Keeping the water flowing smoothly
January 9, 2007
Almost as soon as he was hired to be Lyon County Utilities director, Mike Workman began planning new water and sewer ordinances.
He said the county had no sewer ordinances, and what it has for water is “woefully inadequate and in gross need of updating.”
The last time water regulations and service rules were revised was in the 1970s, Workman said.
So he set about to create ordinances that would be “working tools” for water and wastewater service providers. Those tools will be voted on by Lyon County commissioners on Thursday.
The ordinances cover several components: water and sewer use and service rules, including a new water allocation table for multifamily dwellings and mobile homes in parks; water waste; regulation of industrial discharge into the sewer system; and the creation of infrastructure standards to protect wellheads.
Workman’s first priority was an ordinance allowing for a no-shut-off policy, to protect his employees as well as residents.
He said that one day, the last week in December, two workers shutting off service to a delinquent customer had to fight off two pit bulls that had been released.
“One used a shovel to ward off the dogs, while the other worked,” Workman said.
Under the new rules, there will be no shut-off of service on delinquent accounts, but owners will be held responsible for water and sewer bills. If they are renting their property to others, they can designate an agent, such as a Realtor or tenant, to handle bills, but they are ultimately responsible, Workman said.
Delinquent accounts will be added to a property owner’s tax bill, Workman said.
Workman said the new policy will help landlords get a handle on water usage if tenants are wasting water, or if there is a hidden leak.
“If a leak has been found, the new ordinance will allow us to make adjustments (in the bill),” Workman said. “They will still have tom repair the leak or replace the pipes. But at least it gives them some relief.”
It also gives some homeowners time to make payment arrangements, since there was no provision in current law for the utility to leave water on for people with illness or other extenuating circumstances.
The rules also have decreased the amount of acre-feet per door for multifamily residential developers or developers of mobile home parks, from 7 acre-feet to .45 acre-feet. Workman said people in multifamily units or mobile home parks use less than .7 acre-feet.
“We did a consumptive-use profile and found their use is .2 acre-feet to .3 acre-feet on average,” he said. The .45 acre-feet gives some buffer.”
The new ordinances also formalize water waste and conservation rules. Water conservation in terms of odd-even days will be mandatory, instead of suggested as in previous years.
The ordinance that covers industrial wastewater discharge is mandated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency through the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Workman said.
It requires industries that discharge chemicals or manufacturing byproducts into the sewer system to obtain permits from Lyon County Utilities. There will be fees for the permits and it will be spelled out just what the discharge limitations are.
It will also establish an inspection process conducted by the utility, require strict record keeping and reporting to Lyon County Utilities.
Workman said this program is mandated and most industrial dischargers are already aware of it.
“The goal is to protect water bodies, the aquifer and the environment form harmful discharges,” he said.
Utilities employees will be able to sample manholes outside an industrial facility if there is an unknown discharge and find a solution more quickly than before.
“Our goal is to protect the environment and make sure no people get sick from accidental discharges,” he said.
Another ordinance will enact minimum design and construction standards for water and waste-water related infrastructure, with a key component being wellhead protection.
“We want to ensure that commercial and industrial actions in wellhead areas don’t risk polluting the wellhead,” he said.
The new ordinance requires commercial and industrial builders to contact water purveyors in their area so potential discharges can be mitigated during the planning stages, a program developed by the Stagecoach General Improvement District in conjunction with the Nevada Rural Water Association.
Workman said development standards vary though the county. Private water suppliers, GIDs or other purveyors are not required to use the standards, but now they will be available, if desired.
He anticipated that other service providers would use the new standards, and pledged to help other jurisdictions to implement some or all of the ordinances.
Workman said his goal is to do annual reviews of the new ordinances to keep them current.
“There will be ups and downs with this and we will work the kinks out,” he said. “They’re living documents; they need to be kept up to current times and work for everyone,”
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.
If You Go
WHAT: Lyon County
WHEN: 9 a.m. Thursday
WHERE: 27 S. Main St.,
CALL: (775) 463-6531