I watched Dwayne Smith’s Utility and Engineering presentation to the Planning Commission last Tuesday (April 2. https://www.washoecounty.us/csd/planning_and_development/board_commission/planning_commission/2019/Files/2019-04-02/Washoe%20County%20Utility%20Presentation.pdf Washoe County Utility Presentation). Presumably, this vacuous “overview” covers what the Department thinks is adequate to account for the planned expenditures to be covered by the $50 million sewer bond. Overall I found the presentation to be incredibly elementary and it did nothing to address the technical aspects of the County Engineer’s sewer management, engineering, management conceptual planning – ie, what are the projected costs, in particular cost per acre/feet, gallon or liter of sewage treated and disposed. My comments and questions:
Dwayne mentioned adding groundwater injection as an effluent disposal option in the North Valleys. He also mentioned, in a different segment of his talk, a description of playas having no outside water discharge and generally large clay layers which preclude infiltration of surface water into the ground. If they do decide sometime in the future to add injection strategies in the North Valleys and Verdi, which “aquifer” would be utilized? Playas have insufficient aquifer storage capacities (by his own admission during his presentation!). Along that line, how much money do they plan to contribute to the current aquifer injection pilot work being done by TMWA, and is this part of the $50 million bond?
It is surprising that nobody on the Board asked about the differences in treatment costs for Class A+, A, B, and C water. Dwayne said they plan to go to Class A+ water effluent throughout the county. What will that cost, as opposed to Class A? What is the price difference, per gallon of treatment, between Class A and A+? Would this be worth the cost? The chart below shows the required treatment levels for each effluent planned use. Will they be over-treating some effluent at taxpayer expense, just to say it’s all going to be A+?
Minimum Reclaimed Water Quality Requirements for Direct Reuse
At Minute 57 of his talk, Dwayne launched into a discussion of the Planner’s criteria for development and how hard they work to assess impacts of development and determine mitigation needs for each development. This WOULD have been a perfect seque into the need for more critical technical review of engineering documents provided by developers! I’m disappointed that the planning commissioners who were present didn’t pick up on this. Nobody asked what the criteria were, particularly with regard to water use and sewerage evaluation.
About 8 minutes later, Dwayne invited the PC to come visit the Planning Department and observe for themselves how the planners review, critique and evaluate tentative maps and project plans and how the permitting process works. This would have been another good place to segue to a query of the engineering report review process and whether the Planning Department has the appropriate expertise to review the sewerage/water aspects.
The Planners should provide ballpark costs for water treatment to Class A B C standards.
Every week Lemmon Valley residents stand up to ask over and over why the water keeps rising and why the County can’t do anything about it. The answer is “Water Balance Modeling”. I have no idea if the esteemed hydrologists at the County (or TMWA) have revised their modeling inputs for Washoe County, and Lemmon Valley in particular for the 2018-19 winter and spring runoff, but when the model inputs are broken down into their most simple form, it becomes obvious why there’s a problem, and why this issue won’t go away unless we have another 4 year drought….
It may benefit Dwayne Smith to present to the PC and BCC a simplified water balance discussion. We should frame some questions for the Lemmon Valley STPs, and others around the model inputs, how they are identified, measured and revised as necessary to accommodate changes in precipitation and increase in effluent as development increases.
Taking effluent quality standards to Class A+ might at least protect residents from tainted water, but at what cost? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to treat to class C or B then revise discharge locations to avoid health and safety issues? I think it’s going to mean that basin-to-basin pumping is going to have to be an option, eventually, in the North Valleys.
But here’s another possibility. Could it be that, in planning for all future Washoe County effluent be treated to Class A+, the County wants to make some money? Class A+ water can be SOLD as drinking water! Is this worth it, considering there are plenty of water use options, as listed in the table above, that don’t require A+ effluent water standards? Why else would Dwayne be pushing (REALLY pushing, he mentioned upgrading to A+ water standards several times in his presentation)? How much, per gallon or acre/ft will it cost to get to A+? And is it worth it to us taxpayers if we are all satisfied with the treated water use options listed below?
The other thing that strikes me – South Valleys STP is already treating to A/A+ quality. So if that water is going to golf course and landscape irrigation, then we are paying for overkill. Only B and C water is required for MOST of the effluent uses Dwayne mentions in his presentation. This could be an absurdity, depending on the cost basis for this A+ effluent treatment.
We should be allowed the opportunity to VOTE on this perhaps unnecessary treatment standard! So they make money back by selling it – to whom? At what price? And who gets to keep the money? How does this profit get put back into the coffers?