Friday, February 5, 2010

Incumbents re-elected to SV water district

Express Staff Writer

After the close of election polls on Tuesday, nothing had changed for the Sun Valley Water and Sewer District.

Incumbents Joseph Humphrey and Rick Rutkowski were voted back into office for six-year terms on the board of directors. Two of six positions were up for grabs, with three candidates vying for the seats, the challenger being Ed Van Every.

Seventy-seven Sun Valley voters showed at the polls Tuesday. Humphrey received 60 votes and Rutkowski 41. Van Every garnered 31.

The water district is separate from the city government and manages water distribution to most of Sun Valley. A few residents get water from Ketchum. The district also provides water to Dollar Mountain's snowmaking machines within city limits and, outside city limits, to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and McHanville. It also shares the Ketchum Wastewater Treatment Plant with the neighboring town.

Both Humphrey and Rutkowski said water conservation is their greatest goals for the next six years. Humphrey, 73, has been a part of the board off and on since 1974 and said he's staying in the game because he enjoys the challenge.

"I enjoy engineering, and finances have always interested me," he said.


Earlier in life, he was a consulting electrical engineer and worked on public works projects in southern Idaho. He said he has learned that water is a finite resource and must be carefully managed. To do that, he said, the district is "aggressively" trying to reuse water for irrigating Elkhorn Golf Course and for snowmaking on Dollar Mountain.

He said a step was taken in the right direction a couple of weeks ago when the City Council passed a district-proposed ordinance limiting irrigation for any new development to half the lot or half an acre, whichever is less.

"You don't need two acres covered in bluegrass," he said.

Rutkowski, who is 66 and been with the district for seven years, said treating water as expendable is "not an attitude we can have."

"People think we're on top of the chain in terms of water availability," he said, "but it's not as simple as they may think."

He also said the recent ordinance is needed, claiming landscaping can still be attractive without bringing in plants that require copious amounts of water.

District Manager Pat McMahon said excessive irrigation has come close to exhausting the district's capacity in recent summers. The water district consists of 11 wells and 10 reservoirs with a maximum capacity of about 11 million gallons per day. McMahon said winter use ranges from 1.5 million to 2 million gallons per day. That quadruples to an average of 8 million gallons per day in the summer, meaning some days are even more demanding than that.

Water reuse is also a priority for Rutkowski, who said the district needs to build a treatment plant of its own to meet the demands of Elkhorn Golf Course so reused water can be implemented there. Right now, the Ketchum Wastewater Treatment Plant is shared between Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Both Rutkowski and Humphrey said the reward of bettering the community through things like water conservation are what brought them back for six more years.

"It's just nice to be a part of the process and the solution instead of part of the problem," Humphrey said.

Trevon Milliard:

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