By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

September 13, 2011

The four local boards with authority over Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s urban water supply held a public hearing Tuesday to take comment on a state-mandated plan that describes how the community will meet its water needs in the future.

“At the core of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s mind is, ‘are our 50-year forecasts for water demand covered by existing water supply or do we need within the period to be looking at additional water supply plan?’” said

Thomas L. Frederick Jr

., executive director of the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

.


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In the wake of a major drought in 2002, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring every locality to develop water supply plans to describe how they would manage future droughts. Charlottesville and Albemarle opted to create a regional plan and must submit their first plan by Nov. 2.

As part of the planning process, the RWSA hired

AECOM

to conduct a new 50-year water demand forecast.






Kim Shorter of AECOM addresses the four boards

Kim Shorter, a water supply specialist with AECOM, said the firm concluded a projected demand of 16.9 million gallons a day in 2060. She said AECOM’s calculations factor in more efficient technology over time, such as the gradual replacement of all toilets with low-flow devices.

“What we think is the most probable scenario for the future is the continuation of the existing conservation programs,” Shorter said. She added that the regional water plans much be reviewed every five years, which could reflect decreases in demand if technology further improves.

The City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

agreed earlier this year to increase water storage capacity by building an earthen dam

to raise the Ragged Mountain Reservoir by 30 feet. That would be followed by construction of a new pipeline to connect the Ragged Mountain and South Fork reservoirs.

“We will make further improvements to the best that we can to emphasize further water conservation efforts,” Frederick said. “We also will seek and implement opportunities for dredging. That was a commitment. And only if needed and as a last resort we would then raise the

Ragged Mountain Reservoir

an additional 12 feet sometime in the future.”

Opponents of building the new earthen dam at Ragged Mountain used the public hearing to explain why they think a full restorative dredging the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

would be a better alternative.

“The dam and the pipeline will grossly overbuild for what we need,” said Rebecca Quinn of the group

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

. She said AECOM overestimated future demand in the city.

John Cruickshank of the

Sierra Club

said the regional water plan and the steps being taken to reach its goals do not put enough emphasis on conversation.

“We continue to believe that future water supply can best be provided by a plan in which key elements are restorative dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and a strong program of water conservation,” Cruickshank said. He added that his group would prefer to build on the existing concrete dam at Ragged Dam, which was built in 1908. That concept was preliminarily studied but abandoned by the City Council.

“The regional water plan process is separate and apart under the law from the legal process that approved the permit for the [new] Ragged Mountain Dam and the process for presently considering an amendment to that permit,” said Michael Gaffney, chairman of the RWSA board.

In February 2008, t

he Virginia Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit

allowing the RWSA to construct a new concrete dam downstream from the existing one. A public hearing to consider an amendment allowing the RWSA to build an earthen dam instead will be held Sept. 29.

Several speakers asked for the timeline for written comments to be expanded for an additional month to give more people the chance to have their voice heard.

“There’s a ton of information out that needs to be processed,” said independent City Council candidate

Brandon Collins

. Collins said he feels dredging would meet the community’s needs for the next 30 years and decisions about future supply sources should be made after that.

Frederick said expanding the public comment period could potentially lead to the City Council and Board of Supervisors not meeting the DEQ’s deadline. However, he said he was not clear exactly what penalties would be assessed if the deadline was not met.

At the end of the meeting, the four boards reached consensus not to expand the deadline for written comments. Instead, concerned citizens could continue to make comments to the City Council and the Board of Supervisors.

Written comments can be sent via email to

info@rivanna.org

through Sept. 20. Frederick said his staff and AECOM staff need a week and a half before that to prepare for final presentations of the plan to the City Council and Board of Supervisors.

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