'Ballparking' RWSA: Record low water use and record high RFP?

In the long-running tragi-comedy over the local waterworks' desire to avoid dredging its main reservoir and instead build a sparkly new reservoir, two factoids emerge from the pages of the upcoming board meeting packet:

- 2011 water use is on track to match a record low

- getting a proposal to dredge the reservoir could cost over $220,000

Avid readers may recall that the Hook once covered the monthly calisthenics of this dredge-averse body, but after its board decided to ignore its own figures of plummeting water use and inflated dredging estimates– remember the Panama Canal pricing?– we moved on to other topics.

Nearly two years ago, the RWSA board hired Schnabel Engineering to design a new dam to focus all water storage efforts in one place, and after a 3-2 turnabout by City Council (the only government crying foul on that plan), all the stars seem to be lining up to begin dam construction this fall.

Even if it's not needed.

New data show that the community is using one fifth less water than a decade ago. The latest figures show use of just 8.72 million gallons a day during first five months of 2011. That's 20 percent less than the 10.91 million gallons a day drawn during the first five months of 2001 and just 0.02 million more than the record low usage of 2009, which had a rainier-than-usual summer. So unless this summer goes back into a drought as it experienced last year, this could be a year for the record books– and a fitting irony for the launch of a public works project widely seen as unnecessary.

All this is happening in a community where water customers have increased 18 percent over the past decade. The growth is most apparent in Albemarle, where hookups have increased by a third but– thanks to the average customer trimming consumption from 135,000 to 89,000 gallons– overall County usage has fallen by 14 percent. (One of the few institutions that has experienced a rise in water use during the past ten years is the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail which leapt from consuming 16 million to 22 million gallons annually– 1.47 percent of all water in the County system.)

Meanwhile, instead of simply hiring a company to dredge the reservoir, the RWSA director is showing his board another way to get an RFP, or Request For Proposal. The engineering firm he hired to study dredging a couple of years ago is now offering to assist the hiring of a dredging contractor. Projected cost of that assistance: $220,339.

According to a letter from that firm, Norfolk-based HDR, that's just the "ballpark" price. Contract negotiation and legal counsel will carry additional fees.

The RWSA board met Tuesday, June 28.

–story corrected to fix typo (one mention of "six months" shoulda been "five months") and to use averages
–story updated 5:19pm Monday, June 27 with more changes during the decade including Jail info

Read more on: dredgingrwsa


because it taste like crap!!!

HDR knows when it's got a good thing.

Where is Oliver Kuttner when we need him . And his bid was before dredging became more expensive than dredging the Panama Canal.

" As previously reported in the Hook, some dredging contractors believe that the Gannett Fleming estimate, the one that topped out at $145 million, was too high-- by a factor of three or four. Kuttner says he'd do the job for $30 million. "


The Hook again shows just how sloppy its reporting is for this topic:

"New data show that the community is using one fifth less water than a decade ago. The latest figures show use of just 43.6 million gallons during first five months of 2011. That's 20 percent less than the 54.55 million gallons drawn during the first six months of 2001.."

Any intelligent reader will see through that comparison. Of course we used less water - you're comparing 5 months of use one year with 6 months of use in another year. Why don't you go ahead and compare the first 5 months this year with all of the past decade and say we're using 98% less water. It's the same silly thing. Plus, we're just now getting into the dry part of the year when water use goes way up by all those people who irrigate all summer. Why spend $40 million to dredge (plus $220,000 just to do the proposal) when you can have twice the water for half the cost with the new dam?

I call on readers to refute The Hook's bad-boy bully journalism and boycott their advertisers. They're wrong again!

Hawes; got you!

@samuel ... I'm a reader ready to refute... but not the Hook.
If you're so intelligent a reader, why don't you factor into your brilliant calculations that population has increased by.... look it up. It's public info ... after all, we just had a census.
Hint, the calculation is going to dwarf your one month find.
Apples to apples.. we're looking at water use closer to 30% less. Get with the 21st century.


You wrote about Peter van de Linde. There were 5 bad actors who put the entire force of the government against a citizen. They attempted to ruin him both financially and his good name. These types of charges cannot be fairly mediated. Mr van de Linde was sorely abused in a nightmarish manner and evidentially its not over.

And you write about the Community Raw Water Plan. The identically same bad actors (two are elected officials). A continual flow of misinformation.

You know who the 5 actors are. They keep reappearing. When will it stop? Who will stop them? Charlottesville deserves better.

Lorax - Hook is also comparing water use during the most severe economic recession in 80 years with current use. People lost hundreds of jobs, businesses went bankrupt, commercial, industrial, and residential building came to a jarring halt. And so, too, did water use. Once again, a horrible comparison that is inflammatory journalism without any rational logic or reason - just smut. Sorry, Hook and Lorax, your bad-boy bully arguments - or spin - aren't fooling people anymore.

Time to dredge - dam later.

We should have been maintaining the South Fork Reservoir all along and that's where we should start to increase our water supply.

Let's take the prudent fiscally responsible approach --and yes all you damers, water use has dropped and population and hooks ups have increased . The facts are the facts

Lorax and samuel are both right but to different degrees. The effects of the recession are likely minor as water demand is largely insensitive to economic conditions in our community. The Demand Study will provide more detailed investigation into this but my guess Lorax is far more realistic than samuel.

BUT you are both missing the point! Remember that if the demand growth resumes its worst estimate we DO NOT NEED ANY NEW RESERVOIRS FOR DECADES IF WE JUST START "SMALL BITES" DREDGING soon. Who in their right mind would gamble that the current assumptions will be correct for our grandchildren? Why spend all this money in the worst debt driven recession in our history. Talk about screwing future generations!!!!

The big question is; Has RWSA lost popular support? The next election may hold some clues.

But I heard on WINA ads from RWSA and the Service Authority that we've already used as much water this year as we did by mid-summer last year. I'm very distraught that someone wouldn't be telling us the truth about water use! That could never happen here, could it?

@samuel points out that five months vs. six months wouldn't be a fair contrast. Indeed, but 'twas just a typo. I was supplying five-month data in both instances. Sorry for the mix-up!--hawes spencer, hook editor

In related news, the RSWA now (or at least as of July 1 it will) charges City residents an extra $10 fee for any transaction at the Ivy transfer station. If you can prove you're a County resident you don't pay it. Isn't the City still a partner in RSWA? Why would they agree to this?

@samuel, "...commercial, industrial, and residential building came to a jarring halt" Where have you been? They're starting a new hospital on W. Main Street. These past five years has shown a massive buildout at UVA.

Once upon a time the City provided two weekly trash pickups-no stickers required. Now there is frequently the cry of "No money" for needed services, yet there is always money for one more study of whatever the current administration wants to do or undo. The city (and the county) must have a regime change to get out of this mindset. Make the administrators responsible to the people! Quit building subdivision after subdivision of houses people here cannot afford to buy because the prevailing wages for un- and semi-skilled labor are still in the 1980's! Build industries instead of shopping centers so there are real jobs to be had! Stand up to the University and require that they shoulder their fair share of expenses and responsibility for their growing consumption of the housing and streets in the Southwest half of the city! Utilize the resources wisely! Dredge Sugar Hollow so it will hold greater reserves and allow more flow to the river. Use the rocks from this effort to shore up the dam at Ragged Mountain so it will have the strength to last well into the future. Stop construction that creates the siltation problem at South Fork. Create a reserve fund so that the next time there is a major drought and the water level drops at South Fork there will be money to dig instead of dredge. If this is such a "world-class" area, use the brains and skills we have available to make it "world-class" for all classes!


I am sorry, but there is nothing bullying in the numbers, there are simply facts you don't want to accept. Whether or not we are in a recession, the population and the businesses in operation are what they currently are. And that is significantly larger than in 2001. Water consumption does not suddenyl drop because of a recession.

Personally I am not interested in funding more urban sprawl for developers. The collapse of Biscuit Run tells me that we really don't have a need for this infrastructure in the foreseable future, and there is no reason to pay for it.

"Angry and Disgusted" and "Old Timer" make great points.

The only way to make sure that development slows and entities like the BOS stop bending over for developers is to elect new blood. Elections are just around the corner . . .

Will someone explain why there is so much pressure to build the new dam at Ragged Mt., when all the facts show there are far better ways to supply water to the community by maintaining what we have ?

The lower cost of dredging has been know ever since the Hook reported this years ago, and all the water use data for a decade has shown that we are using less water and that people are just beginning to retrofit their homes to use even less. So commonsense tells us that water use will continue to decline.

Given all the facts and data against the need for 100's of millions of new infrastructure who is behind this plan ?

Why would our elected officials support this ?

@Nancy, it's all about the developers and UVA. They want to develop the south side of town, scenery be d@mned. The politicians in place now are friendly to developers and UVA, so they want to rush implementation of the project now before enough people get angry and vote them out of office.

@DAWG that isn't logical, because I have studied all the articles for years written in the Hook, and the data shows that just dredging will supply decades of water supply, and if one were to follow the unanimous decision by City Council ( before 3 members overturned it ) to add on to the existing Ragged Mt. Dam, you would have well over 4 decades of water supply for drought protection.

Why would developers want a more expensive solution that will make their costs higher, just look at what has happened to hook-up fees, which have driven the price of new construction higher.
And taking on increased rates to the ratepayers will make the cost of living higher, discouraging businesses from coming here.

I am still looking for the reason and haven't found it yet.

Can anyone tell me why the water tastes so awful here in Charlottesville? It's terrible and tastes like chemicals.

Could it be some supervisors pulled a fast one on everyone else? After all, the bypass won't be going over that new dam. Therefore, one major drawback to the bypass has been removed. Nah. They wouldn't be that sneaky, would they?

@ Possibly, well, you have raised another puzzle I can't solve:

You are right the new reservoir does not come close to the ByPass but, have you noticed, the new reservoir at Ragged Mt. is suppose to go under I64, now wouldn't you think that would have been an issue ?

In 1998, the Piedmont Environmental Council sued the U.S. Department of Transportation, alleging that the Bypass would come too close to the Rivanna Reservoir. The suit lost on most counts but produced an additional environmental study which found little likelihood of harm to the Reservoir.


The link in my post above will show you the proximity of the Western ByPass to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

The link below includes a map showing you the proposed new Ragged Mt. Reservoir going under I64


Why no outcry from PEC and other environmentalists about this ?
Fellow detectives, please help me solve this puzzle.

I'm still betting that there is a favorable combination of new development that wouldn't happen if the old reservoir were still our main water source coupled with planned, but still not disclosed exits from the proposed bypass that will make someone very rich.

Cookie Jar, I think you are right. It explains why both communities were in favor of it. You would think, as fond as they are of studies, though, that we would see one concerning the runoff from I-64 or the impact of a hazardous waste spill from it.

Lets say the South Fork Rivanna reservoir was dredged.

When would the Sugar Hollow dam and "aging" pipeline need to be improved and replaced?

I guess what I'm kind-of wondering: aren't these sorts of infrastructure maintenance issues reasonably predictable? Who was responsible for not operating the quasi-governmental water authority with basic fiscal sense?

@samuel did you see this " All this is happening in a community where water customers have increased significantly over the past decade. The growth is most apparent in Albemarle, where hookups have increased by a third but-- thanks to the average customer trimming consumption from 135,000 to 89,000 gallons-- overall County usage has fallen by 14 percent."

How can you possibly defend destroying Ragged Mt. Natural Area , allowing South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to fill with silt, and raising water rates and hook-up fees, to pay for a dam and pipeline ( and pumps to get the water uphill - plus the cost of the electricity to do so ) when dredging gives us all the water we need for 4 decades and possibly much more, without the environmental destruction of our priceless resources.

Samuel who are you representing - certainly not the ratepayers .

@cookieJar-- I think you're pretty close to the real answer.

@cookiejar-Trying to get a better understanding of what you mean.
Are you saying that since they anticipate under the current dam plan that the SFRR will silt in and become a marsh, that would allow more development in that area, or some sort of zoning change ?

More public funds pl$$ed away for consultants to produce a "study". When will this waste and fraud ever end? How much money has been spent "studying" the Meadow Creek Parkway, The Western Bypass, Dredging, Traffic Calming, and so forth. And all for what? Millions into the pockets of slick BS artists masquerading as "consultants". As I've said before on this forum, we already employ public employees who are supposed to know about these things and the fact that the local govt. dithers around paying money to outside crooks is a scandal when the relevant dept. workers should be tasked with studying these things on the job.

NancyDrew, I'm thinking zoning or other regulatory change that might tunr a currently undevelopable plot or plots of land into developable land. That change resulting from an abandonment of the reservoir. I may be way off, but that's a thought that I keep coming back too. Without a good map of the proposed bypass to study, it's hard to know what property is affected or just how it might be affected.

Clearly, someone who has thought things out has an agenda or agendas and I suspect that there is some reason why both the dam and the bypass have been pushed so hard when neither is the best way solve the problem it supposedly is designed to solve. I just wonder if the two are connected in a way we aren't seeing the details of just yet.

I hope the Hook does some muckraking and finds a way to expose what is going on. And the comments here show that good things can happen when people do a little of their own sleuthing and share information. @NancyDrew, you are asking the same questions we all are. I think the answers are, as always, "Follow the money" and "Find out who benefits." I think we know who stands to benefit from these projects, and it certainly isn't the people. I'd like to know who got to the C'ville City Council and convinced those councilmembers to change their votes. It was an odd reversal.

People all over the country dredge reservoirs and other bodies of wate,r and that's what got me interested in this in the first place - why the war against dredging our reservoir ?

There must be something fishy behind this because dredging for water supply is so obviously the place to start.

Is there any way for concerned citizens to force (or otherwise stage) a demonstration project for dredging?

$200,000+ dollars sounds like a lot to design a dredging RFP, but consider what RWSA has spent to date to design a new dam we don't need:

--Gannett Fleming's concrete dam design $ 2 million + ( then they were fired by RWSA ) , and now Schnabel's closing in on $2 million for their earthen dam design - and still no more water . In fact the earthen dam design gives us NO additional water supply for ratepayers during droughts. All new water from this new dam goes to rivers .

See letter below from ACSA board member Liz Palmer documenting that the new dam provides no additional water supply :


Maybe $200,000 sounds excessive to get it right and dredge for water supply, but this is peanuts compared to the millions they have spent designing a new dam that creates a reservoir that can't even fill itself without an uphill, electricity driven pipeline and pumps, whose engineering costs and land acquisition costs are just beginning to add up . And without which the new dam provides no new water

Anyone know how much they've spent to date designing the pipeline - my understanding is they paid a bundle just for an estimate and haven't even begun the design phase or land acquisition thru some of Albemarle's priciest neighborhoods ( that is unless the Western ByPass is built)

Wait till Frederick comes clean about what this pipeline, pumps, and electricity will cost, then you'll see some jaws drop .

RSWA = fishy. everyone who is questioning is right to smell a rat. a greedy rat.

@CityResident: "my understanding is they paid a bundle just for an estimate and haven't even begun the design phase or land acquisition thru some of Albemarle's priciest neighborhoods (THAT IS UNLESS THE WESTERN BYPASS IS BUILT)."

My emphasis added.

I'm not a conspiracy-minded person, but that is really where this whole thing starts to smell for me.

No bypass = no "free" easements on which to build a pipeline (powered by electricity from coal gained from blasting WVa mountains into a moonscape) to push water uphill from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the clear-cut Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

In an ideal world, some of the really rich folks in our community would say: this has got to stop. I don't want my grandkids growing up in THAT kind of community, because it's anathema to my personal and civic values.

@skipwith, I think you are on to something. It all stinks to high heaven. There is definitely a role for public protest. The Charlottesville Tomorrow website has information on upcoming public meetings--perhaps someone posting here who is good at community organizing can get some momentum going.

The BOS is meeting on Wednesday, July 13 at 7 p.m. about the bypass. If you are opposed to the bypass, please try to be at this meeting--warm bodies are important. If you can't be at the meeting, please call or write the BOS to express your opposition--here are emails:
Dorrier: riverstreet4444@yahoo.com
Thomas: rthomas@albemarle.org
Snow: dsnow@albemarle.org
Boyd: kboyd@albemarle.org
Mallek: amallek@albemarle.org
Rooker: dsrooker@earthlink.net

T,he most interesting thing about the new reservoir is that it isn't going to provide us with any additional water security against long-term drought. Having an in-stream reservoir, as we do now, means that even a modest rain following a dry period will typically fill the reservoir as all of the collected runoff from within the watershed minus mandatory streamflow discharges is impounded. In the future, when the SFRR has largely silted in and all of our stored water is pumped to Ragged Mt., a modest rain after a dry period will only provide us with the volume of water that can be pulled out of the river and pumped across town minus our normal daily usage, minus mandatory streamflow discharges (not only to maintain water levels in the Rivanna, but Moore's Creek as well). So what would today be a drought ending rain event will in the future just give us a few more days or perhaps a week of supply and we'll be much more dependent on experiencing consistent rainfall.

So why would they spend all this money and destroy so many natural resources to get such a few days of drought protection ?

The more I learn the more ridiculous this plan sounds.

I heard Mr. Frederick, director of RWSA saying they put 3.5 million in the budget for dredging. What does this mean ? Is this dredging for water supply, or another trick to give cover to those who voted for the new dam and are up for re-election or running on a build the dam plan platform ?

There is no reason to build the new dam if we are going to dredge, as long as we dredge for water supply.

I heard the same thing on the news yesterday. Suddenly they want to dredge the South Fork reservoir, but I am wondering if this is even close to what was originally wanted by those who wanted to keep it.

What does the City of Charlottesville have to gain by the new dam? The housing developments? They seem to love to do studies. Why would they ignore the question of the effect having the water supply under I-64 could have to the drinking water? There's got to be more benefit here that we aren't seeing . . . yet.

Further, even if the proposed bypass would no longer go over the main drinking water supply, isn't there some endangered species of plants that further prevented them from having it there? What about that now? Wouldn't that still be a deterrent to the bypass being built there? That might be an issue to bring back up at the next BOS meeting; possibly by the conservation group that found the endangered plants.

"No bypass = no "free" easements on which to build a pipeline " no one said that the State will provide a free easement to RWSA. It may wish to sell it or grant a long-term lease in order to to increase its budget for new roads elsewhere. VDOT is an agency governmed by politics. I think RWSA is hoping that the State will provide this largesse it cannot afford.
"Is this dredging for water supply..." all of the negotiations to date has deemed that any additional water storage capacity gained through dredging will not be added to the water storage total. Doesn't that sound crooked? Suppose dredging would have added 10 billion gallons of additional storage. That would still not be added to our water supply capacity and the same people would still advocate for building the same size dam. That says a lot about the people who are making the decisions around here.

They claim there is no money for dredging and they may have to raise water rates --here's a novel idea --don't build the dam . Not only will they have more than enough money to dredge the entire reservoir, but they can lower rates, which is what they should be doing because we are using less water.

Now I'm convinced by this latest action, this is all a game called : " How not to Dredge for water supply " and it's time to fire the players !

" The source of the $3.5 million in funding is so far unknown. The RWSA’s current Capital Improvement Program budget does not contain any funds for dredging.
Details of how the CIP will be amended will come at a later meeting. Finance Director Lonnie Wood said the RWSA will need to use cash reserves, increase debt, or take it directly from rates.

“All of these options will have an impact on the rates,” Wood said.


Until I see a dredge in the water, I wouldn't believe a word they say about their " seriousness " about dredging. They have tried to derail, stall, and trick people into believing dredging was: too expensive, toxic, not feasible, noisy, smelly- you name it, I've heard every excuse in the book - and this is one more trick, say they're going to do it --and not have any money in the budget.

Let's elect some new people to City Council who we trust will finally do this . The old guard has had their chance to join Norris and Edwards and they failed.
from the CT link above:
" The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors agreed Tuesday to prepare a $3.5 million budget for dredging at least a portion of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“[This] demonstrates that this board is serious about dredging,” said Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s city manager, shortly before the board voted 6-0 on the matter. Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority, was absent.

Did you know from on April 13th, 2011 day one of my campaign announcement I have endorsed DREDGING FIRST and gave direct answers when asked about the water debate when no other candidate took a position.

I grew up in a farming community where the land preservation motto was "FARMLAND LOST IS FARMLAND LOST FOREVER."

James Halfaday
Democratic Candidate for Charlottesville City Council

June 13th, 2011
Democrats-- Kathy Galvin, Peter McIntosh, and Paul Beyer-- who, like Huja, support the mega-dam plan, while Dem candidate James Halfaday does not. www.readthehook.com

May 7th, 2011
In an email, Democratic candidate James Halfaday said he would’ve voted to dredge first, largely due to the environmental impact of a new dam. www.dailyprogress .com


James, do you have any idea why 3 city councilors voted for a plan that will destroy so many of the city's assets when the city needs no more water. In fact, the water the city owns at SFRReservoir will be lost under this plan, and then city ratepayers have to pay for part of the new dam to regain the water they have lost.
Why would any City Councilor support that ?

I don't believe for a minute that they are serious about dredging (not Brown, Huja, and Szakos) . And certainly not dredging to be part of the water plan instead of building a new dam, the only way to save city owned resources, and to save money.

Have you heard anything about their motives, and the motives of Beyer and Galvin, that would lead them to advocate for such a senseless plan for any of the ratepayers, but especially for city ratepayers ?

"Did you know from on April 13th, 2011 day one of my campaign announcement I have endorsed DREDGING FIRST and gave direct answers when asked about the water debate when no other candidate took a position."
I think Bob Fenwick's opposition to the new dam and support for dredging has been well documented in this publication over the past few years, and unless I'm mistaken, isn't Dede Smith part of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan?