will soon be able to schedule a hearing for public comment. The RWSA has awarded an engineering contract to the company Gannett Fleming to begin design work on the new dam. “Right now we’re working on a lot of technical issues – drilling, boring, understanding the rock underneath the foundation of the new dam,” he said.
The cost of the new dam will be borne by both the County and the City ratepayers using public water, but the exact distribution of the cost has not been agreed upon. The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority
will hold a public meeting
to discuss financing at 6:00 PM on September 13th in Lane Auditorium.