Status quo on H2O, but for just a year |

Status quo on H2O, but for just a year

John Barrette

How to pay for regular water supplementing wastewater effluent on golf courses or other land when effluent runs short concerned a citizens’ committee Tuesday, but it stuck with a one-year policy plan.

The Utility Financial Oversight Committee voted 4-0 in favor of paying in Fiscal 2014-15 for water called potable, which is drinking quality, from a Public Works wastewater operations account rather than other alternatives. Those other options included charging users for such water.

“As I understand it, the golf courses are a de facto part of the wastewater treatment system,” said Mark Turner, committee vice chairman, who added the panel could recommend the city charge for the water but golf courses are operating in the red,

Chairperson Ande Engleman and Bruce Scott, another committee member, didn’t dissent but both indicated if wastewater capital improvement money could be touched in subsequent years they would view that as a problem.

Engleman reminded everyone the panel was formed by the Board of Supervisors to make certain revenues from utility fee hikes wouldn’t be diverted from capital improvements to other purposes. Scott put an exclamation point on that.

“If we got into the capital (improvement) budget,” he said, “then I think that is a different discussion.”

Mark Rotter of Manhard Consulting Ltd. presented a report with options regarding short- and long-term impacts, pay methods or other actions. He said a shortage of effluent now for various reasons could change eventually into insufficient land for disposal of the treated wastewater. He said the water supplement now costs from $60,000 to nearly $300,000 annually, but the potable water need could disappear if Carson City grows and drought disappears.

Other factors also feed into the shortage, he said, which stems from a drop in sewage for treatment in recent years. He said more information can be determined in the next few years before making costly or other binding moves. One move would be to take 200 acres of land out of the equation, he said, but Carson City might need it later should longer term dynamics change.

The problem stems in part from federal dictates, which say the effluent isn’t treated to a pure enough state for discharge into the Carson River. The city has contracts with those taking the water, so that also plays into what action is best to handle the current shortage and possible longer term changes. As one person said, how much snow piles up on the Sierra Nevada each winter plays into the circumstances.