Several water-related issues dominated the discussion at Monday evening’s city council meeting. Facing the probably of yet another drought year, the council addressed ideas for both producing more water for local residents, while conserving the precious commodity.
Joe Faulkner, the city’s water chief plant operator, updated the council on the state of the city’s water wells and gave an outline of water use over the past three years. Last year’s voluntary conservation efforts citywide actually lowered water use over the previous year, he noted.
The city is also constrained to reduce water usage by new state laws implemented in 2014.
In the ongoing battle to keep local water wells functioning, Faulkner noted that over $128,000 has been spent on well 4-B to keep that well functioning. Another $31,000 has already been spent on well 7-A for patchwork, but an additional $250,000 expenditure is expected on the well in the next month to get it back online and producing.
Currently, the city has five wells up and running. Well 4-B was expected to be on line Tuesday morning, said Faulkner.
That won’t be the only money coming out of the water department budget this year. Public Works Director Steve Kroeker got approval for a budget amendment that would plug in $725,000 for well maintenance and repair, improvements to the water plant and an analysis of water production and treatment systems.
Kroeker already had a budget line item of $825,000 in the water department capital expenditures, set aside for machinery and equipment. That money was to address the ongoing problem of sludge developed at the water plant as a by-product of eliminating arsenic and nitrates from the city’s drinking water. The plant was initially developed and constructed in answer to both state and federal mandates lowering the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water.
The $725,00 will cover $450,000 for work on the two wells (4-B and 7-A); Additional work on operational issues at the city’s $18 million water plant is expected to cost $75,000.
Another $200,000 will pay for a review of the entire water treatment plant and its operation. The city’s engineering firm, Quad Knopf, will conduct the study, and has hired Corona Environmental Consultants from Colorado to take the lead.
The outside review of water production and treatment is hoped to provide better solutions to the creation of so much sludge at the plant. The company will also be charged with providing recommendations for improving production, treatment processes and operational issues.
Corona is one of the country’s premier water specialists.
At the beginning of the current fiscal year, which ends in June, the water department had a reserve of over $8 million. Its budget was set at just over $6 million, leaving approximately $2.2 million in reserve.
In other water business, the council discussed adding teeth of its existing water ordinance as summer looms. Also approved was formation of a water advisory committee. Along with City Manager Kindon Meik and a representative from the city water department, councilmen Jim Wadsworth and Mark Cartwright will serve on the panel.