Drought worries continue

On Tuesday, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority warned us that 2006 could be another drought year. Now state officials are sounding the same warning.

"We have just experienced the driest March in the entire statewide record of 112 years," said Patrick J. Michaels, a state climatologist in Charlottesville, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch report. Michaels said we could see some improvement in the dry conditions by mid-April, but underscored that with a big "if."

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In October of 2002 the engineering firm of O'Brien and Gere was asked by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to address the issue of an Albemarle County ââ?¬Å?doomsday water crisis” and provide a contingency plan. In a letter to now-departed Larry Tropea of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, the firm wrote:
ââ?¬Å?The RWSA operates four reservoirs as part of the Urban Service Area water supply system. These reservoirs include the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, Sugar Hollow Reservoir and Upper and Lower Ragged Mountain Reservoirs. The reservoirs have an available water supply capacity of approximately 1,676,000,000 gallons. The current reservoir levels are at approximately 55% of capacity, which means that the RWSA has about 952M gallons of water remaining for water supply. The current average daily water demand in the Urban Service Area has been reduced from approximately 12 million gallons daily to about 7 million gallons per day as a result of demand management. Therefore, if dry conditions persist, the RWSA has approximately 136 days of water supply remaining at the current 7 million gallons per day demand level.”
Now, throw in 17-34,000 new homes in Crozet and Biscuit Run and the next drought could be easily become the ââ?¬Å?doomsday” the County has been dithering over. Our crisis plan includes draining Chris Green Lake, Beaver Creek Reservoir, Lake Albemarle, using the filthy water left at the base of dams, reuse of sewage treatment water from the Moore's Creek advanced treatment plant, above-ground pipes from the James River, and cloud seeding. I suppose that when these methods fail, we will chant to the moon.
Because of the endangered James River spinymussel, our Buck Mountain reservoir site was effectively taken by the federal government. Since then, the least expensive alternativeââ?¬â?inflatable bags on South Fork Reservoir coupled with dredging-- has also been discarded in anticipation of Army Corps of Engineers' objections. The Corps' expertise has recently been called into question in New Orleans. In 2002, members of the Board of Supervisors were suspected by developers of using inadequate water as a growth inhibitor. Clearly that suspicion was wrong. Without countywide master planning, the Board now blasts forward into pro-growth neighborhood models. Other than more studies, nothing has been done in four years to improve drought readiness, and the bulldozers have arrived as emissaries of developers who, in 2002, said ââ?¬Å?”Š local government cannot stop new construction, (and) the community should avoid politicizing the water supply conversation and get moving on expanding storage capacity.”

Joe,

Nice post. Thanks for the information. It saddens me that we, as a city, seemed to have learned very little from out last drought.