Rifle lifts water restriction
The city of Rifle ended its restriction on outdoor water use Wednesday, bringing to an end nearly a month and a half of measures aimed at curbing water use.
“We’re looking good,” Jim Miller, Rifle utilities director, said Wednesday morning. “We’ve now been operating for a half a day without any issues.”
Attention in the near future will turn to dissecting issues observed during the course of repairing the city’s raw water delivery system. Damage to the system led to the restrictions, which were deemed necessary in order to ensure the city met indoor water demands, as well as those needed for sanitation and fire suppression.
“I think it would be appropriate to review the vulnerabilities … that before now hadn’t been recognized,” Miller said.
Those vulnerabilities were first discovered on June 1, when the city located a break in the only raw water line that delivers Colorado River water to the Graham Mesa treatment plan, which provides the bulk of potable water to municipal water customers.
The cause of the break in the line was likely due to improper bedding material consisting of natural cobble. Movement caused over time by the nearby railroad and Highway 6 caused the pipeline and rocks to rub against one another, effectively wearing away at the pipeline.
Although repairs to the raw water line were completed in less than 24 hours, previously nonexistent problems at the city’s pump station materialized in the days following the repairs to the broken line.
Repairs to the pumps and pump station spanned a little more than a month, during which municipal water customers were limited to watering every other day.
As far as water concerns, the issues with the raw water delivery system posed “the most significant emergency the city has encountered in a long time,” because of the number of people affected, Rifle City Manager Matt Sturgeon said Wednesday.
Staff will begin preparing for a debriefing, during which potential problems moving forward will be identified and eventually prioritized.
The improper bedding that led to the break in the raw water line is one issue, Miller said.
The susceptibility of the pump station to debris pulled from the Colorado River is another issue, as is the lack of firm redundancy in the size and number of pumps.
All of those issues will become more critical when water demand increases and the city has to produce more water to meet that demand, Miller said.
Prioritizing the issues will be a balance of risk and available money, as well as not losing sight of the new water treatment plant that is expected to be completed this winter.
“That all has to be balanced against the timeline of getting the water plant on line,” Sturgeon said.
As for the cost of repairing the city’s raw water system, Miller said he expects the number to come in under $200,000 — which would be less than the $250,000 in emergency funding approved by City Council in June.
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