Rifle continues meeting water demand
The next week should bring some greater understanding of necessary repairs to Rifle’s raw water delivery system, as well as whether or not current water restrictions will continue to have the necessary effect on water demand.
An even-odd outdoor water restriction were put in place June 9 following some positive developments with temporary mobile pumps brought in to deliver Colorado River water to the Graham Mesa water treatment plant. Those pumps continued to work well and meet water demands through this past weekend and the start of the week, City Manager Matt Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
The city is still waiting for a complete prognosis on the damage to its water pumps, which were functioning without noticeable issues prior to a break, discovered on June 1, in the raw water line.
“We’ll know more probably at the end of the week as for the full scope of what we need to do for our pumps,” Sturgeon said.
On Friday, June 10, City Council approved up to $250,000 in emergency spending in addition to ratifying $104,865 for estimated expenses up until that point — pegging the total possible cost of the ordeal in the neighborhood of $350,000.
However, Sturgeon noted the estimate for remaining costs was a worst case scenario.
“We don’t anticipate the cost going up,” he said. “If anything it will go the other direction.”
Considering current conditions, Sturgeon said the even-odd water restriction — which allows municipal water customers with an odd number address to water on odd number days, and even number addresses to water on even number days — will likely remain in place at least for another four weeks.
Restrictions could always change, however, based on several factors.
The current even-odd restrictions, as of Tuesday, continue to have the desired effect on curbing water consumption, but it is uncertain how much recent rainfall contributed to that.
With the National Weather Service forecasting a drier outlook through the weekend, including a fire weather watch on Thursday, the next week could reveal how much of a reduction the recent rain had on municipal water consumption.
Typically the city hits peak water consumption after July 4, and under the working time-frame water restrictions will be in place into that peak-use period.
The city’s main goal, Sturgeon said, is to continue allowing for some outdoor irrigation and avoid a complete ban on all outdoor water use, which was in place from June 5 through Thursday morning last week.
“We want to deliver water as the demand necessitates and the customers expect us to take every step we can to do so.”
But, as the recent events since June 1 have revealed, there is the possibility of unforeseen developments rearing their head. After repairing the break in the raw water line less than 24 hours after discovering the leak, the city continued to notice issues with the amount of water being delivered to the treatment plant.
Since then, staff has diagnosed issues with other parts of the raw water delivery system — including debris that blocked a check valve, which prevents water from flowing backwards down a pump, from closing all the way.
“As we’ve seen, there are unforeseen events that can lead to rapidly curbing irrigation and outdoor use to protect indoor water supplies and fire suppression storage,” Sturgeon said.
Once operations return to normal — a loose term — the city will undergo a debriefing process to evaluate the recent water infrastructure ordeals.
Among the major topics of discussion will be plans for assessing other vulnerabilities in the city’s water infrastructure with the hope of mitigating, or in some cases preventing, future failures and the associated consequences.
For the time being, though, the restrictions, including the closure of the splash feature at Centennial Park will remain in place. The city is continuing education efforts, but enforcement for repeat offenders could be necessary. So far that has not been a large issue.
“We believe, for the most part, people are willing to and trying to comply with the restriction when they are aware it’s in place,” Sturgeon said.
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