Mandatory conservation measured designed to reduce demand for public water are helping the

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

in its efforts to prolong the area’s water supply. That’s according to Tom Frederick, the RWSA’s Executive Director. Frederick gave an update on the drought at the October 22 meeting of the RWSA Board of Directors.

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The area received its first significant rainfall in some time late last week, with reports ranging between a half-inch and six-tenths of an inch of rain. Frederick said the impact on stream flows was minimal, because though the rainfall was steady, it was not intense.

“None of our reservoirs are higher today than they were Friday morning,” he said. He added that Sugar Hollow is the reservoir with the most critical status, at 41 percent of usable storage volume. South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is down a foot

Part of the RWSA’s Drought Management Plan (


) includes limiting the output of the Observatory Water Treatment Plant to one million gallons per day (MGD). In order to do that, demand needs to be below a certain threshold. Otherwise, Observatory has to pump more water, in order to keep sufficient water pressure in the southern part of the RWSA’s service area.

Frederick says the public is continuing to conserve, allowing demand to remain below 10 MGD. This time last year, during a similar dry period, average demand approached 12 MGD.

“This year we’ve been able to keep it down to 9.9 MGD as of today, going back to August 15, which is the date the drought warning took effect,” Frederick said. If the warning, with its mandatory restrictions, had not been issues, Frederick told the Board that things would be much worse.

“Were we not to have imposed a drought warning, and not to have asked for the conservation that we’ve achieved in this community, the Sugar Hollow Reservoir would be down to 20 percent of usable storage.

Frederick said his staff will continue to monitor the weather, and will also continue to study historical records as a way of predicting whether the area’s reservoirs will fill before next spring. The RWSA’s computer modeling is currently using the very dry winter of 2001-2002 as a basis for its forecast.

“October 2001 stream-flow data is remarkably similar to the stream-flow data that we’re seeing right now,” he said. “Every indication is that South Fork will refill without too much difficulty, because we are moving into the time of the year where nature tends to recover. We also have confidence that Beaver Creek will refill. We have enough capacity in the pipeline between Sugar Hollow and Ragged Mountain that through transfers, we can refill Ragged Mountain by April.”

However, the Sugar Hollow Reservoir may not refill if the winter is as dry as in 2001-2002. “That is a deep concern to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority in the event that next summer is a very dry summer. We feel like every possible precaution needs to be taken in our drought management programs and policies to try to bring us to the point where Sugar Hollow will refill.”

Frederick recommended keeping the drought warning in place, and did not recommend moving to drought emergency status at this time. That would mean a mandatory conservation of 20 percent. The Board voted to approve his recommendation.

Albemarle County Executive Bob Tucker, who sits on the RWSA Board, said he hoped Frederick’s comments would go a long way towards convincing people who may consider the drought restrictions alarmist.

“I would say for those who were questioning our actions as early as we did, now see the validity of that, and the prudence of that,” Tucker said. “I think those in the deep South wish they had started early as well,” referring to communities around Georgia that have only three months water supply in their reservoirs.

Sean Tubbs


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