A portion of a future water pipeline in Albemarle County has been approved for construction.
At its meeting Tuesday, the board of directors of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority approved funding for a portion of a water pipeline — going from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir — that will traverse the eastern side of the Birdwood Golf Course property while the course undergoes construction.
The RWSA board approved the addition of $7 million to the authority’s fiscal year 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan for this project.
The property is owned by the University of Virginia Foundation. According to RWSA staff, approximately 6,000 feet of the water pipeline will be buried alongside the course.
“We’ve had many meetings with them about how we could coordinate with them and put our pipe in before they remodel/reconstruct the golf course, as opposed to coming back later with our project and putting in a waterline after the new golf course has been completed,” Bill Mawyer, executive director of the RWSA, said at the meeting.
That portion of the pipeline is scheduled to be installed between November 2018 and October 2019.
The construction of the entire project is currently planned to begin between 2027 and 2032 and be completed between 2035 and 2040, depending on which schedule option is ultimately selected. The estimated cost of the project is $80 million in 2017 dollars.
The timing of the pipeline has been questioned, due to relatively stable demand over recent years and a potential option of instead raising the Ragged Mountain Reservoir by an additional 12 feet.
“Even while I think I said last month there was no plans for the entire pipeline to be shovel-ready, there probably should have been an asterisk with that — except for this little section of the pipeline,” Mawyer said. “That was understood, at least within our staff.”
He said Dominion Energy is also running electric line in the same vicinity where RWSA wants to run the water pipeline and that they plan to team up on land-disturbing activities to try to avoid some costs and environmental impact.
Mawyer said that the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association said there should be “no detrimental effect on the pipe and gaskets to be installed years before usage begins.”
Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin, who also serves as a member of the Rivanna authority boards, said it was no surprise that this proposal was coming before the board, which approved final design work for the portion of the raw water pipeline in April.
“In fact, it’s refreshing to actually see a coordinated project that is trying to minimize the disruption to the adjacent neighborhood,” Galvin said.
She said issuing bonds now makes more sense now than it does later in light of the increasing interest rates.
“I think if we don’t do it now, we risk the chance that when we do want to build this water pipeline with the rest of it, we would probably have to look to condemn Birdwood’s property ... and there would be a lot of ramifications,” said Mike Gaffney, chairman of the Rivanna authorities.
Mawyer said they can condemn property for this project if necessary.
The board on Monday also authorized an urban water demand and safe yield study, as well as an Urban Finished Water System Master Plan.
The total project budget for the urban water demand and safe yield study was increased from $100,000 to $154,000.
Safe yield is the amount of water that can be safely removed from the reservoirs during a drought without draining the reservoirs, Mawyer said.
Currently, the safe yield is about 16.4 million gallons per day; Mawyer said the public is using just under 60 percent of the safe yield.
If the pipeline is built, it’s estimated that would increase the safe yield by about 3.1 million gallons per day. If the Ragged Mountain Reservoir were instead to be raised an additional 12 feet, as planned in the future, that would add about 2.6 million gallon per day to the safe yield.
If RWSA raised the water level and built the pipeline, they estimated to receive a net of 5 million gallons per day in additional safe yield.
Those numbers will change, Mawyer said. Bathymetric studies of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and the Ragged Mountain Reservoir are scheduled to be completed by December. Those studies will determine the updated volume, rate of siltation and stage storage curves for both reservoirs.
Next, demand forecasts and safe yield analyses will be completed by June 2019.
“We’re looking at how water gets used and what we can expect to see over the 50-year planning horizon,” said Jennifer Whitaker, RWSA’s director of engineering and maintenance.
Funding for an Urban Finished Water System Master Plan was increased from $150,000 to $253,000. The project was also moved up from FY2023.
Whitaker said some bigger questions have come up during recent projects between staff with RWSA, the city and the Albemarle County Service Authority about how water is moved.
“Everyone involved ... felt that it was important to go ahead and do this master plan first, pause on some of the other projects that we’re doing and get some master planning done and then be able move forward with the improvements we need to make on the distribution system,” she said.
The plan is scheduled to be completed by November 2019.