Friday, August 1, 2008

Bellevue well test to judge back-up system for city

Water master plan includes metering of residents water usage

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue Public Works director George Tanner will test one of the city’s primary water sources during a twenty-four hour test next week. Photo by David N. Seelig

Bellevue will test the flow of its primary back-up water source next week. The test is part of a long-range plan to shore up the city's water supply and upgrade water delivery lines.

"This is our top priority," said city administrator Tom Blanchard. "We need a citizen's review committee for addressing water issues in the city."

Blanchard said the city's water master plan, devised by Forsgren Associates in Boise, is currently under review by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Bellevue's water supply comes primarily from a spring in Muldoon Canyon known as Seamons Creek. The spring, with water rights dating from 1880, is located conveniently uphill from the city water tank, and can supply the city with up to 3.0 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water. During the winter months, almost all of the city's water use (about .775 cfs) is gathered from Muldoon.

During summer, the city uses almost 6.0 cfs of water, much of it for irrigation purposes. A large portion of that summer use comes from the Chantrelle municipal well on the west side of town (4.0 cfs water rights, dating from 1995).

Two weeks ago, when a water main broke near the Bellevue Elementary School, the city had an accidental opportunity to test the Chantrelle well when its pumps automatically kicked in to off-set the water line break.

"The well was set at half speed long ago, "said Public Works George Tanner, who will run a 24-hour test of the Chantrelle well on Wednesday to see if it can produce 3.1 cfs, or about 1/2 of the city's summer peak usage.

A portion of peak demand is supplied by water stored during non-peak hours in the city's water tank on the north side of Muldoon Canyon.

Tanner is hoping the pumps at the Chantrelle well will produce clear water, free of sand and other solids. If it does, the city can pursue plans to extend a new, and larger, water main across Highway 75 to supply increased water flows for fire fighting purposes in the Old Town part of Bellevue.

"Right now we have nothing budgeted for this," said Tanner. "It is a very high priority. The more water you can get out to the city, the better."

Tanner said the Chantrelle well test will help to ensure that the city has a back-up water supply in case of a fire on the south side of town or water line break.

Forsgren Associates engineer Steven Yearsley said he is taking steps to consolidate the water rights of the Chantrelle well with another, relatively untapped source, known as the Chestnut well (2.0 cfs water right dating from 1977). Together these sources can provide 6.0 cfs of water, or about the total peak usage in summer. Both well rights could be called up during peak demand periods by senior water rights users downstream when conjunctive water rights management come to town, possibly within the next two years following the Snake River Adjudication.

"We are seeking ways to acquire senior water rights for the city," said Yearsley.

Currently, the Chestnut well is only developed to produce about .20 cfs or 10 percent of its capability.

"Developing the Chestnut well is going to cost us," said Tanner. "It will probably require a new pump."

Blanchard said the city's water master plan also includes plans for metering water use in the city, and charging residents per gallon usage fees in order to conserve water.

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