Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA)

unveiled their preferred alternative for the community’s

50-year water supply plan

at a public information meeting tonight held at Monticello High School.  Their recommendation is

to build a larger dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir

, ultimately raising the water pool by 45 vertical feet, and

to build a pipeline connecting this expanded reservoir to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

.  According to RWSA, this system costing an estimated $130.5 million, including the addition of improved water treatment facilities, would allow additional storage and treatment of water for the urban water supply for times of drought and for needs required by projected population growth.

The pipeline alternative


receiving RWSA support was to utilize the James River, a water source originating outside the local watershed.  RWSA Executive Director,

Thomas Frederick

(pictured above) told the audience, “You told us many ways, many times, that you wanted to stay within the watershed. To stay within the areas where the land use is controlled by the local officials, and that’s what this alternative provides to you.”

This “Ragged Mountain Reservoir Alternative,” or Charlottesville Pipeline, would be built in phases during the next 15-20 years. The first priority will be to address the safety of the existing Ragged Mountain Dam by starting construction of the replacement dam.  This would be followed by an upgrade of the Observatory Hill water treatment facility.

The most expensive aspect of this project is the pipeline connecting the reservoirs which is expected to cost $34.9 million (

detailed map at left, click to enlarge

).  RWSA would like to begin the pipeline construction process as early as possible once financing options are finalized.  Much of the northern portion of the pipeline’s path is over existing roads or land acquired by VDOT in the right-of-way for the

Western US 29 bypass project

.  The southern portion is largely on land owned by the University of Virginia.

Next, RWSA will seek approval of this plan by the RWSA Board, the Charlottesville City Council, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and the Albemarle County Service Authority in order to submit a permit application to the regulators by July 4, 2006.

RWSA is still accepting feedback on this project and it can be sent via e-mail to


RWSA’s PowerPoint presentation is available on the

Charlottesville Tomorrow website


In September 2005, Charlottesville Tomorrow published an

analysis of the two major water supply pipeline options

, a pipeline to the James River and a Charlottesville Pipeline connecting existing reservoirs and collecting water almost entirely from within Albemarle County.  After reviewing this research, 100% of the members of the public that

took action

via the Charlottesville Tomorrow website and who expressed a pipeline preference indicated they preferred the Charlottesville Pipeline over the James River Pipeline.  Charlottesville Tomorrow did not take a position on a preferred pipeline.

Further, in that analysis, Charlottesville Tomorrow made the argument that either pipeline would have to include a water treatment plant upgrade as well as an expanded Ragged Mountain Reservoir.  In September 2005, Charlottesville Tomorrow estimated the costs of a Charlottesville Pipeline solution at about $105 million.  This cost estimate was based on a 10 mile 18” diameter pipeline.  At tonight’s meeting, RWSA estimated the distance would be 9.5 miles for a proposed 36” pipeline.  Other cost estimates were also revised and RWSA put the total preliminary cost projection for this water supply plan at about $130.5 million.

Brian Wheeler


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