At first, the growth explosion in Lyon County caught the Utilities Department by surprise.
"We were a very small utility with a very small customer base," said Mike Workman, Lyon County utilities director. "When I got here, we had a total of 14 people, including staff and operators. We didn't have an engineer or a meter-reader."
The department also didn't have a master plan two years ago, when Workman began his current position.
"The rapid growth had outstripped the water reserve," he said. "We were always behind the eight ball. In some cases, development was stalled due to a lack of water."
The county is catching up quickly after Workman and his staff - which now number 23, including an engineer and meter-reader - put together a master plan for both water and wastewater to keep up with the burgeoning populations of Dayton and Mound House.
The plan that calls for additional treatment plants, storage tanks and wellheads was passed by the Lyon County Board of Commissioners in December. It provides both short- and long-term infrastructure plans.
"The commissioners are committed to building first-rate water and wastewater systems," Workman said. "They don't want to be building junk anymore. We're not gold-plating it by any means, but we are building it with a long service life in mind."
Workman said the plan is based largely on input from developers.
"The development community's vision really becomes our reality," Workman said. "We looked at their plans and schedules for both water and wastewater."
The wastewater section of the master plan, completed in January 2005, involves upgrading capacity of two of the county's treatment plants: South Dayton Wastewater Treatment Facility on Lakes Boulevard and the newer Rolling A Wastewater Treatment Facility off Fort Churchill Road in Dayton.
The South Dayton facility, which handles 450,000 gallons of wastewater a day, will be upgraded to handle an additional 500,000 gallons per day. Rolling A, which now handles 250,000 per day, will be able to process 1 million gallons per day once Phase 3, currently under construction, is completed.
The master plan's wastewater section includes planning for a "short-term build-out period" of 10 years, which will nearly double the amount of wastewater the utility can handle. At the same time, a long-term plan will increase capacity to twice the wastewater loads than the system will handle even after the short-term projects are complete. The plan involves not only improving capacity at the treatment facilities, but upgrading gravity sewers, force mains and lift stations.
The plan allows for service for 16,500 homes by 2015, with enough flexibility to provide for 20 percent more if Dayton's growth comes even faster than expected.
The water section of the master plan, completed in October 2005, also allows for 16,500 connections by 2015. It outlines the need for infrastructure replacements and the addition of monitoring wells and aquifer storage wells to store surface water.
About 10,600 acre-feet of water rights are held by the utility, making it possible to reach the 16,500 projected service capacity with existing rights. The utility's allocations range from a .52 acre-foot credit for a 7,000 square foot lot to a 1.12 acre-foot credit for a 16,000-square-foot lot.
The disparity between the 1970s-era Rose Peak Well No. 2 near Rose Peak Drive and the new Cardelli Well in the River Park development was stark.
"One of the challenges we face in Dayton and Mound House is, everything we are building, we're starting from scratch," he said. "Not only are we adding future capacity, we're also replacing some of the antiquated infrastructure."
The Cardelli Well, the newest production well, which was put into operation in summer 2005, produces 1,000 gallons of water per minute and supplies the equally new Six Mile Canyon Water Tank, which holds 2 million gallons. The well cost $660,000 to build, and the tank cost $945,000.
In contrast, the Rose Peak Well No. 2 only produces 90 gallons per minute. "This is short-lived," Workman said. "We're not putting any more money into this. We no longer do small wells like this; they're just not cost effective."
All of the new infrastructure is part of a SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, system which allows the engineer to monitor it from the Dayton Utilities Building on Lakes Boulevard, Workman said.
The push for infrastructure improvements are essential to keeping up with growth, Workman said, pointing to the Rolling A wastewater-treatment facility as an example.
"We finished up Phase 2 last summer," he said. "It went from 125,000 gallons a day to 250,000 gallons a day, and as soon as Phase 2 was completed, it was already allocated."
Workman said Phase 2 will take the plant to 1 million gallons per day, and eventually will be able to handle 4 million gallons daily.
Though growth can be a contentious issue, Workman said he doesn't get into the debate over how much development should be allowed.
"With utilities, I have to turn a blind eye," he said. "I can't get in the middle of that debate. I have to provide service for approved projects."
-- Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.