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PAWSD deals with water loss, projects, rates

The amount of water loss in the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation district system reported was 31.26 percent in March.

This week, PAWSD directors and staff discussed different solutions, given the resources at hand.

District Manager Edward Winton noted, according to a Sacramento University study, that 20 percent was an acceptable, normal amount of water loss.

Where the district’s water loss is taking place, and the reason for it, remain largely unknown.

Regarding one possible source of loss, Operations Manager Gene Tautges reported that a meter on a commercial account had broken and was not reading the amount of water being used. “The system was designed to catch high usage,” Tautges said, and not a lack of use. This one instance, though, is thought to be responsible for only a small amount of the total water loss.

Tautges and Winton presented a seven-part water loss reduction plan, including the exercising of valves, deployment of monitoring master meters and treatment plants, data collection using GPS coordinates, installation of pressure reducing stations, and segregating District 1 into two subdistricts to isolate possible leak locations.

“We have pretty much determined that the majority of water loss is coming from district one,” Tautges said.

Winton explained the importance of purchasing and using a valve exercising machine. “If we can’t isolate the veins, we’re wasting our time.” The valve exercising will clean valve boxes and allow access so pressure can be accurately read. “We need the valves to be prepared so we may begin to systematically analyze the system.”

The pressure recording devices are designed ”to take a snapshot every four seconds of the pressure,” thereby showing loss of pressure and alerting PAWSD staff to potential leaks or problems in the line.

“Do we have the staff to do this?” Board President Steve Hartvigsen asked.

Winton said the district doesn’t have enough staff to do a comprehensive water loss survey and suggested the possibility of implementing a summer internship program or using seasonal employees. Staff members then agreed that by mid-May they will have prepared a water loss business plan and a separate GPS implementation plan, the latter being less important. If there is not enough money in the budget for both, Winton said the latter plan could be postponed without great negative consequence.

Biosolids greenhouse

Three possible sites for a planned biosolids greenhouse have been selected.

Community members are invited to a Saturday morning neighborhood meeting at 10 a.m. at the district offices on Lyn Avenue to provide input about the location.

Winton said each tentative location met the requirements necessary for construction of the structures, but varied in their aesthetic appeal and logistical benefits.

According to the PAWSD website, the biosolids beneficial use facility will dry sludge in a greenhouse using the power of the sun. The resulting fertilizer will be made available to the public.

Hatcher treatment plant

The Hatcher Water Treatment Plant (WTP) update is continuing. “The building itself should last 100 years,” operations manager Gene Tautges said. “And it should operate for a long time.” The Hatcher Water Treatment Plant will use membrane filtration technology, which has become an industry standard. There is $1,392,712 budgeted in 2011 for work on the project.

Rates and refund

During a special meeting on Monday, four options were presented by the Red Oaks financial consulting firm for a financial plan for water and wastewater rates.

The goals PAWSD hopes to reach are: To achieve debt service coverage targets, maintain service requirements and minimize revenue increases; and determine the optimal combination of debt issuances and rate increases to fund capital improvements.

With current rates, by 2014, the district could be in financial trouble, ending the year with debt of $50,000. After reviewing the four options, the board decided to go with an option that increases rates nominally and keeps the district from accruing debt.

The monthly base water fee was increased to $14.50. The existing three-tier volumetric model was kept, however, and the rates on the three tiers will decrease because of a “revenue neutral rebalancing.” As a result of the revision of the Capital Investment Plan, the wastewater flat fee will increase to $27 effective June 1.

Resolution 2011-5, regarding the wastewater Capital Investment Plan, was amended to repeal the CIP amount of $762 — a preliminary figure — to $1,017. This was due to the recalculation of wastewater CIP.

Staff had underestimated the amount of the WRF refund that will be mailed to eligible ratepayers the end of the month. An original estimate did not include incremental or amortized customers. After recalculating the total refund that PAWSD plans to issue, the amount jumped from $686,000 to $706,606. Final numbers are to be computed within the week.

The next PAWSD board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at the Lynn Avenue district offices.

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