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PAWSD, water group contemplate needs, fees, growth

With the holiday season quickly being relegated to memory, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation Board and Community Water Supply Workgroup will soon continue their comprehensive look into PAWSD fees at a third work session dedicated to the topic slated to take place Jan. 4.

The series of work sessions held by the groups are meant to delve into PAWSD fees and the district’s Capital Improvement Plan and system model.

With two work sessions behind them already, the group has defined a number of terms and formed consensuses regarding how water demand is figured and the basis for an updated CIP, both ideas to be used in future planning by the PAWSD board.

At the first of the work sessions, held on Dec. 9, PAWSD and CWSW members discussed a number of items with engineers Patrick O’Brien of Briliam Engineering and Mike Davis of Davis Engineering, including items needed for the engineers to update the CIP and system model:

• Determining an acceptable calculation for water demand;

• Determining a correlation between water demand and use per equivalent unit, peak day;

• Determining if the full build-out condition or population projections should be used as the basis for modeling and cost projection; and

• Reviewing operation standards relating to water pressure, fire flow and water age.

Beginning the discussion, CWSW Chairman Bruce Dryburgh presented a worksheet to the boards in which he took the group’s middle population estimate and converted it to Equivalent Units (EU), then looked at the amount of water sold and water production numbers to correlate with the population growth estimated until 2055.

In the worksheet, Dryburgh estimated that water loss would decline from the current estimate of 30-40 percent to 15 percent.

The estimate shows that roughly the same amount of water would be sold in 2025 as in 2010.

After a brief discussion about what work is included in a rate study currently underway with Red Oak Consulting, much of the discussion turned to the definition of an EU and a formula for calculating water demand.

O’Brien asked the board how many people constituted an EU, noting his care about numbers of people versus fixture counts.

“I don’t even know how we figure that out,” said PAWSD Director Jan Clinkenbeard, citing the district’s “phantom population base” of tourists and second home owners.

Clinkenbeard continued, voicing her support of EUs, saying that EUs allow the district to easily adjust the 10-year plan and “get a better handle on” capital investment fees.

“Seeing how that affects our infrastructure is the challenge,” Davis said, adding that the more people per EU, the more waste is generated, then asking what the water production assigned to each EU was.

“A general rule that you can use is that all the water that goes out, comes back,” Davis said.

Director Windsor Chacey asked the engineers how many people were calculated per EU, to which O’Brien responded that in the Harris report, 1.5 constituted an EU, though typically 2.5 is the number used.

Clinkenbeard then posed her concern that more than one family may live in one building, and asked how that would be accommodated. O’Brien replied that water usage would show homes that were consistently using more water, a point Davis built on by adding that the higher number of people in some dwellings would perhaps balance with empty homes.

Chacey wondered if the difference in usage would change the wear and tear on the infrastructure, with O’Brien noting that four or eight people in a house won’t affect the infrastructure noticeably unless in an unusually dense area.

Davis also noted that pipe conveyances are usually built for a full build-out scenario.

From there, the conversation veered toward calculating water demand, with Interim PAWSD Manager Shellie Petersen warning that calculations stemming from “build water” would be wrong since water serves other uses in the district.

Davis noted that figuring out water demand, including the other uses, would allow the district to look more aggressively at water loss, while O’Brien encouraged a calculation that started from the water plants and worked outward.

Later in the discussion, Petersen suggested beginning with the number of gallons sold and adding in the best estimates for backflushing and nonrevenue water that is used to ready water for consumption and clear wastewater, then add an estimated percentage to account for water loss and pipe breaks and leaks.

The group later agreed that 15 percent was an acceptable figure for water loss for the time being.

Davis then noted it was possibly a good idea to equate water produced per EU, while Director Roy Vega pushed for the elimination of the EU figure in lieu of the use of population figures.

Davis responded that EUs are a way to make the association between usage and population.

Clinkenbeard again voiced her changed opinion on EUs, stating that EUs are consistent, while population is not. Petersen added that EUs are the industry standard.

CWSW member Steve Van Horn voiced his concern with EUs based on fixture counts and having nothing to do with water usage, citing the example of retired homeowners living in a large home, but not using a lot of water.

Dryburgh stated that EUs are necessary for the various fees assessed by PAWSD, and PAWSD Chairman Steve Hartvigsen expanded on an earlier idea voiced by Vega, asking if EUs could be used for rates, while population could be used for forecasting — a consensus the board agreed to.

Peterson then informed the group that peak day was in July, bringing up a discussion concerning whether the district should be built to accommodate peak day, or if conservation measures should be implemented to lessen the impact of peak day, and how and if fire flow standards should be incorporated into the district’s infrastructure.

Ultimately, the group decided that without a partnership to increase the district’s infrastructure to accommodate fire flow standards, the district would not plan for it in its CIP.

“I have a lot of difficulty with people that come in and try to place those standards on a rural community,” said PAWSD Director Allan Bunch.

Considering the topic of water age, Davis said the district has previously dealt with it through flushing excess water at the ends of pipes instead of dealing with it with infrastructure.

O’Brien said the best way to deal with old water is with operations, with not many options available to deal with it via infrastructure.

Before winding down the near four-hour meeting, the group also came to the consensus that 10-year planning horizons and forecasting were appropriate, and that larger population changes could be dealt with as they occur, and as they relate to water storage and infrastructure needs.

The second work session, held on Dec. 15, afforded the group a chance to review the calculation for water demand, review the correlation between demand and use per EU, discuss and define “new growth” and how account holders should be credited for assessed water availability fees, and discuss inclusions.

With some minor changes in the formula agreed upon at the previous meeting, the group agreed to the calculation of water demand, with the agreement made that the chart would be updated on a regular basis.

The discussion then turned to peak day and water loss, which brought up the topic of how much water storage exists and how long district reserves would last.

Petersen said that, although all of PAWSD’s storage is in District 1, District 2 (downtown) could be served by that water in an emergency.

She added that peak day had also already been determined since the previous meeting.

Additionally, Petersen spoke of district efforts to connect its various reservoirs.

The group also again agreed on 15 percent as the water loss figure to use in planning.

Much of the rest of the work session centered on discussion of how new growth was defined and on associated fees.

Historically, PAWSD has defined “new growth” as anything not currently built. At the meeting, “new growth” was defined as an expansion of district boundaries, i.e. inclusions.

“New demand” will be increased demand within the currently defined PAWSD district, caused by new building.

In discussing fees for new growth and new demand, it was determined that inclusions would pay significantly higher fees due to the need for new infrastructure — the cost of which would be determined with the help of the district, developers and PAWSD engineers.

For new demand, fees already paid toward the property (no matter if by the current owner or a previous owner), such as water availability fees, would be credited to the lot and fees to build adjusted to include the amount credited.

“I think this part of the discussion has been really amazing,” Petersen said at the end of the meeting, adding that the topic for the Jan. 4 work session will be the “hairy gorilla in the room” — Dry Gulch Reservoir.

A meeting of the CWSW is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 4, followed by a joint meeting of the groups at 6:30. Both meetings will be held in the PAWSD meeting room.

randi@pagosasun.com