Discussion of the Elk Trail Water Project at the meeting of the Community Advisory Board (CAB) for County Service Area #6—Jones Valley Water on April 6, 2011 brought to light the fact that the Engineering Report for the project prepared by Paul Reuter of PACE Civil, Inc. estimates that each residence in the Elk Trail East and West neighborhoods will use only 12,000 gallons of water per two month billing period (the same as the average usage in the small-lot Jones Valley Subdivision) despite the fact that most of the parcels in the two rural subdivisions have at least five acres.
This fact was revealed in response to a written question submitted by Elk Trail Water Association President Bert Stead, who also serves on the CAB. Department of Public Works engineer Al Cathey explained that making additional water available to the Elk Trail area residents would have made the project much more expensive. Reuter elaborated, explaining that designing the system so that the new customers could use twice as much water as the current customers do would have required very expensive improvements to the water treatment plant so it could process much more water much more quickly. Without those improvements to the treatment plant, high water use in the Elk Trail neighborhoods during peak periods would not allow the Jones Valley water tank on Backbone Road to recover, and that tank is the key to maintaining water pressure throughout the district.
This news caused CAB President Mel Fisher to comment, “If we’d known about this problem, we’d never have approved this project.” In response to Fisher’s concern, Reuter explained that the system was designed to prevent any problems with the Jones Valley tank, but that meant Elk Trail residents would only be allowed to have residential size (not irrigation size) meters, and the rate structure would discourage lavish use of water for landscaping or pasture.
Elk Trail West resident Steve Boyd said that in all his years of working on the project, he had never heard about residents’ water usage being limited and said he couldn’t understand why additional pumping wouldn’t take care of the problem. Reuter replied that additional pumping wouldn’t help because the water treatment plant was a bottleneck between the pumps in the lake and the storage tanks.
CAB member Nancy Wallen asked if Elk Trail area residents could use their wells for landscaping or irrigation if they wished, and both Cathey and Reuter replied that they could as long as they installed backflow devises to prevent their well water from getting into the public water system.