By Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, September 3, 2010

Charlottesville’s City Council met in a two-hour work session Thursday to review recent studies about a

50-year water plan

that has been in the works for nearly eight years, since the drought of 2002 underscored the need for a long-term solution.

After seven separate presentations, the council found it had run out of time for a substantive discussion about specific plan alternatives. Mayor

Dave Norris

said the council would find time at the next two regular City Council meetings being held in September, including a public hearing on the water plan scheduled for Sept. 20.




“Our purpose today was not for council to come to any decisions, but rather to give us a chance to review a lot of the studies that have been done,” Norris said.

“The data presented was very useful,” Councilor

Satyendra Huj

a said after the meeting. “We have more data and opinions now than when I first started on City Council. I think we will have a better plan.”

Organizations advocating both for and against the 2006 water plan, which still has the backing of Albemarle County officials, were given the opportunity to make presentations.

The Nature Conservancy’s Bill Kittrell provided the council with background on his organization’s early work contributing to the water plan. He described the goal of balancing human and environmental needs by finding a plan that provided a big enough “bath tub” to provide drinking water in a severe drought and at the same time provide for improved stream flows in the Moormans and Rivanna rivers.

“Stream flows are important because water and wildlife that depend on rivers depend not just on the quality of the water, but also the quantity of the water,” Kittrell said. “Unfortunately, aquatic animals are the most imperiled animals in the world … and impacts locally are due primarily to excess sedimentation and altered hydrology.”






Dede Smith, Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

Dede Smith, representing Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, a group that favors dredging at the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, presented data about water conservation that she has said demonstrates why the new dam in the water plan will be unnecessary.

“Given what we’ve seen and what we know about conservation trends, we can anticipate a conservation rate that is much closer to 30 percent,” Smith said. “I consider this quite a conservative estimate.”

Smith said water conservation would increase as more efficient water fixtures and appliances were utilized in the community and that the 50-year water plan was oversized. Smith said overall water usage in the city would continue to drop, and that while the University of Virginia was a significant city customer, she said Albemarle was a different matter.

“UVa will be put before you as a big threat, but I’ll tell you, UVa can’t even begin to compete with county growth,” Smith said.

The

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

has scheduled a tentative meeting of the “four boards” for Sept. 21, the day after the council’s public hearing. The signatories of the four-party agreement that governs local water and sewer matters are the RWSA, the Albemarle County Service Authority, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and the City Council.

Huja said he was “leery” that the council would have reached a decision by the time of that meeting.

“It could happen Sept. 20, but if history is any guide, I’m not so sure,” Huja said. “I hope I will be able to make a decision by then.”

Councilor

Holly Edwards

said she was weighing the benefits of improved stream flows and a sense of obligation to maintain the existing South Fork Reservoir with dredging. She said she still needs to look at all the information that has been collected before making her decision.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being [at a decision] and 1 being not even close, we are still at a 5,” Edwards concluded.

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